Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lyons, Thomas (1861–1938)

by James G. Cooper

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Thomas Lyons (1861-1938), businessman, was born on 3 January 1861 at Hobart Town, son of William Henry Lyons, master mariner, and his wife Charlotte, née Priest. He was educated at The Hutchins School. In 1882 he was appointed accountant to the Hobart Gas Co. and next year joined the Bank of Van Diemen's Land, becoming inspector of branches before the bank was forced to close in 1891.

Lyons suggested that much freehold property to which the bank held title be disposed of by lottery. The necessary legislation was passed in September 1893 and George Adams, who had conducted sweeps in New South Wales and Queensland, agreed to organize the lotteries. In January 1894 Lyons accepted a position with Adams and played an important part behind the scenes in persuading members of parliament, despite intense public opposition, to support further legislation in 1896 that allowed the establishment of Tattersall's in Tasmania. He remained 'a confidant, advisor and close friend' of Adams, taking an active part in the management of the business. Lyons purchased a seat on the Hobart Stock Exchange in February 1896 and for a short period carried on a commission agency with Peter Facy. In 1900 he became a committee-member of the stock exchange.

Mining interested Lyons greatly and he worked leases for tin, nickel, gold and other minerals, particularly in the north-east and on the west coast. When Adams died in 1904 he left Lyons a share of the annual net proceeds of Tattersall's sweeps. In 1907 Lyons left the firm and entered into partnership with H. W. Bayley, whose old-established stockbroking company had several overseas agencies, as Bayley & Lyons. He became a director of many enterprises including the Derwent & Tasman Assurance Co. Ltd and Perpetual Trustees & National Executors of Tasmania Ltd and a trustee and general manager of Tattersall's in 1927-38.

Another important facet of Lyons's life was his involvement with horse-racing, both as breeder and owner. His horses won many classic races including six Hobart Cups. His interest began with the purchase of Oakdene in 1912 from whom he bred many notable winners including Talisman and Prince Viol. A committee-member of the Tasmanian Racing Club since 1900, he was chairman or deputy chairman in 1915-38 and a life member. An annual handicap race and a grandstand bear his name.

Lyons was a tall man, dignified and dapper. He was patriarchal with his family but popular in public, credited with being as shrewd a judge of men as of horses and with a deserved reputation for generosity. From 1908 until his death he was president of the Athenaeum Club and from 1920 either patron or president of the Sandy Bay Regatta Association; he was also foundation president of the Autocar (later, Royal Automobile) Club of Tasmania.

He worshipped in turn at Presbyterian, Anglican and Congregational churches, abandoning St Stephen's Church of England following an attack from the pulpit on lotteries. He had married Maud Beatrice Stanfield (d.1890) on 13 March 1889 at Rokeby, then on 28 June 1899, in Hobart, Elizabeth Turnbull Robertson Riordan. Lyons died on 6 July 1938 at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney; as an expression of regret there was no morning call on the Hobart Stock Exchange. He was cremated in Hobart. His wife and their five children, to whom he largely left his estate sworn for probate at £77,639, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Wilson, The Luck of the Draw (Melb, 1980)
  • R. Ferrall, The Hobart Stock Exchange (Hob, 1982)
  • D. A. Denholm, ‘Tattersall's in Tasmania’, Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 13 (1966)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 4 Aug 1891, 8 Sept 1893, 1 Feb 1894
  • Harvey Bayley & Co., A Brief History of This Firm (typescript, 1981, State Library of Tasmania)
  • Hobart Stock Exchange minutes, Feb 1896–May 1900 (Hobart Stock Exchange)
  • Tasmanian Racing Club, minutes and records, 1915-38 (held by club, Glenorchy, Hobart)
  • Dept of Mines (Tasmania), records of leases, 1913-1930 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

James G. Cooper, 'Lyons, Thomas (1861–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lyons-thomas-7279/text12619, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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