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Patrick O'Sullivan (1818–1904)

by H. J. Gibbney

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Patrick O'Sullivan (1818-1904), politician, was born on 14 March 1818 at Castlemaine, Ireland, son of William O'Sullivan, soldier, and his wife Ellen, née Moriarty. He was well educated, joined the army and was on duty in London at the time Victoria became queen in 1937. On 2 January 1838 he was accused at Canterbury of assault with a bayonet, sentenced to fifteen years transportation and on 21 July arrived at Sydney in the Bengal Merchant. After working in Illawarra, he was given a ticket-of-leave on 20 February 1845 for the Windsor District. He began hawking, moved to Bathurst late in 1845 and in May 1847 to Ipswich, Queensland. There he settled as a store-keeper and received a conditional pardon on 20 October 1849. On 7 May 1851 he married Mary Real.

O'Sullivan became a successful businessman and landowner. He was elected for Ipswich to the Queensland Legislative Assembly on 10 May 1860 and held the seat till 30 May 1863. He represented West Moreton from 2 July 1867 to 28 September 1868, Burke from 22 August 1876 to 9 December 1878 and Stanley from 10 December 1878 to 23 August 1883 and from 23 May 1888 to 29 April 1893. In the role of comic Irishman expected of him, he was prone to Hibernian witticisms and to extravagant gestures like nominating a British statesman for the local parliament. However, the buffoon's mask concealed a keen political brain and a firm belief in closer settlement which made him at first an opponent of the squatter party and later a supporter of Sir Thomas McIlwraith.

Although a fervent Catholic, O'Sullivan was capable of rejecting episcopal authority in a cause which he deemed good and in 1862 was almost excommunicated by Bishop James Quinn for supporting his own parish priest against the bishop's nominee in a dispute over church property. He was always prominent, however, in defending his church and his country when attacked. He died at Ipswich on 29 February 1904, survived by eight of his thirteen children. Three of his sons became lawyers; the eldest, Thomas, served in the Legislative Council and became attorney-general and a Supreme Court judge. O'Sullivan's grandson, Neil, became a Commonwealth minister and was knighted.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • North Australian, 23 Apr 1861
  • Brisbane Courier, 28 Mar, 1 Apr, 23 July, 13 Aug 1862, 1, 2 Mar 1904
  • Queensland Times, 1 Mar 1904
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 1 Mar 1904
  • Catholic Press (Sydney), 3 Mar 1904
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 12 Mar 1904
  • convict indents (State Records New South Wales)
  • land sale records SUR 4, 5 (Queensland State Archives)
  • HO 27/55/343.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'O'Sullivan, Patrick (1818–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 March, 1818
Castlemaine, Kerry, Ireland


29 February, 1904 (aged 85)
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

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Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: court martial
Sentence: 15 years