O'SULLIVAN, Edward William (1846-1910)


O'SULLIVAN, Edward William (1846-1910)
politician
was born in Tasmania on 17 March 1846. His father died when he was a child, and O'Sullivan began work at an early age as a printer's devil on the Hobart Mercury. Later on he became a reporter, in 1869 went to Sydney, but soon returned to Hobart and started a paper, the Tribune. This had some success but O'Sullivan sold it in 1873, went to Melbourne, and did journalistic work. He was editor of the St Arnaud Mercury for about three years, before going to Sydney in 1882, and for about a year was overseer in the Daily Telegraph office. He took a prominent part in union circles and became president of the typographical union. In 1882 he was a candidate for the legislative assembly at West Sydney but was defeated, and in 1885 was defeated for South Sydney. He was, however, returned for Queanbeyan a few days later, and held the seat for about 18 years. In September 1899 he became minister for public works in the Lyne (q.v.) ministry, and held the same position when See (q.v.) became premier until the ministry was defeated in June 1904. O'Sullivan was a most vigorous minister and was responsible for a great development of the tramway system, for the building of many new railways, and for many other public works in connexion with water-supply, roads, rivers, harbours and buildings, including the new Sydney railway station. He held office for a few weeks in the Waddell (q.v.) ministry in 1904 as secretary for lands, but possibly from failing health was less prominent in politics win his later years. He, however, did good work as an alderman of the city of Sydney, and representing Belmore for six years was a useful member of the assembly. He died at Sydney after a protracted illness on 25 April 1910. He married and left a widow, two sons and three daughters.
O'Sullivan was an optimistic man, full of generous qualities, more interested in doing things for other people than for himself. This was recognized by his constituents, who towards the end of his life twice raised testimonials for him and enabled him to buy himself a home. He was widely read, was a capable journalist, and also wrote a drama Cooee which was produced at Sydney with some success. He published during the 1890s Esperanza: a Tale of Three Colonies, and in 1906, Under the Southern Cross: Australian Sketches, Stories and Speeches. As a politician he had strong Labour sympathies before the Labour party had developed in New South Wales, and worked untiringly for old-age pensions until they became law in 1900. He was much criticized for his supposed extravagance as minister for public works; at the time it seemed with reason, as the state was suffering from drought for part of the period. Possibly, however, he was wise in realizing the necessity of keeping people at work in times of depression. He was certainly right in his efforts to provide Sydney with a proper supply of water, and his efforts to relieve unemployment by developing the tramway and railway systems, showed him as a man of great foresight and courage.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 and 27 April 1910; The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 26 April 1910; P. S. Cleary, Australia's Debt to Irish Nation-builders; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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