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Final Years and Death

Way achieved his highest honours in the final years of the 19th century, being appointed to the English Privy Council in 1897 (the first Australian to be so honoured) and in 1899 achieving his highest ambition when he was created a Baronet of Montefiore, North Adelaide, and Kadlunga Mintaro. However, by the end of the century and with the advent of Federation, his powers were on the wane.

The creation of the Federal High Court led to the reversals of decisions of many Supreme Court judges, and Way was not accustomed to having his judgements overturned on appeal. In the early years of the 20th century Way experienced a punishingly heavy workload but maintained his good health. Retirement would have meant the loss of his regular income.

In March 1913 he contracted influenza and in July suffered a heart attack after which he had to take 6 months leave from the court for convalescence. In April 1914, only a few months after returning to the bench, he discovered a malignant tumour on his left upper arm, but he continued to work. In May 1914 his wife Kitty died suddenly from kidney disease.

Way’s own doctor, and others he consulted (including two of his Melbourne based sons who were now qualified doctors), did not believe he would survive surgery. However, in July he travelled to Sydney and had his left arm amputated by Australia’s most eminent surgeon, Sir Alexander McCormick. After a month’s recuperation, Way returned to court but his health continued to deteriorate. During 1915, it became obvious that the cancer had spread to his lungs. Way’s last ceremonial function was the dedication of a new Masonic temple on 12th December, and his last day in court the 18th December. Way died on January 8th 1916.

A State funeral was held three days later. He left an estate worth £55,000, the equivalent of a multi-millionaire in today’s money, and left more than half of his estate to religious, educational and charitable organisations.

Way’s papers were lodged with the State Library of SA. His statue was eventually unveiled on North Terrace in front of Elder Hall in 1924, although the fund had been established in 1915. The current City Courts building on Victoria Square was named in his honour in 1983.

 

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