Thomas Hughes (Sydney mayor)

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The Honourable
Sir Thomas Hughes
Thomas Hughes Lord Mayor of Sydney.jpg
42nd Mayor of Sydney
In office
1 January 1902 – 31 December 1902
Preceded by Sir James Graham
Succeeded by Himself
1st Lord Mayor of Sydney
In office
1 January 1903 – 31 December 1903
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by Samuel Edward Lees
In office
1 January 1907 – 31 December 1908
Preceded by Allen Taylor
Succeeded by Sir Allen Taylor
Alderman of the Sydney City Council
In office
5 September 1898 – 1 December 1912
Member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales
In office
21 July 1908 – 15 April 1930
Personal details
Born (1863-04-19)19 April 1863
Sydney, Colony of New South Wales
Died 15 April 1930(1930-04-15) (aged 66)
Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Spouse(s) Louisa Gilhooley
(m. 1887–1948)
Relations John Francis Hughes (Brother)
Robert Hughes (Grandson)
Tom Hughes (Grandson)
Lucy Turnbull (Great granddaughter)
Children Geoffrey Forrest Hughes
Roger Forrest Hughes
Occupation Solicitor and businessman

Sir Thomas Hughes KCSG, JP (19 April 1863 – 15 April 1930) was an Australian businessman and New South Wales state politician who was Lord Mayor of Sydney, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and served as Chairman of Washington H. Soul Pattinson from 1906–1929.[1][2]

Early years and background[edit]

Thomas Hughes was born in Sydney, Colony of New South Wales, on 19 April 1863, the third son of wealthy Irish immigrants, John Hughes, of Kincoppal, and Susan Sharkey. His elder brother was future Sydney Alderman and NSW politician, John Francis Hughes. [3] Hughes, along with his brother, was sent to England to be educated as Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, and he matriculated for the University of London in 1880.[4]

After undertaking a tour of Europe, Hughes then returned to Sydney and in 1882 entered the legal profession, being articled to T. M. Slattery and was admitted as a solicitor on 28 May 1887. Thereafter he entered practice with his brother.[3] On 19 October 1887, he married Louisa Gilhooley, the daughter of physician James Gilhooley.[1] They had two sons: Geoffrey Forrest Hughes, who became a solicitor and was a flying ace of the First World War, and Roger Forrest Hughes, who became a doctor, signed up in March 1916 to the Army Medical Corps and was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on 11 December 1916.[5]

Political and business career[edit]

Hughes entered public life in New South Wales when he openly supported Australian Federation in 1898 and became secretary to his brother John who was at the time serving as Representative of Government in Legislative Council for George Reid's Free Trade Party. In January 1899 he accompanied Reid, as his secretary, to the Federal Conference of Premiers in Melbourne which involved placing the colony's interests in the draft constitution.[3] When Reid resigned his seat to stand for the newly formed Federal Parliament, Hughes stood as the Liberal Reform Party candidate (The Liberals had been formed out of the old Free Trade Party and were affiliated with Reid's federal Free Traders) for Reid's state seat of Sydney-King but was defeated by the Progressive Party candidate Ernest Broughton by a margin of eighteen votes.[6]

Hughes instead found success in his role as Alderman on Sydney City Council for Bourke Ward, which he had been elected to on 5 September 1898. An advocate of municipal reform, Hughes instituted an investigation into the city's finances, which would eventually result in the formation of the Civic Reform Association in 1920.[4] With James Graham, he helped to organise the Citizens' Vigilante Committee which assisted in controlling the first plague outbreak in 1900. Hughes was elected as the last Mayor in January 1902, and was the first Lord Mayor of Sydney with the issuing of the Letters Patent from King Edward VII granting the title to the City.[4] Hughes also became a supporter for the concept of a unified 'Greater Sydney', with a single municipal body owning and controlling key public services in the Sydney basin.[3] He was re-elected for another two terms as Lord Mayor from 1907 to 1908.[4]

In July 1908, Hughes was given a life appointment to the New South Wales Legislative Council.[1] Taylor supported successive conservative parties in NSW, sitting in the Council for the Liberal Reform and Nationalist parties respectively during his time on the council.[1] From 1908 to 1909 he chaired the Royal Commission for the improvement of the city of Sydney and its suburbs.[3] Hughes would serve on Sydney City Council until he resigned on 1 December 1912.[4]

Hughes became highly proficient in business circles and was appointed Chairman of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Tooheys Limited and Washington H. Soul Pattinson (1906–1929). He also served as a director of Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (1915-1919, 1920-1928), and the Australia Hotel Company. A firm catholic and prominent member of the Sydney Catholic community, Hughes served as secretary to the first and third Sydney Catholic Congresses in 1900 and 1909.[1] He was awarded the rank of Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KCSG) by Pope Benedict XV in 1915.[1] He was appointed as a Knight Bachelor in King George V's 1915 Birthday Honours.[7]

During the First World War, Hughes and his wife were a foundation executive-members of the Universal Service League and were part of a small group of upper-class Catholics who opposed the anti-conscription stance of the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix and other Catholics.[3] Although he remained a firm opponent of the influence of sectarianism and its position in society at that time.[8]

Later life and legacy[edit]

In his later years, Hughes was a member of the Australian Club and of the council of The Women's College, University of Sydney. Suffering from chronic nephritis and arteriosclerosis, he died on 15 April 1930 in St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney and was buried in Waverley Cemetery after a service at St Canice's Church, Darlinghurst. On his death, the Premier Thomas Bavin noted: "The name of Sir Thomas Hughes has for many years been prominently associated with the public life of New South Wales, and both the Commonwealth, and the State will be the poorer because of his death. He will be particularly missed in the Legislative Council, where his counsels and mature judgment on problems of the day were of the greatest value. Sir Thomas rendered equally distinguished service to the State in the municipal and commercial spheres of activity. He held the distinction of being the first Lord Mayor of Sydney, and during his year of office following his elevation to that position, as well as during the three subsequent occasions on which he held that responsible post, he conducted the affairs of the City Council with outstanding dignity and ability."[9] Hughes Street in Potts Point is named after him.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Sir Thomas HUGHES (1863–1930)". Former Members. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Kathy Shand, ed. (1993). A Singular Success: Washington H. Soul Pattinson, 1872–1993. Double Bay, NSW: Focus Books. ISBN 9781875359141. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Spearritt, Peter. "Hughes, Sir Thomas (1863–1930)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Thomas Hughes". Sydney's Aldermen. City of Sydney. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Green, Antony. "Sydney-King - 1901". New South Wales Elections Database. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 
  7. ^ "HUGHES, Thomas - Knight Bachelor". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "THE LORD MAYOR AND SECTARIANISM.". The Sunday Times (Sydney: 1895-1930). National Library of Australia. 29 November 1903. p. 5. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "Death of Sir Thomas Hughes, K.C.S.G., M.L.C.". The Catholic Press (1895-1942). NSW: National Library of Australia. 24 April 1930. p. 19. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
Civic offices
Preceded by
Sir James Graham
Mayor of Sydney
Succeeded by
as Lord Mayor of Sydney
Preceded by
as Mayor of Sydney
Lord Mayor of Sydney
Succeeded by
Samuel Edward Lees
Preceded by
Allen Taylor
Lord Mayor of Sydney
1906 – 1908
Succeeded by
Sir Allen Taylor
Business positions
Preceded by
Lewy Pattinson
Chairman of Washington H. Soul Pattinson
1906 – 1929
Succeeded by
William Frederick Pattinson