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Hughes, Sir Thomas (1863–1930)

Sir Thomas Hughes, M.L.C., the first Lord Mayor of Sydney, and a prominent figure in the business community of Sydney for many years, died at a private hospital yesterday morning, after a long illness. He was in his 67th year, and his death marks the close of a very active career.

The second son of the late Mr. John Hughes, K.C., S.G., of Elizabeth Bay, Sir Thomas Hughes was born in Sydney, and was educated at Stonyhurst College, England, and at the University of London, where he matriculated in 1880. After spending more than a year in European travel, he returned to Australia, and entered on the study of law in 1882, being admitted to practise as a solicitor in 1887. Thereupon he joined his brother, the late Mr. John Hughes, M.L.C., in partnership.

Sir Thomas made his first incursion into politics in 1898 in support of the cause of Federation and in the following year he accompanied Sir George Reid then Premier of New South Wales as his secretary to the conference of Premiers in Melbourne which brought about the modifications of the original draft of the Federal Constitution that were required before the people of this State would accept it. In 1898 he also acted as secretary to the representative of the Government in the Legislative Council.

He was first elected as an alderman of the City Council for Bourke ward in 1898 and sat until 1912. Upon the granting of Royal Letters Patent in 1902 he became Sydney’s first Lord Mayor and was re-elected for 1903, 1907 and 1908 having previously occupied the post of Mayor of Sydney.

In 1908 Sir Thomas was appointed to the Legislative Council. He was president of several important Royal Commissions including the Commissions on City Improvement (1908-09) Sydney Water Supply (1902-03) and the Decline of the Birthrate (1903-04). He was one of the leaders of municipal reform in Sydney when actively associated with municipal government.

Sir Thomas Hughes who was created a Knight Bachelor in 1915 was connected with a number of commercial institutions until about a year ago when owing to ill health he retired from active business. He had occupied the positions of chairman and managing director of the Australia Hotel Co Ltd, director of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd, chairman of directors of S. Bennett Ltd, chairman of directors of Toohey’s Ltd, and a director of Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Co Ltd. He was a member of the board of the National Mutual Life Association of A’sia Ltd and of the Sydney board of the London and Lancashire Insurance Co Ltd. He was also chairman of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Asia) Ltd until the agreement with the Commonwealth Government was made when he resigned.

In 1902-3 Sir Thomas Hughes was a member of the New South Wales Board of Health and he was again a member in 1907 and 1908. He was a councillor of the Women’s College within the University of Sydney. A leading Roman Catholic churchman Sir Thomas was secretary of the first and third Australian Catholic Congresses in Sydney in 1900 and 1909. In recognition of his services to the Church the Pope honoured him with a knighthood of the Order of St Gregory. He was an Officer de L’Instruction Publique de Trance and an officer of Polish Palonia Restituta.

Sir Thomas Hughes was a strong advocate of better Empire wireless communication and on more than one occasion he emphasised Australia s disabilities in that regard. He was a distinctive and highly respected figure in the Legislative Council where he brought to bear on many important measures the ripe experience and sound judgment of one who had devoted much time to public affairs.

Lady Hughes who survives him was formerly Miss Louisa Gilhooley and is the second daughter of the late Dr J. C. Gilhooley. A son Captain Roper Forrest Hughes was killed in action in France. The second son Captain Geoffrey Forrest Hughes MC AFC is the senior partner of the firm founded by his father Messrs Hughes Hughes and Garvin. He is also president of the Aero Club of New South Wales.

A Requiem Mass will be held at St Canice’s Church Roslyn street Darlinghurst at 9 o clock this morning and the cortege will leave for Waverley Cemetery about a quarter to 10 o'clock.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 1930, p 18

Citation details

'Hughes, Sir Thomas (1863–1930)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hughes-sir-thomas-7078/text29072, accessed 25 November 2017.

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