Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daniel Egan (1803–1870)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Daniel Egan (1803?-1870), public servant, merchant and politician, was born at Windsor, New South Wales, probably the son of Brian Egan. In 1824-35 he was foreman at the government dockyard in Sydney and accepted a gratuity in lieu of a similar post at Trincomalee, Ceylon, when the yard closed. He went into business and acquired several trading vessels. In November 1842 he was elected alderman for Gipps ward in the Sydney Municipal Council, but resigned in September 1843 because of his insolvency. Re-elected in November 1846, he was mayor of Sydney in 1853. From 1848 to 1853 he was a magistrate on the Sydney bench.

As a politician Egan supported the liberals, and favoured an extension of the suffrage and the opening of the land. He was an elected member of the Legislative Council for the pastoral district of Maneroo (Monaro) in 1854-56 and represented the same seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1856-59 and Eden in 1859-69. In January 1870 he regained Monaro. He was a firm supporter of the Cowper-Robertson faction for over eleven years; he was postmaster-general under Robertson and Cowper from 27 October 1868 until his death. Though he supported much liberal legislation he vigorously opposed the abolition of state aid to religion and the Public Schools Act (1866).

Egan was twice married. He had two sons and a daughter by his first marriage which took place when he was about 23. His second marriage was to Mary Ann Cahnac on 17 July 1843 at St Mary's, Sydney; there were no children. Egan's second wife and a son and a daughter of her former marriage were lost in the wreck of the Dunbar near Watson's Bay on 20 August 1857. Egan's only surviving son, John Piper (b.1827), married Marianne, a sister of Richard Brownlow, on 14 April 1855.

Egan died after a short illness at the Oxford Hotel, Watson's Bay, on 16 October 1870; his friend Archbishop John Bede Polding had administered the last rites, and he was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Petersham.

Egan's grave was soon after the centre of a brief but widespread religious and public scandal. Though he was a staunch Catholic and a benefactor of the Church, certain zealous bigots objected to his burial in consecrated ground because of his alleged association with a woman to whom he was not married. They had his body secretly removed and placed in unconsecrated ground. William Bede Dalley, Edward Butler and David Buchanan were among the many who condemned their action. The matter was raised in parliament in January 1871, a select committee proposed, and the outrage deplored by most sections of the community and of the Catholic Church. The furore ended when Polding ordered the body to be reinterred in its original grave.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Loveday and A. W. Martin, Parliament Factions and Parties (Melb, 1966)
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 22 Oct 1853
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Mar, 11, 27 Aug 1857, 17, 19 Oct 1870, 28, 31 Jan, 1 Feb 1871
  • Town and Country Journal, 22 Oct 1870
  • Perkins papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Egan, Daniel (1803–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Windsor, New South Wales, Australia


16 October, 1870 (aged ~ 67)
Watsons Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.