About Isaac Alfred Isaacs
Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs (1855-1948), governor-general, judge and politician, was born on 6 August 1855 at Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, eldest of six children of Alfred Isaacs, tailor, and his wife Rebecca, née Abrahams. Two sisters and a brother survived infancy. Alfred Isaacs had been born in what was then Russian Poland, which he left in the 1840s and settled in London. He married Rebecca in 1849 and they migrated to Victoria in 1854, arriving in September. Rebecca, who was London-born, had a powerful mind, wide-ranging intellectual interests, and the capacity to understand and discuss complex matters. She was an ambitious and dominating woman who exercised a very strong influence over her first-born.
Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs GCB GCMG KC (6 August 1855 – 11 February 1948) was an Australian judge and politician, the third Chief Justice of Australia, ninth Governor-General of Australia and the first born in Australia to occupy that post. He is the only person ever to have held both positions of Chief Justice of Australia and Governor-General of Australia. He was also one of only three Governors-General of Australia to live to 92 years old.
Isaac Isaacs was the son of Alfred Isaacs, a tailor of Jewish ancestry from the town of Mława, Poland. Seeking greater fortune, Alfred left Poland and worked his way across what is now Germany, spending some months in Berlin and Frankfurt. By 1845 he had passed through Paris and arrived to work in London. In London while working as a tailor he met Rebecca Abrahams; the two married in 1849. After news of the 1851 Victorian gold rush reached England, Australia became a very popular destination and the Isaacs decided to emigrate. By 1854 they had saved enough for the fare, departing from Liverpool in June 1854 and arriving in Melbourne in September. Some time after arriving the Isaacs moved into a cottage and shopfront in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, where Alfred continued his tailoring. Isaac Alfred Isaacs was born in this cottage on 6 August 1855. His family moved to various locations around Melbourne while he was young, then in 1859 moved to Yackandandah in northern Victoria, close to family friends. At this time Yackandandah was a gold mining settlement of 3,000 people.
Sir Isaac Isaacs and Lady Isaacs Isaac Isaacs' three siblings, John, who later became a solicitor and Victorian Member of Parliament, Carolyn and Hannah were born in Yackandandah. Another brother, born in Melbourne, and a sister, born in Yackandandah, both died very young. His first formal schooling was from sometime after 1860 at a small private establishment. At eight he won the school arithmetic prize, winning his photograph by the schoolmaster, who was also a photographer and bootmaker. Yackandandah state school was opened in 1863 and Isaacs enrolled as a pupil. Here he excelled academically, particularly in arithmetic and languages, though he was a frequent truant, walking off to spend time in the nearby mining camps. To help Isaacs gain a better quality education, in 1867, his family moved to nearby Beechworth first enrolling him in the Common school then in the Beechworth Grammar School. He excelled at the Grammar School, becoming dux in his first year and winning many academic prizes. In his second year he was employed part-time as an assistant teacher at the school, and took up after school tutoring of fellow students. In September 1870, when Isaacs was just 15 years old, he passed his examination as a pupil teacher and taught at the school from then until 1873. Isaacs was next employed as an assistant teacher at the Beechworth State School, the successor to the Common school.