Thomas Joseph Byrnes

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Thomas Joseph Byrnes
Thomas Joseph Byrnes.jpg
12th Premier of Queensland
In office
13 April 1898 – 1 October 1898
Preceded by Sir Hugh Nelson
Succeeded by James Dickson
Personal details
Born (1860-11-11)November 11, 1860
Spring Hill, Queensland
Died September 27, 1898(1898-09-27) (aged 37)
Brisbane, Queensland
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Profession Barrister, politician

Thomas Joseph Byrnes (11 November 1860 – 27 September 1898) was Premier of Queensland from April 1898 until his death in October of the same year, having previously served in several ministerial positions in his parliamentary career.[1] He was the first Premier of Queensland to die in office.

Early life[edit]

Byrnes was born in Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, to Irish immigrants Patrick Byrnes and his wife Anna, née Tighe.[1] Byrnes was educated at Bowen Primary School, then, winning a scholarship where topped the state,[2] he studied at Brisbane Grammar School and then studied arts and law at the University of Melbourne, graduating with honours in both. In 1882-83 Byrnes taught at Xavier College.[1]

Monument at the burial site of Thomas Joseph Byrnes at Brisbane's Toowong Cemetery.


Byrnes was admitted as a barrister in Victoria on 8 July 1884 and returned for a Queensland admission on 5 August; he then began a successful career as a barrister.[1] Byrnes' talent brought him to the attention of fellow barrister Sir Samuel Griffith, then Premier of Queensland, who had him appointed Solicitor-General with a seat in the Legislative Council. Byrnes stood down from the Legislative Council to successfully stand for Cairns in the Legislative Assembly in 1893. He represented Cairns until 1896, after which he represented Warwick in the Legislative Assembly from 1896 to his death in 1898.[3]

Byrnes continued his private law practice and participated in two major Supreme Court of Queensland cases. In the Queensland Investment Co. v. Grimley case, Byrnes successful conduct of the defence was praised widely. In the John Robb arbitration case of 1892, praise for Byrnes skill was accompanied by public objection to the high fees paid to Samuel Griffith as leading counsel and to Byrnes as one of his assistants.[1] In 1895 and 1897, Byrnes represented Queensland at meetings of the Federal Council of Australasia.[1]

Sir Thomas McIlwraith appointed him as Attorney-General of Queensland in the Continuous Ministry, and when Hugh Nelson stepped down as Premier; Byrnes, the youngest member of the Ministry by a large margin, became Premier.

Statue of Thomas Joseph Byrnes in Centenary Place, Brisbane
Statue of Thomas Joseph Byrnes in Warwick

Late life[edit]

Byrnes' ability had led many to expect great things of him, but he suddenly contracted measles then pneumonia and died on 27 September 1898. Byrnes was buried in Toowong Cemetery after a state funeral.[1]


Byrnes is commemorated by two statues, one in Brisbane and one in Warwick, funded by public subscriptions.[1]

The township of Byrnestown in Queensland is named after him, as is its main street Byrnes Parade and its railway station.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Rosemary Howard Gill, 'Byrnes, Thomas Joseph (1860 - 1898)' , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 517-519. Retrieved 19 April 2010
  2. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Byrnes, Thomas Joseph". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  3. ^ "Alphabetical Register of Members of the Legislative Assembly 1860-2012 and of the Legislative Council 1860-1922". Queensland Parliamentary Record 2009-2012: The 53rd Parliament. Queensland Government. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Byrnestown (entry 45325)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Solicitor-General of Queensland
August 1890 - 1893
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Attorney-General of Queensland
March 1893 - 27 September 1898
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Nelson
Premier of Queensland
13 April - 27 September 1898
Succeeded by
James Dickson