James Gormly was a passionate protectionist and Irish Catholic. Described as "small, wiry and energetic", Gormly led an active political life. After serving as Alderman (1883-85) and twice Mayor of Wagga Wagga (1884-85), Gormly entered State politics as the Murrumbidgee Member of the Legislative Assembly from October 1885 until June 1894. He was subsequently re-elected in the seat of Wagga Wagga from July 1894 until he resigned in June 1904. He then served in the Legislative Council from August 1904 until his death in May 1922. A member of the Public Works Committee (1894-95) and a strong advocate of land reform and the protectionist cause, Gormly's career included representation in the Wagga Wagga Free Selectors' Association, Mechanics' School of Arts, Murrumbidgee Pastoral and Agricultural Association, Murrumbidgee Turf Club, Wagga Wagga and District Horse-breeders' Association and the Library Association of Australia. He also played an instrumental role in securing the experiment farm at Wagga Wagga.
James Gormly was born on 24 July 1836 in Elphin, County Roscommon, Ireland, and arrived with his family in Sydney as a bounty immigrant on board the Crusader in February 1840. Four years later the family moved to Nangus, along the Murrumbidgee River, and settled later at Gundagai in 1849. In the 1852 Gundagai flood, most of the Gormly family perished, except for James and his brother Thomas. This tragic event left an indelible mark on the brothers. The following year, however, James and Thomas enjoyed some success, selling stock at the Victorian markets and finding gold on the Victorian goldfields. James settled at Wagga Wagga in 1854, met and married Mary Jane Cox at Holbrook in 1858, and successfully operated a government mail run until 1872. Gormly's pastoral interests continued when he bought land at The Rock in 1873, leased 'Coronga Peak' in the Bourke district in 1875, then sold and took up 'Wilga Downs', on the West Bogan. After selling 'Wilga Downs' for a nice profit, he returned to Wagga Wagga in 1882, and bought urban real estate.
Apart from politics and farming, Gormly enjoyed writing small pieces for the local press about the district history (many of these articles have been collected in the scrapbook (RW1753/2)). He was the author of Exploration and Settlement on the Murray and Murrumbidgee (1909), The Discovery of Yass Plains (1921), The Flea-bitten Grey (1921) and Exploration and Settlement in Australia (1921). Gormly's other great love was horses. He was one of the marathon jockeys who participated in the infamous 'Ten Mile Race' held at Wagga Wagga on 20 November 1868. Gormly died in Wagga Wagga on 19 May 1922 at the age of 86.
His son, Richard Joseph Ernest Gormly, was born in the family home at Marshall's Point, Wagga Wagga, on 12 June 1868. The third son in a family of six boys and three girls, Richard was educated at St. Ignatius' College, Riverview, but spent most of his early life in Wagga Wagga. An avid sportsman and chess player, Richard also took an interest in the public affairs of the town. He served two terms as alderman on the Wagga Wagga City Council (1900-01, 1922-25). After his first term, Richard relocated to Cootamundra and then to Wallendbeen, but returned to Wagga Wagga after World War One. An officer of the Department of Lands, Richard worked for approximately 30 years, before retiring at Pymble in 1925.
Like his father, Richard enjoyed researching the local and district history of Wagga Wagga. He published many articles in Riverina newspapers, and was planning to publish his own history of Wagga Wagga. Richard's extensive card index is currently held in the Mitchell Wing of the State Library of New South Wales, where, after his retirement, he spent an average of 50 hours a week on his research. Richard died in Sydney on 23 August 1961 at the age of 93. The Wagga Wagga street, Gormly Avenue, was named by Richard in memory of his family's contribution to the local area.
Compiled by : James Logan.
Sources : Buxton, Gordon, 'James Gormly (1836-1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 4, 1851-1890, D-J, pp. 273-274; Radi, Heather, Spearritt and Hinton, Elizabeth, Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1901-1970. ANU Press: Canberra, 1979; Sherry Morris, Wagga Wagga: a history. The Council of the City of Wagga Wagga, 1999; The Daily Advertiser, 26 August 1961; Gormly family history papers, Gormly Family, RW98/11, CSURA.
Photograph : James Gormly on the balcony of his home, Victoria House, Hunter's Hill, Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga (RW98/25).