Guide to the Family Papers of Robert Garran


MS 2001

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Garran Family
Family papers of Robert Garran
Date Range
1860 - 1957
Collection Number
MS 2001
6.96 metres (2 ms boxes + 17 archive boxes + 2 small folio boxes + 2 medium folio boxes + 2 small phase boxes + 3 map folios)
Language of Materials
Special Collections (Manuscripts)


Scope and Content

The collection comprises diaries, notebooks, correspondence, opinion books, newspaper cuttings, notes, photographs and printed material.

The diaries and other papers of Andrew Garran were used by Sir Robert in his autobiography, Prosper the Commonwealth, which he completed just before his death.

Sir Robert Garran's papers relate to the Federation movement, the drafting and development of the Australian Constitution, the work of the Attorney-General's Department, the 1919 and 1929 Imperial Conferences, the League of Nations, the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and the 1932 Indian Military Defence Tribunal. There are also papers documenting Garran's various interests and activities, such as the Rotary Foundation, together with family correspondence and papers.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Family papers of Robert Garran, National Library of Australia, MS 2001, [series and/or file number]'.


The bulk of the Garran Papers were obtained shortly before and immediately after Sir Robert Garran's death in 1957, from Garran's son, John Garran. Further papers were located in 1968 in the possession of another son, Richard Garran.

Further papers of Sir Robert Garran are held at MS 400, MS 471, MS 616, MS 2102 and MS 3666. Papers relating to the Federal Convention, 1891-1898 (MS 2001/8/268) are also available on microfilm, at mfm G24757-G24758.


The papers of Andrew Garran are featured in Series 1, 2 and 19, while the remainder of the collection largely concerns Sir Robert Garran's life and career, together with some family papers.

Biographical Note

Andrew Garran: A journalist and politician, Garran was born in London in 1825. He left for Australia in 1850, and in 1856 became assistant editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Between 1873 and 1885 he was the paper's editor, but in 1885 resigned because of ill health. Garran was nominated to the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1887, and in 1892 was appointed president of the Council of Arbitration. In 1894 he returned to the Legislative Council, until his retirement in 1898. Garran remained Sydney correspondent for The Times (London) until his death in 1901. Sir Robert Garran was Andrew Garran's only son.

Sir Robert Randolph Garran: Born in Sydney in 1867, Garran studied law at Sydney University and was called to the New South Wales Bar in 1890. Taking an active role in the campaign for federation, he published The Coming Commonwealth in 1897 and collaborated with Sir John Quick in producing The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901. At this time he was made secretary to the Federal Attorney-General and Parliamentary Draftsman. From 1916 to 1932 he was also the Solicitor General to the Commonwealth. Garran accompanied W. M. Hughes to the Peace Conference of 1918-1919 and S.M. Bruce to the Imperial Conference of 1923. After his retirement from office in 1932, he headed a tribunal established in England to determine the United Kingdom's relative expenditure on the defence of India. Garran also played an important role in the Rotary International movement, and was Chancellor of the Diocese of Goulburn from 1939 to 1947. He was knighted in 1917, and died in January 1957.

See also: Garran, Sir Robert. Prosper the Commonwealth. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1958.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Diaries of Andrew Garran

This series comprises typescript copies of Andrew Garran's diaries between 1860 and 1901, together with original diaries from the 1870 to 1901, with the exception of 1877 and January-July 1896. The diaries provide biographical information on Andrew Garran and his wife, and were used by their son, Sir Robert Garran, as research for his autobiography Prosper the Commonwealth (1958).

Items 1-164

Series 2. Notebooks and press clippings of Andrew Garran

This series features a number of notebooks with articles by Andrew Garran on diverse subjects, such as literature, economics, religion, philosophy and law. Garran's LL.D. thesis of 1870 is also present, as are newspaper cuttings of his own editorials, and some early articles by his son, Sir Robert Garran. There are also cuttings of obituaries following Garran's death.

Items 1-50

Series 3. Diaries of Sir Robert Garran and family

The diaries of Sir Robert Garran date intermittently from 1880 till 1910, and thereafter regularly until 1951. The series also includes diaries of Garran's sister, Mary Isham Garran, together with an account of a trip made in 1890 by another sister, Mary Eppes Garran.

Items 1-58

Series 4. Press clippings

This series comprises three books of press clippings, not individually sorted, relating to miscellaneous general subjects.

Series 5. General correspondence

The correspondence relates to a large number of topics, and begins with typed copies of letters between Sir Robert Garran's great grandmother, Elizabeth Sabine, and her family. There are letters relating to Garran's contribution to the Cambridge History of the British Empire, his retirement, the memorial to Sir John Monash, the League of Nations Union and the Australian Book Society. The series includes letters from Garran to his family, many written during his trips overseas.

Items 1-178

Series 6. Speeches and essays

In chronological order, these speeches and essays deal with miscellaneous subjects of interest to Sir Robert Garran. Most of the items are by Garran, although some are written by other individuals, such as Sir Robert Menzies. The series also features a book of Garran's own poetry.

Items 1-101

Series 7. Federation and campaign

This series contains papers relating to federation, including notes made by Sir Robert Garran, August-September 1898, together with speeches by Garran, three books and one folder of press cuttings relating to the campaign.

Items 1-364

Series 8. Constitution

This series concerns Sir Robert Garran's involvement with the development of the Australian Constitution. There are proposed amendments, the draft bill, speeches by Garran and a review of Garran's Annotated Constitution, together with a bound volume of papers (Item 268) from the Federal Convention, 1891, 1897-1898. Please note: Item 268 has been microfilmed and should be used in preference to the original. The microfilm reels are located in the Newspaper Reading Room (mfm G24 757-8).

Items 1-268

'Draft of a Bill to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia', 1897 (selectively digitised)

Series 9. Attorney-General's Department, 1901-1932

This series contains correspondence and general papers relating to Sir Robert Garran's involvement with the Attorney-General's Department. The correspondence relates to such issues as land tax, the Victorian Committee of Council and item 174 of the Customs Tariff. Other papers relate to instructions for the Governor General, the governance of Norfolk Island, the enacting words in acts of Parliament and schemes for limiting the number of Members of Parliament. The series also features four volumes of observations, generally concerning the development of the Constitution.

Items 1-922

Series 10. South African Constitution

The series contains correspondence, parliamentary papers and press cuttings relating to the constitution of the South African Union, and the effect of the Australian precedent on its development. An edition of Sir Robert Garran's book on the Australian Commonwealth was printed in South Africa because of this, and correspondence concerning the work is included among these papers.

Items 1-56

Series 11. Peace Conference and the League of Nations

This series contains memoranda, reports and correspondence dealing with Sir Robert Garran's trip with W. M. Hughes to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, together with papers relating to the 1925 and 1930 meetings of the League of Nations. There series includes reports on the tariff arrangements between France and Australia following the War, advice from Professor A. H. Charteris on the mandated territories of the League of Nations, and the report of the Australian delegation at the 11th Assembly of the League of Nations.

Items 1-65

Series 12. Transfer of residence to Canberra

This series deals with the transfer of the Attorney-General's Department to Canberra, and plans for Sir Robert Garran's subsequent move to Canberra, including the design and construction of his Canberra residence.

Items 1-226

Series 13. Imperial Conferences 1919, 1929

This series contains notes and memoranda relating to the dominions and their status, the prospects of Imperial Conferences, and a report of the 1929 Imperial Conference on dominion status and merchant shipping regulations.

Items 1-22

Series 14. Indian Military Defence Tribunal, 1932-1933

This series includes correspondence concerning the affairs of the Tribunal, its composition and operation, reports issued by the Tribunal and Garran's notes on these, together with press cuttings about the proceedings and arrangements for Garran's trip.

Items 1-78

Series 15. Activities after retirement

Sir Robert Garran's personal interests are documented in this series, which includes correspondence, speeches, writings and press cuttings relating to the Canberra University College and Australian National University, 1929-1953, Anzac Day pageants, 1939-1953, Garran's role as Chancellor of the Diocese of Goulburn, 1940-1950, his trusteeship of the Gowrie Scholarship Trust Fund, 1944-1946, and his trusteeship of the Canberra Grammar School, 1946-1956.

Items 1-279

Series 16. Rotary

This series features general correspondence concerning local Rotary clubs and the activities of Rotary in Australia. There are also papers dealing with Sir Robert Garran's trip to America, including speeches, pamphlets and press cuttings.

Items 1-291

Series 17. Legal advisor after 1932

This series consists chiefly of correspondence between Sir Robert Garran and the Vestey group in connection with meat and shipping interests in Australia, including related newspaper clippings and research material. There are also opinions regarding various legal cases and matters, written by Garran after his retirement.

Items 1-265

Series 18. Death

This series comprises correspondence and papers relating to Sir Robert Garran's death, including copies of the funeral service. The letters of condolence date from January to March 1957, and are arranged chronologically and alphabetically.

Items 1-259

Series 19. General

This series contains documents concerning Sir Robert Garran's four sons, together with photographs, sheet music, Garran's passport and other personal effects. Further family papers, correspondence, photographs and other items were added to this series in 1982, including a notebook of Andrew Garran's sermons, 1842-1864, and a manuscript draft of a play by Mary Isham Garran entitled 'Who is who?'.

Items 1-123