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Weekes, Elias Carpenter (1809–1881)

by R. W. Rathbone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Elias Carpenter Weekes (1809-1881), by unknown photographer

Elias Carpenter Weekes (1809-1881), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, PX*D 624

Elias Carpenter Weekes (1809-1881), ironmonger and politician, was born on 13 July 1809 in London, youngest son of John Weekes, naval shipwright at Chatham dockyard, and his wife Elizabeth, née Orton. After a commercial career in England he migrated about 1837 to New South Wales with his wife Margaret (d.1839), daughter of Dr W. F. Wye, whom he had married at Newington Butts, London, probably in 1830. After working for a Sydney merchant, in 1842 he acquired the Travellers' Rest Inn on the Murrumbidgee. From 1844 he was in partnership, importing wines, with John Holdsworth. In 1850 he was an ironmonger and wine merchant and by 1855 had formed E. C. Weekes & Co., ironmongers, with his son Charles and a partner in London. In the 1850s he was a committee-man of the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts.

Active in radical politics with his friend (Sir) Henry Parkes, Weekes was a member of the Australasian League for the Abolition of Transportation. In June 1848 he seconded Robert Lowe's nomination for the City of Sydney seat in the Legislative Council. He opposed W. C. Wentworth's draft constitution but on 23 September 1853 wrote to W. R. Piddington denying that he was a member of the Constitutional Committee and complaining of 'the unworthy imputations, which … you see fit to cast on those who declined to be manoeuvred into the body'. He was a member of the Sydney Municipal Council in 1850-53.

At the first elections after responsible government in 1856 Weekes stood for the Northumberland Boroughs. He told his constituents that the new Constitution was 'radically bad' and strongly attacked the 'two thirds clause'. He opposed state aid to religion, favoured the encouragement of native industries and rural libraries and advocated 'a federal government for all the Australasian colonies'. Defeated by six votes, he was elected second member for the South Riding of Cumberland. However, he was awarded the Northumberland seat in August by the Elections and Qualifications Committee and represented it until April 1859. In 1859-64 he sat for West Maitland. Vigorous and firm, he spoke with considerable fluency and force and in 1857-58 he was a member of the Elections and Qualifications Committee.

From April until October 1859 Weekes was colonial treasurer in (Sir) Charles Cowper's second ministry and held the same office from March 1860 under (Sir) John Robertson and Cowper. He strongly supported Cowper's 1861 bill to restrict Chinese immigration but resigned from the ministry on 20 March 1863 because constant work was weakening his remaining eye; he had lost the other in an accident two years before. In October the government was defeated after attempts to conceal a large budget deficit and some of the odium fell on Weekes, who did not contest the general election of 1864. He was appointed to the Legislative Council on 10 July 1865. In the council he carried the Dog and Goat Act of 1866 and two private company Acts in 1867 and 1870. In 1873 he took over J. G. L. Innes's duties as Parkes's government representative in the council for a fortnight, but complained of his own impaired health.

An auditor of the Bank of New South Wales in the 1850s, he was a director in 1863, 1866-68 and 1869-75. In the 1860s and 1870s he was also a director and sometime chairman of the United Insurance Co. Ltd, a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales, a vice-president of the Australian Library and Literary Institution, and a member of the Hyde Park Improvement Committee; in 1867-68 he was a member of the commission to make arrangements for the public reception of the Duke of Edinburgh. He suffered from softening of the brain for eight years before he died of apoplexy at 24 College Street on 5 August 1881; he was buried in Rookwood cemetery. Survived by two sons and three daughters, he left them personalty valued for probate at £12,241.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1856-57, 1, 801, 1861, 2, 1343, 1862, 2, 939
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1842, 6 Nov 1844, 24, 27, 28, 31 Mar 1856
  • Empire (Sydney), 23 Apr 1856
  • Town and Country Journal, 13 Aug 1881
  • Cowper letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • newspaper indexes (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/518/298, 526/333, 570/174.

Citation details

R. W. Rathbone, 'Weekes, Elias Carpenter (1809–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weekes-elias-carpenter-4826/text8051, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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