Thomas (Tom) Elder Barr Smith
Thomas (Tom) Elder Barr Smith was born in the Adelaide suburb of Woodville on 8 December 1863, the eldest son of Robert Barr Smith and Joanna Lang (née Elder). In the months prior to his birth his father and maternal uncle, Thomas Elder, consolidated their business partnership in Elder, Smith & Co., a company that underpinned the family’s wealth for generations.
Barr Smith was schooled in Adelaide and in 1885 graduated with a BA from the University of Cambridge, following which he returned to South Australia to work for the family business and related enterprises. The financial success of Barr Smith, as with that of his father and uncle, conferred on him a social prominence reflected in his membership of the Adelaide Club and various business groups, as well as numerous company directorships.
Importantly for the University of Adelaide, Barr Smith inherited the philanthropic spirit of his father and uncle who had bequeathed large sums to fund a substantial library and schools of music and medicine respectively. Building on his father’s legacy, his defining contribution was a gift of almost £35,000 in the late 1920s for the construction of an elegant stand-alone structure to house the Barr Smith Library.
Barr Smith also served on the University of Adelaide Council from 1924 until his death in Adelaide in November 1941. Chancellor George Murray moved in the Council meeting immediately following his death that:
Barr Smith’s will was subsequently revealed to contain provision for £10,000 to be invested by the University and the interest spent on the purchase of new books for the Barr Smith Library.
Duncan, WGK and Leonard, RA 1973, 'Tom Elder Barr Smith', The University of Adelaide, 1874-1974, Rigby, Adelaide.