FITZGERALD, THOMAS HENRY

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Personal

Birth Date
01 Dec 1824 (Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland)

Death Date
10 Nov 1888 (Teneriffe, Brisbane, Australia)

Parents
Patrick Henry and Anne (nee Dunoyer)

Marriage
Married - Jessie Wilson in 1851, 8 son(s), 3 daughter(s).

Occupation
Sugar planter and miller

Religion
Roman Catholic

Career

1. Trained as an assistant surveyor in New Zealand in 1842.
2. Purchased 16 acres at Khandallah overlooking Wellington in 1844.
3. Moved to Napier in 1853 to begin the survey of the Hawke's Bay area.
4. Operated a general store at Waipara and another at Waghorne Street.
5. Erected a steam flour mill in Napier.
6. Was the local agent for a coastal trading schooner and an insurance agent and a buyer of wool.
7. Joined his father-in-law in the Wellington Provincial Council in 1857, representing Hawke's Bay.
8. Elected first superintendent of the Hawke's Bay Province in 1859.
9. Elected to represent Hawke's Bay Province in the New Zealand parliament in 1860.
10. Declared bankrupt in 1862; moved to Queensland and became a surveyor in Rockhampton.
11. Purchased `Alexandra', Mackay, and planted sugar in 1866.
12. Erected Alexandra Mill after John Davidson became partner in `Alexandra' in 1867.
13. Represented Rockhampton in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, 17 June 1867 to 11 July 1867.
14. Represented Kennedy in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, 19 July 1867 to 11 June 1869.
15. Appointed Colonial Treasurer, 25 Nov 1868 to 27 Jan 1869.
16. Began a second plantation at Meadowlands in 1869; then Te Kowai and then Peri in 1872.
17. Represented Bowen in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, 4 Nov 1873 to 5 May 1875.
18. Declared bankrupt in 1876.
19. Sailed to the Daintree in 1879 and explored nearly all the coastal rivers south to the Johnstone.
20. Pioneered sugar plantation at Innisfail in 1880 and constructed mill in 1881.


Party and Political Activities
None (NONE)

Parliamentary Representation
HousePartyElectorateFromToDeparture Reason
AssemblyNONEROCKHAMPTON 27 Jun 186711 Jul 1867Resigned
AssemblyNONEKENNEDY19 Jul 186711 Jun 1869Resigned
AssemblyNONEBOWEN04 Nov 187305 May 1875Resigned


Appointments
DescriptionFromTo
Colonial Treasurer25 Nov 1868 27 Jan 1869


Notes

1. On 16 June 1842, Fitzgerald and one of his sisters sailed in the George Fyfe to join his brother John, a medical doctor, in New Zealand. He was appointed as an assistant surveyor. He also acquired further qualifications as a civil engineer and an architect.  
2. After his marriage to Jessie, the family settled in the Hawke's Bay area where Fitzgerald proved to be a successful businessman as a landowner, shopkeeper and insurance and shipping agent. Because of his success, he became a parliamentary representative for the area. However, by 1861 his businesses began to fail and the next year was declared bankrupt.
3. In 1862, the Fitzgerald family decided to move to Australia. Fitzgerald soon gained a position as a surveyor with the Queensland government and, while in Brisbane, visited Louis Hope at Ormiston to study his experimentation with growing sugar. This visit was the beginning of his strong association with the sugar industry in Queensland.
4. He surveyed the site of Mackay where, over time, impressed with the potential for sugar growing, he obtained substantial land holdings and in 1866 developed the `Alexandra' sugar cane plantation near Mackay. In association with John Davidson, who became a partner in `Alexandra', he built the first sugar mill in the district. He went on to independently develop another four plantations.
5. On 27 June 1867 he was elected to the seat of Rockhampton but resigned after being challenged on a technicality. He then contested the larger seat of Kennedy and was elected on 19 July. Along with Archibald Archer, he was a champion of local interests and they unsuccessfully promoted the establishment of local provincial councils.
6. Both men withdrew their support from the Mackenzie government over issues affecting North Queensland. Fitzgerald was asked to form a ministry but failed to gain the necessary numbers. He was appointed Colonial Treasurer in the Lilley ministry in November 1868 but resigned in January 1869 and from parliament in June.
7. Fitzgerald was elected to represent Bowen in November 1873. The Mackay sugar industry was then suffering from poor seasons and Fitzgerald's main activity in parliament was to move to introduce cheap Indian labour for the canefields. The motion failed. 
8. In 1875 Fitzgerald was once again declared bankrupt after the district was devastated by sugar cane rust. He resigned his seat in parliament and his estate passed out of his hands in 1876. The family moved back to Brisbane and Fitzgerald returned to surveying.
9. After reading George Dalrymple's reports of his exploration of the northern rivers, Fitzgerald organised an expedition to explore the river systems from the Daintree area down to the Johnstone. In 1880, with backing from the Catholic Church, he estabilshed a settlement which was to become Innisfail.
10. However, from the beginning, his new sugar cane plantation was beset with the problems of distance, low yields, cyclonic weather and eventually rivalry from larger concerns such as CSR. His health also suffered from tropical fevers. In 1885 he surrendered his interest in the company he had formed with the Catholic Church and retired to Teneriffe until his death on 10 November 1888. 
11. Fitzgerald was survived by eight sons and three daughters. The two eldest sons grew cane in the Innisfail district. His fifth son, Charles Borromeo Fitzgerald, represented the seat of Mitchell from 1896 to 1902 and was appointed Attorney-General in the short-lived Dawson Labor government.


Sources

1. Bolton, GC, `Fitzgerald, Thomas Henry (1824 - 1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, p. 179
2. Brisbane Courier, `The Late Mr. T. H. Fitzgerald', 12 November 1888
3. Fitzgerald, Ray, `Thomas Henry Fitzgerald - A Visionary Pioneer (1824-1888)', a talk delivered to Brisbane Catholic Historial Society, 6 February 1996
4. Waterson, DB, Biographical Register of the Queensland Parliament: 1860-1929, 2nd revised edition (Sydney: Casket Publications, 2001)
5. Image courtesy of the State Library of Queensland





[Last Modified: 10 Dec 2014 15:09]

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