Thomas Bridges (Australian politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 Australia's Legislative Assembly of Queensland in the seat of Nundah (21 March 1896 – 18 May 1907) as a member of the Ministerial party and as a member of the then Commonwealth Liberal Party (2 October 1909 – 16 March 1918)[2] (not to be confused with the current Liberal Party of Australia, which was created in 1943).

Early life[edit]

Thomas Bridges was born 12 November 1853 in Nundah then known as German Station. He was the son of George Bridges and Mary Brightman, immigrants from England. Thomas was the first of their Australian born children (they already had three children born in England). His father George was a farmer who significantly contributed to the development of the German Station village (later the suburb of Nundah) through the establishment of his Kedron Brook Hotel, a popular watering hole half way between Brisbane and Sandgate and his bypassing of Donkin's Hill on Sandgate Road, leading to the development of current Nundah shopping strip.

Bridges and a number of his siblings were among the first scholars enrolled at the new German Station National School (a primary school) when it opened in 1865.[3]

Initially Bridges followed in his father's footsteps as a farmer with interests in fruit and dairy, but later Thomas focussed exclusively on fruit (which included pineapples), reflecting the success of the Nundah-Zillmere district in fruit growing.

He 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 (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, Lucy Alvena) of whom two died as infants, a common occurrence in those times.

Political life[edit]

Bridges made his first foray into public life as a member of the Nundah Divisional Board. He was 30 years old when he joined the board and was involved with the board for about 13 years (circa 1883–1896), being chosen at its chairman on three occasions.[4]

Being a popular and well-regarded local farmer, Bridges stood for the Queensland parliament in 1896 as a member of the Ministerialist 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, he was taken by surprise by the late night sittings of Parliament. Indeed, 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. Presumably he came up with some solution to late night sittings after that.

In 1904, Bridges faced a formidable opponent in the election in the person of Sir Arthur Rutledge. Rutledge started out as the Wesleyan minister in New England. In the 1870s, he left the church and qualified as a solicitor in Brisbane. He entered parliament via the electorate of Charters Towers and was a member of cabinet, having the role of Attorney-General. He was knighted in 1903. Having had a very successful political career, Rutledge believed he could become Premier after the election in 1904. However, he believed that he would be better served if he represented an electorate closer to Brisbane, which may have been influenced by the gracious home he had purchased in Bardon. Rutledge decided that the semi-rural seat of Nundah (then held by Bridges) would be easily won by a man of his political experience (like Bridges, Rutledge was a Ministerialist, so assumed the electorate would be sympathetic to his politics). In addition to his high-flying political career, Rutledge had the backing of many large business houses and his son-in-law was the editor of the Brisbane Courier newspaper; he seemed unstoppable. The election of 1904 in Nundah was one of the most exciting with Rutledge's public assemblies packed with prominent religious and political leaders. In contrast, Bridges ran a low-key campaign, based on his past service to the community and a commitment to keep the railway prices low, and, contrary to every prediction, won the election by 253 votes. Rutledge was so confident of a win that he wasn't present when the returning officer made the announcement; he was hosting a victory dinner party at home. It was the end of Rutledge's political career; he then took up an appointment as a district judge.

It may be significant in the battle of the 1904 election that Bridges' old friend Leopold Zillman (another early resident of German Station) had become a Wesleyan minister who (some years earlier) had clashed with some of his congregation in New England. The disaffected congregation members plotted a "coup" with Rutledge, who took over the pulpit, resulting in the resignation of Zillman. So Bridges may have had a personal grudge against Rutledge in addition to Rutledge's attempt to usurp his place in parliament.

Perhaps the experience of being competed against by a member of his own Ministerialist Party may have soured Bridges' faith in his party, as he decided to leave politics on 18 May 1907. He was then succeeded in the seat by Richard Sumner.

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

Being himself a farmer, Bridges took particular interest in legislation related to farming, including diseases in plants and the extermination of flying foxes, which raid fruit trees. He spoke out against Chinese people, proposing they be returned to China (anti-Chinese sentiment was commonplace in those times). He supported the use of Kanaka indentured labour in the canefields of Queensland, now widely regarded as almost a form of slavery.

Although a long-term parliamentarian, Bridges was no great orator and was often described as unsophisticated. However he served his party as Whip for many years and was tireless in chasing government departments over issues reported by his constituents, which may have engendered the loyalty that won him the election in 1904. However he was described in 1922 (after having left politics) as being disillusioned with politics.

Later life[edit]

Grave of Thomas Bridges in Nundah Cemetery

Bridges' wife Margaret died on 15 January 1938.

Bridges died on 4 June 1939 while visiting a sick friend in St Martin's Hospital in Brisbane.[5] He was sitting on a chair by the bedside of his friend talking, when he suddenly fell backwards and died.

Bridges was buried the following day (5 June 1939) with his wife in the Nundah Cemetery.[6] Their original headstone has not survived, but today there is a modern plaque placed on their grave saying:

Thomas Bridges

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

Although there is no mention of his wife Margaret on the plaque, the records of the Nundah & Districts Historical Society show they are buried in the same grave.

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. ^ http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/historical/documents/membregisterHB.pdf
  3. ^ List of Original Scholars, German Station School 1865, Nundah & District Historical Society
  4. ^ The Australian Tropiculturist and Stockbreeder[a journal], 21 December 1896
  5. ^ "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. 3. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "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