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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Molesworth, Hon. Sir Robert

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Molesworth, Hon. Sir Robert, M.A., Equity Judge, Victoria, was the only son of Hickman Blayney Molesworth by his first wife, Wilhelmina Dorothea, daughter of Brindley Hone, and was born in Dublin on Nov. 3rd, 1806. He was the great-great-grandson of the first Viscount Molesworth. He received his education at Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained a scholarship and took other honours, being admitted B.A. in 1826 and M.A. in 1833. Having been called to the Irish Bar in 1828, he joined the Munster circuit, and soon afterwards published a book on a legal subject which attracted some attention. In the year 1852 he emigrated to Adelaide. The gold discoveries of that and the preceding year, however, had made Melbourne a much more promising field, and in 1853 he came to Victoria, and was admitted to the local Bar. During the absence on leave of Sir W. a'Beckett he discharged the duties of Chief Justice for a short time in the same year. The first Haines Ministry having been formed, he took office as Solicitor-General on Nov. 25th, 1855, and retained the position until June 17th, 1856, when he was created a Judge of the Supreme Court. It was as Primary Judge in Equity that his chief work was afterwards done. When Judge Molesworth first took his seat on the Bench there was no such office, it being the custom of the Supreme Court judges to dispose of the equity business in turns. Shortly after his elevation to the judicial seat, however, an act was passed (19 Vict., No. 13) under which one of the judges was assigned exclusively to the business of the equity side. Judge Molesworth's special legal qualifications pointed him out as eminently suited for this position, and he was made Primary Judge in Equity, an office which he held with great credit to himself and satisfaction to the Bar and to suitors until April 1886, when he retired in his eightieth year on account of failing health. Judge Molesworth occasionally sat on the criminal side and in other jurisdictions, in all of which he showed marked ability, but his duties during the greater portion of the year were confined to the Equity Court, and hardly any of his decisions were successfully appealed against. Judge Molesworth performed important service in connection with local mining law. He may be said, in fact, to have formed it. As chief judge of the Court of Mines he had to deal with the various conflicting bye-laws of the different mining divisions. He was so successful in evolving order out of chaos that there were very few mining appeals from the inferior courts. Though very impatient of nonsense, the judge had a dry humour of his own, and he would not unfrequently cap a classical quotation. He never left the colony after his arrival, except for a short visit to New Zealand. He was knighted on his retirement in 1886. Sir Robert Molesworth married on Jan. 6th, 1840, Henrietta, daughter of the Rev. Joseph England Johnson (who died in 1879). He died on Oct. 18th, 1890.