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William Robert Fitzsimons (1870–1926)

by John McCarthy

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Herbert Paton Fitzsimons

William Robert Fitzsimons (1870-1926), dentist and politician, and Herbert Paton Fitzsimons (1898-1970), politician, were father and son. William was born on 26 November 1870 at Greencastle, near Moville, Donegal, Ireland, son of Samuel Fitzsimons, of the constabulary, and his wife Isabella, née McCloy. After the death of her husband, in about 1887 Isabella moved her five sons and two daughters to Sydney, where William joined the National Bank of Australasia. At Chatswood, on 21 January 1898 he married Bessie Amy Louisa, daughter of Henry Clifford Love, and became a director of Clifford Love & Co. Ltd, eastern merchants. They lived at Gordon. About 1901 William qualified as a dentist and practised in Macquarie Street.

In 1910-22 Fitzsimons served on the Kuring-gai Shire Council and was its president in 1917-21. At the same time he acted as honorary secretary in their electorates for (Sir) Charles G. Wade and (Sir) Joseph Cook. As a Nationalist Fitzsimons won Cumberland in the Legislative Assembly in 1922 and held his seat in 1925. An infrequent and unimpressive speaker in the House, he was extremely popular, and assiduous, in his electorate; in 1924-26 he was a member of the Public Accounts Committee.

Fitzsimons died in Sydney Hospital on 20 March 1926 from injuries received when knocked down by a car while leaving a tram in Hunter Street, and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. He was survived by his wife, son and daughter.

His son Herbert Paton was born on 25 November 1898 at Gordon, Sydney, and was educated at Abbotsholme College with F. G. Pratten. A senior cadet in the 18th Battalion, after army service in World War I he enrolled in first-year medicine at the University of Sydney in 1920. After working for Boswell & Co., manufacturers, in 1925 he joined the sales staff of Pratten Bros. Ltd, printers, and became a director. On 2 April 1927 at the Presbyterian church, Pymble, he married Eleanor Margaret Brown.

In the 1920s Fitzsimons had been campaign director for Herbert Pratten and was a councillor of the National Association of New South Wales in 1929-31 and 1936-37. In July 1930 he won a by-election for the State seat of Lane Cove. Rising rapidly to cabinet rank, he became an honorary minister under (Sir) Bertram Stevens in February 1933 and minister for health from August 1935. He carried important amendments to the Medical Practitioners and Pharmacy Acts in 1939 and 1940. Early in 1939 he visited Europe and the United States of America to study later developments in hospital design and the treatment of tuberculosis, and cancer.

Soon after the outbreak of World War II Fitzsimons got leave from his ministerial duties and, as a temporary captain in 1940 became staff officer, medical services, and established military hospitals. Seconded to the Australian Imperial Force, in August 1942 he was registrar of the 114th Australian General Hospital, Goulburn, until 1943. Promoted major on 17 July 1943, he was registrar of the 2/5th A.G.H., Port Moresby, in 1943-44. Returning to Australia in 1944 he did not seek re-election because of his military duties; he was assistant registrar of the 113th military hospital, Concord, until 1947.

Meanwhile Fitzsimons had held his seat in the 1941 elections that brought the Labor Party to office. In 1944-55 he served on the Kuring-gai Shire Council. He was elected to the Legislative Council in September 1955 where he continued to take an interest in health affairs and chaired its select committee on public hospitals in 1961. Afraid that the Liberal Party could support a proposal for the council's abolition, in September 1959 he joined the Country Party; he was government whip in 1967-70.

Fitzsimons died on 31 January 1970 at Wamberal, near Gosford, and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Northern Suburbs cemetery after a service at St John's Anglican Church, Gordon. He was survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian National Review, 20 Mar 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Mar 1926, 30 Sept 1959, 2 Feb 1970.

Citation details

John McCarthy, 'Fitzsimons, William Robert (1870–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 November, 1870
Moville, Donegal, Ireland


20 March, 1926 (aged 55)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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