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Atkinson Alfred Patrick Tighe (1827–1905)

by Dan O'Donnell

This article was published:

Atkinson Alfred Patrick Tighe (1827-1905), butcher, politician and police magistrate, was born on 3 March 1827 at sea off Corfu, Greece, son of Robert Tighe (d.1844), sergeant in the 28th Regiment, and his wife Sarah, née McNamara. Robert, with his family and some of his regiment, reached Sydney on 4 February 1836 in the Susan and was stationed at Parramatta; in 1840 he was chief constable at Newcastle and by 1843 had bought the Union Inn.

Tighe was educated in Newcastle and established a slaughter-house. Active in public affairs by 1858, he was elected to a committee to provide relief for the sufferers of the Indian mutiny; he also petitioned for the proclamation of Newcastle as a municipality. In the 1859 and 1860 parliamentary elections he campaigned for James Hannell. A free trader, he supported male suffrage and (Sir) John Robertson's land proposals and opposed state aid to religion. In his last political campaign in 1882 he confessed that he still liked the 1861 land Acts but argued that loopholes in them had been exploited by the squatters.

In December 1862 Tighe won a Legislative Assembly by-election for Northumberland, a mining and maritime electorate. An independent, he retained the seat in December 1864 and began to attract the attention of faction leaders. In 1866 he introduced a bill to amend the Coal Fields Regulation Act by providing miners with some wage security; he later obtained the use of government dredges and was partly responsible for the removal of the hated tonnage dues at Newcastle. In January 1869 he opposed the connexion of the Sydney-Newcastle rail link with the Great Northern Railway, asserting that it would be too costly and would develop the hinterland at the expense of Newcastle. He became postmaster-general in September 1868 in the Martin ministry, and the Newcastle Chronicle predicted that he was soon to be 'one of our leading statesmen', but a month later the government fell.

On 14 July 1858 at St John's Church, Darlinghurst, Tighe had married Arabella Vine, daughter of Thomas Grove. In 1859-62 and 1871-73 he represented Honeysuckle Ward on the Newcastle Municipal Council and was mayor in 1872 and 1873. An early advocate of the gas-lighting of city streets, Tighe had helped in 1866 to steer the enabling bill through parliament. Several times he sat on committees to arbitrate in disputes between coalminers and masters and was auditor of the Waratah Coal Co. In Sydney he was a committee-man of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales.

In December 1869 Tighe did not stand in the general election owing to ill health. He aligned himself firmly with (Sir) Henry Parkes. His campaign for G. A. Lloyd in the 1869 and 1872 elections earned the gratitude of Parkes, who in 1873 appointed him coroner for Newcastle and a member of the local Marine Board. In 1874-78 he was police magistrate at Waratah at a salary of £325. He had sat regularly on the Newcastle bench as a justice of the peace from 1866 and had read for admission to the Bar in the late 1860s.

In 1877 Parkes asked Tighe to 're-enter parliamentary life', but he declined because of modest means, his 'seven little ones', and a distaste for the rough-and-tumble of political life. In 1882 he yielded to local requests and won Northumberland; he refused the portfolio of minister for justice in (Sir) Alexander Stuart's ministry and ill health forced him to resign in 1884. He died of heart failure at Glebe Point on 13 June 1905 and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery, survived by his wife, three sons and four daughters; his youngest son Henry (b.1877) achieved some notice in England as a novelist. Tighe's estate was valued for probate at £7431.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Chronicle, 24 Dec 1862, 28 Dec 1864
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 4 Dec 1882
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Dan O'Donnell, 'Tighe, Atkinson Alfred Patrick (1827–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 March, 1827
at sea


13 June, 1905 (aged 78)
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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