Robert Duff (British politician)

Sir Robert William Duff GCMG PC (8 May 1835 – 15 March 1895), known as Robert William Duff Abercromby until 1862,[1] was a Scottish Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1861 to 1893 and was Governor of New South Wales from 1893 to 1895.

Sir Robert Duff

18th Governor of New South Wales
In office
29 May 1893  15 March 1895
MonarchQueen Victoria
Preceded byThe Earl of Jersey
Succeeded byThe Viscount Hampden
Personal details
Robert William Abercromby

8 May 1835 (1835-05-08)
Fetteresso Castle, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, Scotland, UK
Died15 March 1895 (1895-03-16) (aged 59)
Government House, Sydney, Colony of New South Wales, British Empire

Early life

Duff was born at Fetteresso Castle, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, son of Arthur Duff (grandson of Robert Duff) and his wife Elizabeth Innes, daughter of John Innes of Kincardine. He was educated at Blackheath School, London. He entered the Royal Navy in 1848, and was made a commander in 1865.[2] He was a Deputy Lieutenant and J.P. for Banffshire (from April 1894[3]) and Kincardineshire (from January 1900[4]). In 1871, he married Louisa Scott and they had seven children: Helen, Robert W., Arthur, Heather, Isabel, Dorothy and Patrick.[5][6]

Political career

Duff served as Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Banffshire from 1861–93.[7] He joined Robert Lowe as one of the Adullamites opposing the parliamentary Reform Bill of 1866, which led to the Reform Act 1867. He was a junior Lord of the Treasury and Liberal whip from 1882–5, and Civil Lord of the Admiralty in 1886. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1892.[5]

Governor of New South Wales

Duff was appointed Governor of New South Wales in March 1893 and was subsequently awarded the GCMG. He reached Sydney to take up his duties on 29 May 1893.

His term of office was chiefly marked by his permitting the premier, Sir George Dibbs, to obtain the prorogation of parliament on 8 December 1893, after that minister had incurred a vote of censure. In July 1894, after his ministry had failed to carry the general election, Dibbs desired Duff to nominate several persons to the legislative council on his recommendation. Duff declined to accede to his wish on the ground that the ministry had been condemned by the colony, and in consequence Dibbs and his colleagues resigned.[8]

In February 1895, he became ill while visiting Hobart and returned to Government House in Sydney, where he died of multiple hepatic abscesses and septicaemia on 15 March aged 59. He was interred in Waverley Cemetery.[5]


He was a freemason. During his term as Governor (1893-1895), he was also Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New South Wales.[9]


On 21 February 1871, Duff married Louisa, youngest daughter of Sir William Scott, ninth bart. of Ancrum in Roxburghshire. By her he had three sons, the eldest Robert William, and four daughters.[8]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Carlyle, Edward Irving (1901). "Duff, Robert William". Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lachlan Duff Gordon-Duff
Member of Parliament for Banffshire
Succeeded by
Sir William Wedderburn
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Jersey
Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
The Viscount Hampden
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