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O'Loughlin, Laurence Theodore (1854–1927)

by Malcolm Saunders

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Laurence Theodore O'Loughlin (1854-1927), by unknown photographer, c1895

Laurence Theodore O'Loughlin (1854-1927), by unknown photographer, c1895

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6234

Laurence Theodore O'Loughlin (1854-1927), farmer and politician, was born on 14 January 1854 at Peachy Belt, Virginia, near Adelaide, eldest child of Cornelius O'Loughlin, farmer and stonemason, and his wife Anne, née Barry, Irish migrants. In the late 1830s Cornelius had established a property at Salisbury. Laurence attended local schools and, in 1867, the Jesuit college at Sevenhill. In 1871 the family moved north to Caltowie, Laurence as a woodcarter and farmworker. He later farmed and grazed on selections he took up with his brothers at Telowie and Baroota. On 15 August 1885 he married Frances Morris, tailoress, in St Patrick's Church, Adelaide; they had four daughters and nine sons. They moved to Booleroo Centre and, in 1906, to the Pinnaroo district.

Although never a brilliant orator, O'Loughlin was persuasive, and a ready conversationalist. He was secretary of Caltowie's first show, a justice of the peace from 1886, a member in 1888 of the Port Germein District Council and of the Vermin Board.

O'Loughlin represented farmers in the House of Assembly for the northern constituency of Frome from 1890 until 1902, when it was reformed as the seat of Burra Burra, which he held till 1918. In 1894-96 he was government whip. He was commissioner of crown lands in the Kingston government in 1896-99, in the Holder and Jenkins Liberal governments in 1899-1902, the Price-Peake Labor-Liberal government of 1905-09, and the Peake government of 1909-10. He held various other portfolios in 1905-10: agriculture, immigration, Northern Territory (in 1907 he published a pamphlet, The Northern Territory of South Australia), public works and water supply. In 1912-15 he was Speaker of the assembly. But it was in his administration of land policy that O'Loughlin was most notable. After standing as a candidate of the Farmers and Settlers' Association in 1918, he lost his seat and next year became chairman of the Wheat Board.

In parliament O'Loughlin had opposed free education and female suffrage. He was a champion of the country over the city, the small mixed farmer and wheatgrower over the large landowner and squatter. He pressed for a progressive land tax to promote closer settlement but at the same time fostered the development of less fertile but arable areas such as Eyre Peninsula and the Murray Mallee region. He chaired the 1897-98 pastoral lands commission, whose recommendations were embodied in the 1898 Act to Amend the Crown Lands Acts, which he saw through parliament. Between 1905 and 1909 alone, over four million acres (1,618,760 ha) of crown land were allocated to nearly 3000 applicants. He joined the Liberal Union on its formation in 1910.

He was a member of fifteen government enquiries, seven of which he chaired; six concerned railways. By taking up large tracts of land near Pinnaroo he assisted the district to qualify for a railway linking it to Tailem Bend. He chaired the 1909-12 royal commission on the Murray lands railway which recommended means of best opening up the country between the Pinnaroo line and the River Murray.

Catholics celebrated him as one of the first of their number to hold high public office in South Australia. 'Larry' was generous, affectionate and genial, quite unpretentious. His political career left him with many admirers and no enemies, it was said. Survived by his wife and eleven children, he died on 25 January 1927 and was buried in Pinnaroo cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £4093.

Select Bibliography

  • J. J. Pascoe (ed), History of Adelaide and Vicinity (Adel, 1901)
  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • Pinnaroo Historical Society, Pinnaroo (Pinnaroo, SA, 1983)
  • Pictorial Australia, Oct 1890
  • Observer (Adelaide), 3 Oct 1896, 29 Jan 1927
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 26, 27 Jan 1927
  • Register (Adelaide), 26, 27 Jan 1927
  • Southern Cross (Adelaide), 28 Jan 1927
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 29 Jan 1927
  • Mail (Adelaide), 23 Nov 1912
  • private information

Citation details

Malcolm Saunders, 'O'Loughlin, Laurence Theodore (1854–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/oloughlin-laurence-theodore-7906/text13749, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 21 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Laurence Theodore O'Loughlin (1854-1927), by unknown photographer, c1895

Laurence Theodore O'Loughlin (1854-1927), by unknown photographer, c1895

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6234