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Brookes, William

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Birth Date: 14 October 1825 (Hanging Ditch, Manchester, England)

Death Date: 16 July 1898 (Eagle Junction, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

Parents: William Brookes and Mary (nee Oakden)

Family: Mary Ann Evans in Sydney in 1849, 3 sons, 2 daughters

Education: Hall State School, Manchester, and private schooling

Religion: Wesleyan


Became an apprentice draper at 14 in 1838 with S and J Watts and Co, warehousemen in Manchester; Arrived in Sydney in 1848; employed in the firm of Aspinwall and Chalders, importers; Went to Turon goldfield in 1850 but was an unsuccessful goldminer; Became a clerk in the Union Bank and moved from Sydney to Melbourne; Arrived in Queensland to open a branch of the Union Bank in 1853 with JS Turner; Acquired ironmonger's business in Brisbane in 1858 with brother Benjamin; Entered into partnership with Mr CM Foster and bought out Markwell's ironmongery; Sold out to Mr Foster in 1882

Local Government Service: Alderman, Brisbane Municipal Council, 1858-1866

Parliamentary Representation:

House Party Electorate From To Elected/Departure Reason
Assembly NONE East Moreton 6 Sep 1863 15 Sep 1863 Election null and void
Assembly NONE Brisbane 22 Apr 1864 3 Aug 1864 Election null and void
Assembly NONE Brisbane 13 Aug 1864 22 Jun 1867
Assembly NONE Brisbane 13 Jan 1882 5 May 1888
Council NONE Legislative Council 27 Jun 1891 11 Jun 1897 Retired

Additional Information

Notes: He was an incisive speaker, a deep reader and thinker and a strong opponent of the introduction of Kanakas. He was a frequent contributor to the newspaper columns. Brookes was a musician who had gained proficiency with several instruments. For years he was organist of the Albert Street Wesleyan Church. Brookes will be remembered as an anti-Kanaka crusader. He was defeated in the 1867 elections, but objected to the Kanaka immigration in the local newspapers, at protest meetings and at campaign rallies for pro-Kanaka politicians. He was a principal witness before a select committee set up in 1869 and again in 1876. But his efforts were futile. Brookes narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 1869, and the struggle to rebuild his firm, Brookes & Foster, restricted his political activities for a decade. He sold out to Foster in 1882 which freed him up to devote his last years to politics. In 1882 when the McIlwraith government sought to replace Kanakas with indentured Indian coolies, Brookes won a by-election in North Brisbane. For the next two years Brookes and the abolitionist Liberals pressed for a final solution to the Kanaka question. When Griffith recanted and extended the immigration of Kanakas in 1892, Brookes, in a memorable gesture, was carried from his sickbed to the Legislative Council. Too weak to stand, he spoke movingly for over an hour against the Kanaka traffic, emphasising his remarks by pounding the floor with a stick until he collapsed

Sources: Dignan, Don, 'Brookes, William (1825-1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, V.3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp.245-247; Waterson, DB, Biographical Register of the Queensland Parliament: 1860-1929, 2nd revised edition (Sydney: Casket Publications, 2001); Brisbane Courier, 18 July 1998

[Last Modified: Tuesday, 27 June 2017]