Thomas Bridges (Australian politician)

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Thomas Bridges
Member of Parliament
for Nundah
In office
21 March 1896 – 18 May 1907[1]
Member of Parliament
for Nundah
In office
2 October 1909 – 16 March 1918[1]

Thomas Bridges (12 November 1853 – 4 June 1939) was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland in the seat of Nundah (21 March 1896 – 18 May 1907) as a member of the Ministerial Party [2] and subsequently as a member of the Commonwealth Liberal Party (2 October 1909 – 16 March 1918). [3] [4]

Early life[edit]

Thomas Bridges was born on 12 November 1853 at Nundah, then known as German Station, to a local farmer, George Bridges and his wife, Mary Brightman, both immigrants from England. Thomas was the first of their Australian-born children, having already three born in England. His father built the Kedron Brook Hotel, a popular "watering hole" half-way between Brisbane and Sandgate, and constructed a bypass in Sandgate Road around Donkin's Hill, which lead to the development of the village at German Station.

Bridges and a number of his siblings were amongst the first scholars enrolled at the new German Station National School, when it opened in 1865. [5]

Initially Bridges followed in his father's footsteps as a farmer with interests in fruit and dairy, but later focussed exclusively on fruit, including pineapples, contributing to the success of fruit growing in the Nundah-Zillmere district.

Bridges married Margaret Elizabeth Lee on 17 July 1873 at the home of her parents, Rose Hill Farm near Cabbage Tree Creek, now known as Boondall. They had 13 children, namely: Emma Jane, Amelia Mary, Thomas George, Joseph Brightman, Charles Josiah, Margaret Mary Elizabeth, Joseph Silas, Samuel Brightman, Eva Violet Annie, Alice Maud Mildred, Laura Eunice Elsie, Willie and Lucy Alvena, of whom two died as infants.

Political life[edit]

Bridges made his first foray into public life as a member of the Nundah Divisional Board from 1883 to 1896, being chosen at its chairman on three occasions. [6]

Being a popular and well-regarded local farmer, Bridges stood for the Queensland parliament in 1896 as a member of the Ministerial Party, beating the incumbent George Agnew by 60 votes in the electoral district of Nundah. Being a farmer accustomed to an early start to his working day, the late night sittings of Parliament took him by surprise. On his first late night sitting, he had to ask to be excused as he did not wish to miss the last train back to Nundah.

In the 1904 election, Bridges faced a formidable opponent in the person of Sir Arthur Rutledge. Rutledge had been a Wesleyan minister in New England and solicitor in Brisbane, before entering the Queensland parliament, where he rose to the office of Attorney-General and accepted a knighthood in 1903. As part of his strategy to become Premier after the election of 1904, Rutledge decided to contest an electorate closer to Brisbane, and chose the semi-rural seat of Nundah which, he assumed, would be easily won by a man of his political experience, especially as it was already held by the Ministerial Party, of which he was also a member. Many large business houses backed him, as did the editor of the Brisbane Courier, the local newspaper whose editor was his son-in-law. His public meetings were packed with prominent religious and political leaders, in contrast to a low-key campaign run by Bridges based on his community service and commitment to keep the cost of railway tickets low. Contrary to every prediction, Bridges won the election by 253 votes, while Rutledge was hosting a victory dinner party at home. This humiliating loss ended his political career, and he accepted an appointment as district judge.

This election of 1904 had proved to be very personal. In addition to the internecine offensive by a member of his own Ministerial Party, Johann Leopold Zillmann, an old and now deceased friend and early resident of German Station, had been ejected from his Wesleyan ministry in New England by Rutledge in concert with disaffected members of his congregation.

Bridges decided to leave politics on 18 May 1907 at the following election, when he was succeeded in the seat by Richard Sumner.

Loyal local people persuaded Bridges to return to politics, and he stood against Sumner and won back his seat, as a member of the Commonwealth Liberal Party, serving from 2 October 1909 until 16 March 1918 when he finally retired.

Being a farmer, Bridges took particular interest in legislation related to farming, especially diseases in plants and extermination of flying foxes which raid fruit trees. He also advocated that local Chinese be repatriated to China, and supported the indentured labour of Kanakas in the cane fields of Queensland.

Although a long-term parliamentarian, Bridges was no great orator and was often described as unsophisticated. However he gained a reputation of tirelessly pursuing government departments over issues reported by his constituents, and served his party for many years as Whip. After his retirement, he was reported to be disillusioned with politics.

Later life[edit]

Bridges' wife Margaret died on 15 January 1938, and was buried in the Nundah Cemetery.

Grave marker of Thomas Bridges in the Nundah Cemetery

Less than 18 months later, on 4 June 1939 while sitting and talking with a sick friend in St Martin's Hospital in Brisbane, Bridges suddenly fell backwards and died. [7] Bridges was buried the following day beside his wife. [8]

The original headstone has not survived, but a modern plaque reads:

Thomas Bridges
1853 - 1939
Born German Station
M.L.A. Nundah 1896–1907,
1909–1918

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Alphabetical Register of Members of the Legislative Assembly 1860-2012 and of the Legislative Council 1860-1922". Queensland Parliament. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  2. ^ In late 1908, the two non-Labour parties merged into a new grouping known as the Ministerial Party, who were supporters of the Ministry.
  3. ^ http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/historical/documents/membregisterHB.pdf
  4. ^ The Commonwealth Liberal Party is not related to the Liberal Party of Australia, which was created in 1943.
  5. ^ List of Original Scholars, German Station School 1865, Nundah & District Historical Society.
  6. ^ The Australian Tropiculturist and Stockbreeder, 21 December 1896.
  7. ^ "Former M.L.A. Dies Visiting Sick Friend.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 5 June 1939. p. 3f. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Family Notices.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 5 June 1939. p. 10 Section: Second Section. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
Government offices
Preceded by
George Agnew (Australian politician)
Legislative Assembly of Queensland
Electoral district of Nundah

1896—1907
Succeeded by
Richard Sumner (Australian politician)
Government offices
Preceded by
Richard Sumner (Australian politician)
Legislative Assembly of Queensland
Electoral district of Nundah

1909-1918
Succeeded by
Hubert Sizer