Founders of the Royal Australian Historical Society: Frederick Phillips

by Keith Johnson (Fellow)

Frederick Phillips has several claims to uniqueness among the twelve founders of the Society in 1901. At 68 he was the oldest among them, he was the only one born of convict parentage, and, it later transpired, he was to have the shortest term in office of the original RAHS councillors.

Frederick was born in Sydney on 2 October 1832, the youngest son of William Phillips (Coromandel, 1819) and his wife Sophia (Janus, 1819). Sophia brought five of their children with her and more (including Fred) were born in Sydney.

Mr Phillips began his business career with the mercantile firm McNamara and Smith, and subsequently joined the Australasian Steam Navigation Company as Secretary, retaining that position until the company was merged into the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company in 1887. He then became auditor to the City Bank, the Government Savings Bank (Barrack St), the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company, and the Permanent Trustee Company.

After his retirement from business life, Mr Phillips devoted his time to charitable work and to his interest in history. For 28 years he served as honorary treasurer of the NSW Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, and later became a Vice-President of the Institution.

After serving a single term on the RAHS Council in 1901, Mr Phillips became the Society's auditor, a role he fulfilled until 1924. He died at his home in Lindfield on 17 September 1927, just before his 95th birthday, and was buried in the family plot in the Anglican portion of Waverley Cemetery.

Frederick Phillips' wife Emma predeceased him on 16 October 1900, aged 61. He was survived by four daughters.