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Fitzpatrick, John Charles Lucas (1862–1932)

by Jill Waterhouse

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

John Charles Lucas Fitzpatrick (1862-1932), journalist and politician, was born on 15 February 1862 at Moama, New South Wales, son of John James Fitzpatrick, a Dublin-born police constable, and his native-born wife Elizabeth, née Lucas. In 1869 the family moved to Windsor. Educated at a denominational school, at 14 Fitzpatrick began an apprenticeship in the Australian office at Windsor and at 18 was a compositor on Melbourne Punch. He worked on newspapers at Gunnedah, Narrabri, Walgett and Parramatta, New South Wales, and in 1885 became a reporter on Hugh Mahon's Southern Argus at Goulburn. On 11 January 1886 at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Parramatta, he married Agnes Clare Kelly. About 1888 he established the Windsor and Richmond Gazette which he managed and edited until 1899. In 1890 he was a founder of the Provincial Press Association. In 1905 he bought the Molong Argus and sold it in 1907.

In 1895 Fitzpatrick was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Rylstone as a free trader. The election was invalidated but two months later he was re-elected. He held the seat until 1904 when he was defeated for Northumberland; in 1906 he was defeated for the Federal seat of Calare by Thomas Brown. Next year he returned to the Legislative Assembly, representing Orange until 1920 and in 1927-30. In 1920-27 he was a member for Bathurst.

A good debater, Fitzpatrick was always alert and wide awake in the House even at 5 a.m. He was closely associated with the testator's family maintenance and the unclaimed money bills and with one to regulate the taking of evidence in select committees. In the early 1900s he supported the right of women to stand for parliament but towards the end of his career claimed that politics seduced them from their homes. He believed that rural interests could best be served by limiting government control of such matters as abattoirs and wheat sales, and in 1916 recommended the completion of country railways before the erection of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From 1900 Fitzpatrick was a trustee of the Public Library of New South Wales. His love of Australian history lay behind his support of the term of David Scott Mitchell's bequest. While in parliament he compiled several books of local reminiscences, mostly of Windsor and the Hawkesbury district. He also published two books of poetry, Various Verses (Parramatta, 1895, 1907) and two travel books about a visit to the East, Eastward Ho (1905) and A Jaunt to Java (1908).

Fitzpatrick was one of six Liberals chosen by W. A. Holman to form his Nationalist ministry on 15 November 1916; he became secretary for mines and on 30 October 1918 treasurer also; the government lost the March 1920 election. During a serious strike in 1917 he carried the controversial Coal Mines Regulation (Amendment) Act which permitted inexperienced men to work in the mines. Labor branded the measure as retrograde and anti-unionist and Fitzpatrick as a murderer, but the strike ended soon after the Act was enforced. His conviction that Australia had a strong obligation to support the British Empire was strengthened by his son's service with the 1st Light Horse Regiment in Gallipoli and Egypt. On 20 December 1921 he was secretary for mines and minister for local government in (Sir) George Fuller's seven-hour ministry and held the same posts in his ministry in 1922-25. Fitzpatrick was also chairman of the Lord Howe Island Board.

Although he was forceful and independent, often claiming to speak for himself rather than for his party or electorate, Fitzpatrick was never malicious; he proudly maintained friendships despite party differences. Known as 'Fitz', he conducted elections with good-humoured bluster, gaining Protestant support by criticizing Rome, but keeping his friendships with local priests. He had no sympathy for criminals and voted against the abolition of capital punishment in 1925. He was a 'mercurial little man' with a luxuriant moustache, and was noted for his witty speeches, 'racy jokes', dapper clothes and fresh buttonholes, worn with the pride of a keen gardener.

Fitzpatrick retired from politics in 1930. Survived by a son and daughter, he died on 7 August 1932 at his Roseville home and was cremated with Methodist forms. His estate was valued for probate at £11,657.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1917, 2S, p 590
  • Western Post (Mudgee), 24 Dec 1895
  • Town and Country Journal, 4 Dec 1907
  • Fighting Line, 14 Aug 1913
  • Bulletin, 23 Aug 1917, 10 Aug 1932
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Aug 1932, Molong Argus, 12 Aug 1932
  • Carruthers papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • G. E. Reeve papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Jill Waterhouse, 'Fitzpatrick, John Charles Lucas (1862–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fitzpatrick-john-charles-lucas-6181/text10625, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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