James Alfred Graham was born at Glasgow in 1837, son of Archibald Graham and Elizabeth nee McEwan who arrived in Sydney on 30 June 1838. In 1861 he married Janet Lomas at Sydney.There were six sons and five daughters of the marriage. He died at 82 View Street Annandale on 23 March 1900, aged 62 years. Janet Graham died on 19 October 1927, aged 87 years.
Occupation & interests
Graham joined a growing number of builders with a local address, including brothers Peter and Archibald, operating on a small scale from Derwent Street, Glebe from about 1860. James was declared bankrupt in 1875, but quickly recovered and prospered in the building industry, moving from 12 Wigram Road Glebe to 82 View Street Annandale about 1898. His building contract work ncluded the building of Holterman’s Tower, North Sydney and a number of banks and public schools.
The criteria that seemed important to voters in the selection of a parliamentary representative was the politician’s ability to extract concessions from government for their locality. This aspect of political life was indicated in the tenor of statements by both candidates and their seconders in the 1880 Glebe electorate contest between George Wigram Allen and Graham. Allen ‘s opponents challenged his achievements for the electorate. ‘What was the use of all his influence if it was only used as personal influence’ they asked; What had he done for them? The only qualification, it seemed, to them was 18 years as Glebe mayor and a period as speaker.
James Graham stood for the Glebe electorate against George Wigram Allen in 1880. Graham’s seconder told the crowd at Glebe Town Hall on 16 November 1880 that Allen’s interests were opposed to most electors – he was a squatter, interested in banks and opposed taxation of those classes. Graham, who supported an eight hour day and free trade, said he listened to Sir George and his toadies but noted that despite his long term as mayor he had not ‘obtained a building as they were in now’ and ‘Pyrmont Bridge Road (Allen was a director of the company that owned it) was neither kerbed nor guttered’. Allen won comfortably.
Local government service
James Graham was an alderman on Glebe Council from 1875 to 1885. His brother Malcolm was also an alderman on Glebe Council.
Australian Men of Mark 1889, Charles F Maxwell, Sydney, Series 5, Appendix, p. 25
Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1875, p. 9
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 February 1877, p. 8
Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November 1880, p. 7
Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1900, p. 6 (Obituary)