1931 – Bowden & Bowden and Ralph Coleman’s Western Sydney Connections

Although Parramatta in the roaring twenties was significantly less of a business hub than it is today (or even than it was in the 1960’s); much can be said about those businesses, new and old – which were contributing to the area’s economy at the time that Ralph Coleman moved his law firm to Western Sydney.

As Ralph initially expanded his business through the purchase of Bowden & Bowden in 1931, Coleman Greig Lawyers as a company still has quite a strong connection to the firm of John Bowden – which itself was one of Western Sydney’s leading law firms at the time.

The firm was first opened by John Ebenezer Bowden, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1865.  John was a Parramatta local, working as Parramatta Council’s solicitor for 52 years and living in a house known as ‘Endrim’, on the corner of Sorrell and Harold streets in North Parramatta.  Interestingly, during this time – not only was John Bowden the Council’s solicitor – he was also the district Coroner!

John had nine children, including Eric Bowden – who Coleman Greig history buffs will recognise as the name of the Bowden who, having been admitted as a solicitor himself in 1894, would go on to run Bowden & Bowden following the death of his father in 1921.  Eric had incredibly strong links to the local area himself, having been Alderman in Granville Council for some years and then winning the federal seat of Parramatta in 1922!  Eric went on to become the Minister for Defence in the Bruce/Page Government from 1923-1925, and continued as a member for Parramatta until he lost his seat in 1929.

During this time, Ralph Coleman was staying busy – making strides within the Western Sydney community and doing all he could to network and create meaningful relationships.  In order to get to know the locals, Ralph joined a local tennis club, a Rotary Club and sang in the church choir – and then in 1931 became a foundation member of Oatlands Golf Club, going on to act as the Club’s Honorary Solicitor until his retirement.

In addition to his pro bono work for Oatlands Golf Club, Ralph became a member of the Parramatta Park Trust, and was the chairman for 25 years.  Future blogs will touch on Ralph’s involvement with the park – as well as some interesting anecdotes and historical facts about the park’s history!

It’s unclear as to whether Ralph Coleman and Eric Bowden knew each other, although considering the fact that Parramatta was home to a small number of legal firms – it would be surprising if they weren’t well-aware of each other!  Because of this, it is unsurprising to learn that when Ralph took over a number of Bowden & Bowden’s clients following Eric’s death, 16 year old Nellie Marker (later Nellie Matheson) who had worked for Bowden & Bowden came to work for Ralph.  From all accounts, Nellie’s assistance was appreciated by Ralph to no end – and the pair went on to work together for some 25 years.

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