Guide to the Papers of George Houstoun Reid


MS 7842

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Sir George Houstoun Reid
Papers of George Houstoun Reid
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 7842
1.76 metres (4 boxes, 2 folio boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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], Papers of George Houstoun Reid, National Library of Australia, MS 7842, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The initial instalment of this collection was donated by Mrs Anne Fairbairn, grand-daughter of Sir George Reid, under the Taxation Incentive for the Arts Scheme in October 1989, with additional donations being made in November 1991, July 1996 and April 1998.


The first two instalments of material were relatively small and were consequently listed at item level in some detail. However, due to the size and diverse contents of the larger 1996 and 1998 additions, it was impossible to continue this level of description. As a consequence, the 1996 and 1998 additions have been arranged into groups such as pre-1880 material, Australian politics, Australian High Commissioner, and retirement. The headings reflect the main aspects of Sir George Reid's life and work and accommodate material in the collection pertaining to the wider Reid Family and Dame Flora Reid's own awards and public engagements. The numbering of folders has been continued from the earlier part of the collection.

Objects 1, 7-10 and 12 stored separately, see Librarian.

Biographical Note

Sir George Houston Reid was born in Scotland on the 25th of February 1845, the fifth son of the Reverend John Reid and Marion Crybbace. The family emigrated to Australia in 1852. Reid's first public position was as an official of the New South Wales Treasury, during which time he studied part time for the Bar to which he was appointed in 1879. Reid was a member of the New South Wales Parliament for twenty years, succeeding Sir Henry Parkes as leader of the Free Trade Party in 1891. From 1894 to 1899 he was Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales, during which time he took part in the 1897-98 Australasian National Convention and the drafting of the Commonwealth Constitution. Reid was a member of the first Federal Parliament and Prime Minister of Australia in 1904-5. In 1909 he was appointed the first Australian High Commissioner in London, a post he held until he retired in 1916. During his retirement he stayed active in politics, standing for and winning the House of Commons seat of St George, Hanover Square.

In 1909 Reid was made a Knight Commander of St Michael and St George in recognition of his work in Australian politics. In 1911 he was promoted to Grand Cross of the same Order and in 1916 was accorded the rare honour of appointment as Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath without having held any lower rank in the order.

In 1891 he married Flora Anne Brumby and they had three children, Thelma, Douglas and Clive. Flora was a public figure in her own right and in 1917 was awarded a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her work with Australian servicemen in London during World War I.

A large man with a walrus moustache, Reid was always a popular subject for cartoonists. He was also an entertaining and witty speaker and was a sought after speaker for official functions, a role which is well represented by the number of printed speeches and menus in the collection. A busy public figure even in retirement, Reid died of a major stroke on the 12th of September 1918.

Reference: McMinn, W.G. George Reid , Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1989; Fred Johns's Annual for 1913, Adelaide, 1913.

Item Descriptions

Class [unnumbered]. Original consignment received October 1989 - Box 1

Miscellaneous (File 1) - Box 1

W. McMillan to Reid, 18 January 1889 (telegram) (Item 1) - Box 1
Sir Edmund Barton to Reid, 22 March 1895 (Item 2) - Box 1
Sir Saul Samuel to Reid, March 1896 (Item 3) - Box 1
Memorandum from the Prime Minister to the Governor-General requesting a dissolution of the House of Representatives, Melbourne, 3 July 1905 (Item 4) - Box 1
Menu of Sydney Chamber of Commerce Dinner given in honour of Sir George Reid, 19 November 1913 (Item 5) - Box 1
Cheque for £100,000 from the Australian Government payable to the Prime Minister of Britain for the Belgian Relief Fund, 29 October 1914 (signed by Reid and H.H. Asquith) (Item 6) - Box 1
Sir Edmund Barton to Reid, 7 January 1916 (Item 7-8) - Box 1
David Lloyd George to Reid, 11 December 1916 (circular) (Item 9-10) - Box 1
David Lloyd George to Reid, 6 July 1917 (Item 11) - Box 1
Cassell Company Ltd. Royalty statements for Reid's book My reminiscences, 31 December 1917 and 31 December 1918 (Item 12-14) - Box 1
Copy of a resolution of the Committee of St George's Hanover Square Conservative Association acknowledging Reid's withdrawal from the General Election, 5 June 1918 (Item 15) - Box 1
Last Will and Testament of Reid, 8 January 1918 (Item 16) - Box 1
Letters of regret concerning farewell dinner given by the High Commissioner, December 1915 (Item 17-32) - Box 1

Class [unnumbered]. Consignment received November 1991 - Box 1

Letters to Sir George Reid (File 2) - Box 1

Acceptance as Honorary Member of the Cobden Club, 20 February 1876 (Item 1) - Box 1
Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Office, 15 June 1897 (Item 2) - Box 1
Edward Poynten, 29 April 1910 (Item 3) - Box 1
Arthur Balfour, 24 June 1910 (Item 4) - Box 1
H.H. Asquith, 6 July 1910 (Item 5) - Box 1
Lady Brassey, 11 April 1910 (Item 6) - Box 1
Lord Carrington, 22 September 1911 (Item 7) - Box 1
Sir Samuel Way, Adelaide, 22 May 1912 (Item 8) - Box 1
Lord Stamfordham, 26 February 1913 (Item 9-10) - Box 1
Sir Samuel Way, Adelaide, 6 March 1913 (Item 11-12) - Box 1
Louis Harcourt, 24 July 1913 (telegram) (Item 13) - Box 1
Prince Alexander of Teck, 18 July 1913 (Item 14) - Box 1
Hall Caine, 31 October 1914 (Item 15) - Box 1
Floyd B. Nielson, 21 May 1914 (Item 16) - Box 1
Lord Roberts, 27 August 1914 (Item 17) - Box 1
Lord Roberts, 29 August 1914 (Item 18) - Box 1
Lord Tennyson, 25 February 1915 (Item 19) - Box 1
R. M. Richard, Sydney, 19 November 1915 (Item 20) - Box 1
Lord Stamfordham, 20 December 1915 (Item 21) - Box 1
Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, Melbourne, 20 December 1915 (Item 22) - Box 1
Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson, Melbourne, 22 December 1915 (Item 23) - Box 1
Sir Samuel Way, Adelaide, 16 December 1915 (Item 24) - Box 1
Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson, Melbourne, 29 December 1915 (Item 25) - Box 1
Lord Fisher, 12 January 1916 (Item 26) - Box 1
General Birdwood, Dardanelles, 13 January 1916 (Item 27-28) - Box 1
George Dewar, London, 19 January 1916 (Item 29) - Box 1
Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson, Melbourne, 26 January 1916 (Item 30) - Box 1
Sir Edward Hutton, 15 February 1916 (Item 31-32) - Box 1
Walter H. Page, 24 June 1916 (Item 33) - Box 1
Lord Stamfordham, 16 February 1917 (Item 34) - Box 1
Sir Alan Anderson, 8 August 1917 (Item 35) - Box 1
T. Griffiths, 15 September 1917 (Item 36) - Box 1
Dinner menu and guest list signed by Lord Blyth, 8 October 1917 (Item 37-38) - Box 1
Arthur Balfour, 6 October 1917 (Item 39) - Box 1
Lord Stamfordham, 24 September 1917 (Item 40) - Box 1
Breed, Abbott Morgan, New York, 1 November 1917 (Item 41) - Box 1
Sir George Sydenham Clark, 7 April 1918 (Item 42) - Box 1
Walter Long, 16 May 1918 (Item 43) - Box 1
George L. Houstoun, Cyprus, 11 June 1918 (Item 44) - Box 1
E. W. Wallington, 10 September 1918 (Item 45) - Box 1
Walter Long, 6 June 1918 (Item 46) - Box 1
Margot Asquith, [n.d.] (Item 47) - Box 1

Letters from Sir George Reid (File 3) - Box 1

Lady Warwick, 25 June [19 ?] (Item 1) - Box 1
Lady Warwick, 29 June [19 ?] (Item 2) - Box 1

Family letters (File 4) - Box 1

Clive Reid, to parents, 24 February 1911 (Item 1) - Box 1
Douglas Reid, to parents, [ n.d.] (Item 2) - Box 1
Clive Reid to parents, 24 May [n.d.] (Item 3) - Box 1
Clive Reid to parents, 1 July [n.d.] (Item 4) - Box 1
Clive Reid to mother, 16 July [n.d.] (Item 5) - Box 1
George Reid to Clive, 13 September 1915 (Item 6) - Box 1
Douglas Reid to father, 18 June 1917 (Item 7-8) - Box 1
Douglas Reid to Clive, 29 May 1917 (Item 9-10) - Box 1
Douglas Reid to mother, 2 May 1917 (Item 11) - Box 1

Letters to Lady Reid (File 5) - Box 1

T. Griffiths, 14 September 1918 (Item 1) - Box 1
A.V. Jayne, 15 September 1918 (Item 2-3) - Box 1
Leslie Charlick, 19 September 1918 (Item 4) - Box 1

Copies of letters and miscellaneous papers (File 6) - Box 1

Prince Alexander of Teck to Reid, July 1911 (telegram) (Item 1) - Box 1
T. McClintock Bunbury from Murray N. O'Brien, 8 June [19 ?] (Item 2) - Box 1
Invitation to the memorial service for King Edward VII, 20 May 1910 (Item 3) - Box 1
Sir George Reid to the Chairman of the Committee, St George's Conservative Association, 1918 (draft unsigned) (Item 4-5) - Box 1
Copy of a letter from General Sir William Birdwood, Dardanelles, 20 December 1915, to Lord Kitchener (7 foolscap pp, typed and initialled in pencil), reporting Anzac evacuation of the Dardanelles (Item 6-12) - Box 1
Australian Banquet, London, index of seating, 10 March 1910 (Item 12) - Box 1
Royal Academy of Arts. Dinner table plan, 30 April 1910 (Item 13) - Box 1
Invitation from John Brown Co. Ltd, to the launch of HMAS Australia, 25 October 1911 (Item 14) - Box 1
Souvenir menu, British Press Luncheon, 8 September 1913 (Item 15) - Box 1
File of copy correspondence relating to dinner given by Lord Blyth in honour of Reid before his departure for America, October 1917 (38 letters) and 4 pages of thanks for ‘St Louis’ letter, January 1918 (Item 16-60) - Box 1
Passport, 1915 (Item 61) - Box 1
Portrait photograph inscribed ‘My darling wife your ever devoted George’, New York, 15 March 1918 (Item 62) - Box 1
Photograph of Reid by R. Boake of Sydney (Item 63) - Box 1
Object: Fob Watch, Zenith 1/2 Hunter, inscribed on back J.A.F., John Arbuthnot Fisher, Baron Fisher of Kilberstone (1841-1920), (aide to Queen Victoria, 1st Sea Lord), also inside inscribed "till Hell freezes", G.H.R. J.A.F (Item 1) - Folio 2

Class [unnumbered]. Consignment received July 1996

Australian Politics, 1880 - November 1909: The papers include a letter to Reid from Fannie Speer (22 August 1888), menu and seating plan for banquet given in 1897 by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to the Premiers of the Colonies, and minute from Government House, Sydney, concerning the dissolution of the NSW State Parliament (11September 1899). [9 items] (File 7)

Australian High Commissioner, London, December 1909 - December 1915: The papers include a letter to Reid from Theodore Roosevelt (25 May 1910), an invitation to the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, letters and telegrams regarding an motor vehicle accident involving Reid and his children in 1911, and a letter to Reid from the Colonial Office on the occasion of his retirement from the position of Australian High Commissioner in January 1916. [25 items] (File 8)

'Retirement', January 1916 - September 1918: Letters relating to Reid's investiture in 1917 as a member of the Order of the British Empire and as a Knight Grand Cross (Civil Division) of the Order of the Bath. [7 items] (File 9)

'Retirement', January 1916 - September 1918: papers relating to the illness and death of Sir George Reid on 12 September 1918 (File 10-11) - Box 1-2

Mainly comprising letters and telegrams of condolence received by Dame Flora but there are also drafts of her replies, a copy of the funeral service and copies of the in memoriam resolutions passed in the NSW and Federal Parliaments. The letters of condolence include letters from Queen Alexandra, Arthur Balfour, Lloyd George, Lord Tennyson, Andrew Fisher (the High Commissioner in London), Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson (the Australian Governor General), William Morris Hughes, and Ada Holman. [Folder 10: 91 items, Folder 11: 25 items]

Letters Patent or similar documents relating to Reid's appointments, 1883 -1910: 16 letters patent or similar documents relating to Reid's official appointments or to honours bestowed on him, 1883-1910 (Folio 1) (Item 1) - Folio-Box 1

Family Papers: Family photographs, including two undated photographs of Sir George Reid, photographs of his children, Thelma and Douglas, dating from 1930s and 1940s, and two photographs of his granddaughter Anne Reid. [12 items] (File 12) - Box 2

Family Papers: Papers relating to Reid's immediate family, including a birth certificate and school report for Clive Reid, letter addressed to Mrs Cleaver, Reid's daughter, newspaper clipping of notice of her wedding, Douglas Reid's Bank of NSW bank book (1916-18) and copy of address given at the funeral of Douglas Reid. [14 items] (File 13) - Box 2

Family Papers: Group of letters (1871-74) addressed to Mary Eliza Reid Syme, Sir George Reid's younger sister, or to her husband David Syme. Includes letters from her mother Marion Reid, sister Marion Reid Ewen, brothers Mark, Hugh and George Reid, and Hugh's wife Lizzie. Also includes one letter to George Reid from his mother Marion. [60 items] (File 14) - Box 2

Family Papers: Handwritten copy of an address given to Reverend John Reid (father of Reid) at the Mariners Church, n.d., letter of administration relating to the estate of Mark Reid (18 March 1873), newspaper clipping relating to the demolition of two historic houses to be demolished to provide the approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. One house was once occupied by the Rev. John Reid. [3 items] (File 15) - Box 2

Dame Flora Reid Papers, 1877 - 1950: Personal papers of Dame Flora Reid, including her British passport and letters pertaining to her appointment as a Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. Also an invitation to and souvenir material from the opening of Parliament House, Canberra in 1927. [15 items] (File 16) - Box 2

Dame Flora Reid Papers, 1877 - 1950: Dame Flora Reid's will and material relating to her death and burial. Also correspondence and statements relating to her financial assets between 1927 and 1952 (File 17) - Box 2

Papers of Anne Fairbairn (née Reid) relating to family history: Research notes belonging to Anne Fairbairn (née Reid) relating to the history of the Reid Family (File 18) - Box 2

Object: Small navy blue leather case belonging to Dame Flora Reid, stamped with initials F.A.R. It has two keys inside on piece of black ribbon (Item 2) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Holy Bible presented to Sir George Reid at the opening of Federal Parliament on 21 May 1901 signed 'George' by George, Prince of Wales, later King George V (Item 3) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Dame Flora Reid's Book of Common Prayer, containing a number of notes and newspaper clippings including a letter from Sir George Reid (1917) dedicating his recently published reminiscences to her (Item 4) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Chain evening bag, gold in colour with blue glass detail on clasp (Item 5) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Chain coin purse 9ct gold (Item 6) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Dame Grand Cross of Order of the British Empire (1917). Cross only, no ribbon (Item 7) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Enamelled souvenir badge marking the opening of Parliament House, Canberra, 1927 (Item 8) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Sir George Reid's medal to mark the International Exhibition in 1911 (Item 9) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Copper printer's plate for printing business cards, engraved 'Lady Reid'. Plate is in its original envelope from W.C Penfold Co Ltd, Pitt Street Sydney (Item 10) - Folio-Box 2

Class [unnumbered]. Consignment received April 1998

Pre 1880 material relating to Reid's work in the Civil Service and as a Lawyer: Four letters to Reid dating from 1870s relating to essays written by Reid (File 19) - Box 3

Australian Politics, 1880 - November 1909: Papers including copy of oath taken by Reid on his appointment to the Privy Council (1897), letter of appointment to position of NSW Attorney-General (1899) and letters of congratulations addressed to Reid on his appointment as High Commissioner to London (1909). [10 items] (File 20) - Box 3

Australian High Commissioner, London, December 1909 - December 1915: Copies of speeches given by Reid at functions and related letters of appreciation, report on a visit to Canada and the USA as Australian High Commissioner, itinerary for a motor tour and a note dated June 1913 from Buckingham Palace requesting Reid's company on an inspection of HMS Australia by the Prince of Wales. There is a photograph of this event in Folder 12. [34 items] (File 21) - Box 3

Retirement, January 1916 - September 1918: Letters of appreciation addressed to Reid on his retirement from the position of High Commissioner for Australia. There is also material relating to the 1916 parliamentary by-election for the House of Commons seat of St George, Hanover Square which Reid stood for and won in 1916. [23 items] (File 22) - Box 3

Family Papers: Family papers relating to Clive and Douglas Reid, sons of Sir George, two photographs of Sir George and one of his immediate family (1906), a copy of an 1855 leaflet entitled Testimonials in favor of the Rev John Reid and a memorial card marking the death of Marion Reid, Sir George's mother (1885). [20 items] (File 23) - Box 3

Family Papers: Papers and letters relating to the Syme Family including a set photocopies of letters from Reid to his sister Mary Eliza (1892-1915). [22 items] (File 24) - Box 3

Papers of Anne Fairbairn (née Reid) relating to family history: Research notes belonging to Anne Fairbairn (née Reid) relating to history of Reid Family (File 25) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: Draft of a Bill to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia 1898 (as adopted by the Federal Convention 16 March 1898). Reid's copy (no annotations) (File 26) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: Resolutions of meeting of Premiers to consider the Bill drafted by the Australasian National Convention, 1897-98 (1899) with annotations by Reid and signed by the six Premiers (File 26) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: Second copy of the above, also signed by the Premiers but with no annotations (File 26) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, 20 August 1896 (File 26) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: Silhouette of Reid, April 1907 (File 26) - Box 3

Papers from the black box: A number of speeches by Reid, thank you note from Queen Alexandra (20 May 1910), menus and dinner cards (File 26) - Box 3

Published material: George. H. Reid, Five free trade essays (Gordon and Gotch, Melbourne, 1875) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: George. H. Reid, An Essay on New South Wales (Thomas Richards, Sydney, 1876), inscribed to Edward Deas Thomson by Reid (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Opinions of the Press [ essay on New South Wales], n.d (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Free Trade Association of NSW, Speeches delivered by George Reid and Sir Henry Parkes on the Second Reading of the Customs Duties Bill (Sydney, 1886) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Extract from Cosmos Magazine 29 December 1894 re George Reid by Mrs Charles Bright (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Punch, 27 July 1897 (Special issue) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Punch, 30 May 1899 (special issue) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Free trade and tariff reform (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), magazine, n.d (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: Life, Vol 1, No 8, 15 August 1904 (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: King Albert's Book, Daily Telegraph n.d. (c1914) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Published material: L. F. Crisp, George Houston Reid: Federation father, federal failure? (Canberra, 1979) (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4

Collection of newspaper clippings dating from between 1880 and 1989, relating to the Reid Family. Many of the later clippings are of articles on Reid's political career or reviews of books relating to Reid or Federation (Folio 2) (Item 2) - Folio-Box 1

Object: Black metal cash box with key, which contained a number of papers which appeared to have been stored in the box for a number of years The contents of the box now form Folder 26 (Item 11) - Folio-Box 2

Object: Small commemorative medal showing Sir Robert Duff, GCMG, Governor of New South Wales in 1893-95 (Item 12) - Folio-Box 2

Pictorial items: Portrait of Rev John Reid (1800-1867) colour photocopy (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Signed photograph of Queen Alexandra (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Photograph of George Reid (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Photographs of Clive Reid's wedding in 1925, Pamela Armstrong in 1922 and Thelma in 1926 (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Newspaper clippings relating to Clive Reid's wedding in 1925 (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Pen drawing of George Reid (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1

Pictorial items: Photograph of Sir George Reid as Australian High Commissioner (Item [unnumbered]) - Folio-Box 1