Randolph Stow brief but brilliant judge of South Australian supreme court from 1875-78

Randolph Isham Stow was rated by John Downer as “one of the greatest judges Australia ever had”.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Randolph Isham Stow, unchallenged leader of the Adelaide legal bar, was appointed judge of South Australian supreme court in 1875 to replace William Wearing, who died on the wreck of the SS Gothenburg.

Stow was eldest son of Thomas Quinton Stow, founder of the Congregational Church in South Australia, where he migrated with his wife Elizabeth and sons in 1837. Randolph and brothers Jefferson and Augustine were educated at home by their father and at a school run by D. Wylie. 

Randolph Stow’s boyish ability saw him articled to lawyers Bartley and Bakewell where he became a junior partner. In 1859, Stow started his own business and later partnered with Theodore Bruce (1862–72) and F. Ayers.

Stow was a member of South Australia's House of Assembly as member for West Torrens, Victoria, East Torrens and then Light. He was attorney general in the ministeries of George Waterhouse (until 1863), Henry Ayers (1864) and Arthur Blyth (1865).

He died aged 49, three years after being appointed supreme court judge. John Downer, who became a QC the year Stow died, rated him “one of the greatest judges Australia ever had”.

The Stow scholarship and medal was created for Adelaide University law students successful at final examinations in three successive years. Stow’s son, Francis Leslie was the first to win the scholarship and medal. He went on to be crown solicitor and crown prosecutor in Perth.

Jefferson Stow, after time as a journalist, was appointed a special magistrate and Augustine Stow was associate to the supreme court judges 1877-83 and registrar of probates and chief clerk of the supreme court in 1883-1903. He also held office as public trustee, commissioner of inland revenue, curator of convict estates and deputy registrar of companies.

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