Born at Montrose, Scotland on 10 October
1821, the son of George Alexander Syme a schoolteacher and Jean née
Mitchell; his younger brothers were Ebenezer (Melbourne General
Cemetery) and David (Boroondara Cemetery), the latter whose
proprietorship of The Age helped shape the political and social
landscape of Victoria for over five decades. At the age of fourteen he entered the University of
Aberdeen gaining an M.A. before studying theology and ultimately
rejecting the dogma of both the Established Church of Scotland and the Free
Presbyterian Church; under the influence of Rev. James Morrison at
Kilmarnock, Syme then went on to become a Baptist minister at Nottingham,
England (1848-63) where he was said to have been active in radical
progressive social causes notably Temperance, the early closing movement,
shorter hours of labour, and the extension of suffrage. Described as
“kindly, calm and considerate when unexcited, but incoherent under stress”,
bad health forced Syme to migrate to Victoria in 1863. He rejected
religion becoming a secularist, joined The Age and edited the paper
for eight months in 1866 during his brother’s trip to England; for many
years he was editor of The Age’s country journal, The Leader
(1863-85) until ill-health forced his retirement; The Age described
his influence as “a staunch Liberal and through little known to the
Melbourne public, he did valuable service to the cause of Liberalism in the
colony with his pen for many years”. Syme died suddenly at the residence of
his son, Dr. George Adlington Syme (q.v.), Collins Street,
Melbourne on the last day of 1894 aged 73;
Rev. Charles Strong (q.v.)
conducted a “simple but impressive burial service” attended by brother
David, his trusted editor Arthur Windsor (Coburg Cemetery), Sir
Samuel Gillott (Melbourne General Cemetery) and Baron Ferdinand von
Mueller (St. Kilda Cemetery).
(above) George Syme
(La Trobe Picture Collection,
State Library of Victoria,
ADB Volume 6 1851-90 (R-Z).
Sayers, C., “David Syme. A Life” (1965).
The Age 1 & 3 January 1895.
The Leader 5 January 1895.
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