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Former Member Details

Sir James BURNS, K.C.M.G (1846 - 1923)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 10/02/1846
Place of Birth: Polmont nr Edinburgh, Scotland
Date of Death: 22/08/1923
Place of Death: Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 21 Jul 1908 22 Aug 1923 15 years 1 month 2 days Life Appointment under the Constitution Act: Date of Writ of Summons 10 July 1908
Political Party Activity
Liberal Party and Reform Party.
Community Activity
Commissioned as a Justice of the Peace in 1892
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Merchant and shipowner (Burns, Philp & Co.); partner Robert Philp was Premier of Queensland 1899 - 1903 and 1907 - 1908. Educated at Newington Academy and Edinburgh High School; arrived in Brisbane in 1862, jackeroo Helidon station near Toowoomba, Queensland from 1863 until 1864, then on Barcoo in 1865; joined brother John in Brisbane in Burns and Scott, storekeepers; opened store in Gympie goldrush in 1867, also at One Mile Creek and Kilkivan, sold out in 1870, visited Edinburgh and Paris; on return in 1872 opened a store in Townsville, Queensland. Took in Robert Philp as a partner. Entered shipping business in 1873, established headquarters in Sydney in 1878, becoming Burns, Philp and Co. Limited; merchants and shipowners in 1883, managing director from 1883 until 1923; built up extensive West Queensland then Pacific and Asian Trade, with controlling interests in 1886 in Queensland Steam Shipping Company limited and on amalgamation with the Australian Steam Navigation Company in 1887 of reorganised Australian United Steam Navigation Company Limited; owned Normanton wharves; established a pearling fleet in Torres Strait; director of a number of commercial and financial companies in cluding the Bank of North Queensland Limited, North Queensland Insurance Company Limited, chairman from 1886 until 1923; Australian Mutual Providence Society Royal Exchange Company., Commercial Banking Company of Sydney from 1909 until 1911; colliery companies, chairman of New South Wales Mortgage Land and Agency Company from 1888; chairman of directors Solomon Island Development Company; retired in 1907; president of the Highland Society of New South Wales from 1903 until 1923; assisted to found Burnside Orphan Homes in 1910; commissioner of the Franco-British Exhibition in 1908; trustee of the Australian Museum; Union Club
Military Service
Joined New South Wales Lancers in 1891, Major in 1896, commanded New South Wales Regiment in 1897, largely responsible for the despatch of troops to Queen's Jubilee and afterwards to the South African War, brigadier-colonel of the 1st Brigade of the Australian Light Horse in 1902.
Honours Received
Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) 1917.
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Son of David Burns, merchant, and Margaret Shiress. Married (1) Mary Ledingham and had issue 1 daughter. Married (2) Mary Heron Morris on 31 March 1880 and had issue, 2 daughters and 3 sons. Gowan Brae private cemetery. Presbyterian.
Additional Information
A biography is on the 'Electric Scotland' Website: