Edward William O'Sullivan

Edward William O'Sullivan (17 March 1846 – 25 April 1910) was an Australian journalist and politician.

As a politician, O'Sullivan had strong Labour sympathies before the Labor 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.[1]

Early life and journalism

O'Sullivan was born in Launceston, Tasmania. His father deserted the family when he was a child and he was mainly educated by his mother. He began work at an early age as a printer's devil on the Hobart Mercury. Later he became a reporter; in 1869 he 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. In 1878, he moved to Melbourne, married Agnes Ann Firman and started working a The Argus. In 1882, he went to Sydney and for about a year was overseer in the Daily Telegraph office.[1][2]

O'Sullivan took a prominent part in union circles and became president of the New South Wales Typographical Association and became President of the Trades and Labor Council for six months from March 1883. In 1884, he founded a working man's party the Democratic Alliance and its newspaper the Democrat, but both failed.[2]

In 1909 he became the third President of the New South Wales Rugby League in the year after incumbent secretary and founding father of the game Henry Hoyle resigned. Hoyle was replaced by ECV Broughton, however he stood down after just less than a month due to poor health. O'Sullivan resigned as a matter of principle, upon learning that a secret faction within the NSWRL had been plotting to pay the amateur Rugby Union Wallabies players to play games against the Australian national rugby league team, the Kangaroos.

Parliamentary career

In 1882, O'Sullivan 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, with the assistance of the Queanbeyan Age, edited by his friend, John Gale. He held the seat for about 18 years.[1][3]

In September 1899, O'Sullivan became Minister for Public Works in the Lyne ministry, and held the same position when John See became Premier until the ministry was defeated in June 1904. He 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.[1] According to The Bulletin, his sketch for it has "all the salient features of the Colosseum, St Paul's, the Kremlin and a Yankee skyscraper".[2]

O'Sullivan held office for a few weeks in the Waddell 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.[1]

O'Sullivan died at Mosman of blood poisoning after a protracted illness. He was married, and left a widow, two sons and three daughters.[2]

Literary works

O'Sullivan had three melodramas produced: Cooee Eureka Stockade and Keane, of Kalgoorlie (filmed in 1911).[2][4] He published during the 1890s Esperanza: a Tale of Three Colonies, and in 1906, Under the Southern Cross: Australian Sketches, Stories and Speeches.[1]


  1. Serle, Percival. "O'Sullivan, Edward William (1846-1910)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  2. Mansfield, Bruce E. "O'Sullivan, Edward William (1846 - 1910)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  3. "Mr Edward William O'Sullivan (1846-1910)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  4. "LATE MR. O'SULLIVAN'S DRAMAS". The Examiner (DAILY ed.). Launceston, Tas. 26 August 1911. p. 8. Retrieved 27 September 2014 via National Library of Australia.
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
George De Salis
Member for Queanbeyan
1885 1904
Succeeded by
Alan Millard
Preceded by
New seat
Member for Belmore
1904 1910
Succeeded by
Patrick Minahan
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