Early Life and Education
The man behind Martin Place was born in Ireland in 1820, but he and his family relocated to Sydney in 1821. Despite their humble beginnings, James was a brilliant student. He attended the Dame’s School in Parramatta and later The Sydney Academy and Sydney College. In a testament to his determination, young James would walk 20 kilometres from his home in Parramatta to Sydney College every day!
A Budding Journalist
At the age of 16, James left school and started working as a reporter and sub-editor at the Australian newspaper. His mentor, George Nichols, who owned and edited the Australian, was an advocate for democratic self-government. James became actively involved with the Australian Patriotic Association.
A Career in Law and Politics
Prior to becoming Premier of NSW, James Martin took on a legal career. He became an articled clerk in 1840, a solicitor in 1845 and barrister in 1856. His political career took off in 1848 when he was appointed to the Legislative Council of NSW. In 1852, he was part of the committee that drafted the NSW constitution with William Charles Wentworth.
James was a strong supporter of constitutional reform, but he believed that the Legislative Council should remain an appointed council of wealthy landholders. His involvement in these discussions earned him a nomination for a seat in the new Legislative Assembly, representing Sydney.
Premier and Chief Justice
Although James hoped to become the first Premier of NSW, he served as the Attorney-General in the second ministry of Legislative Assembly. However, he went on to be Premier of NSW not once, but three times! He held this esteemed position from 1863-1865, 1866-1868, and again from 1870 to 1872.
In 1873, he was appointed Chief Justice of NSW, a position he held until his passing in 1886.
A Legacy of Progress
James Martin left an indelible mark on NSW. He supported the establishment of The Mint and the University of Sydney, improved educational opportunities, public health and sanitation, local government, the expansion of railways, and the defence and development of NSW. He is remembered for his service to the people of NSW through the naming of the Martin Place Precinct in Sydney.