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William Joseph Trickett (1843–1916)

by Chris Cunneen

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William Joseph Trickett (1843-1916), solicitor and politician, was born on 2 September 1843 at Gibraltar, only son of Joseph Trickett, civil engineer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Backshall. The family arrived in Sydney on 14 March 1854 in the Maid of Judah. After supervising construction at the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint, his father became second officer there; he was a magistrate and an alderman, sometime chairman, of Woollahra Borough Council. Educated at St Philip's school and Sydney Grammar School, Trickett studied law, was articled to Rowley, Holdsworth and Garrick and admitted as solicitor in 1866. He practised in King Street from 1868 to 1883 in partnership with W. H. Pigott; the Bulletin later described his professional position as 'deservedly high'. In 1878 he had inherited his father's personal estate sworn at £8000.  

An alderman on the Woollahra Borough Council in 1873-1908, Trickett was mayor in 1879-81 and 1886-88. In 1880 he was elected to represent Paddington in the Legislative Assembly. A keen law reformer, his pressure was responsible for the passage of the 1881 Metropolitan Magistrates Act. Though he described himself as a free-trade independent, in parliament he was non-partisan: 'It is immaterial to me', he said in 1883, 'what government is in power … I have always supported measures, not men'. He held generally liberal views, especially on education, but opposed payment for members of parliament. A 'painstaking and hardworking' postmaster-general in Sir Alexander Stuart's ministry in 1883-84, he abolished the fixed subsidy for mail matter shipped to and from England; he secured regular weekly mail services on the route by negotiating a contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Co. to supplement the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. He also improved local telegram services and extended the penny postage system to Parramatta.

Although less successful as minister for public instruction in 1884-85, Trickett started work on the new National Art Gallery of New South Wales, of which he was appointed a trustee in 1886. Chairman of committees from March to July, next year he resigned from the assembly and was appointed to the Legislative Council, where he was a member, sometime chairman, of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1889-1900 and chairman of committees in 1900-12. Although a diehard opponent of provisions in the Commonwealth of Australia bill which he judged unfair to New South Wales, he was a member of the organizing committee for the inaugural celebrations.

A commissioner for the Calcutta (1883), Colonial and Indian (1886), Adelaide (1887), and Melbourne (1888) exhibitions, Trickett was also a member of the State Children's Relief Board, and of the South Head Roads Trust from 1886, chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Commission in 1890 and member of the Dental Board of New South Wales from 1900. He was solicitor for several building societies and a director of the Mutual Life Association of Australasia and the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. A keen and successful yachtsman, he was on the committee of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. He was also president of the New South Wales Cricket Association, a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground and member of the Australian Club. He visited Europe and America in 1882, and China and Japan in 1892; details of the latter trip were published in the Sydney Mail in July to October and then as a book, Notes of a Trip to China and Japan (Sydney). On 23 January 1869 at St Thomas's, Enfield, he had married Charlotte Louisa Ashdown (d.1932). Survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters, he died of heart disease on 4 July 1916 in his home, Shorewell, Woollahra, and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £23,406.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • J. Jervis, The History of Woollahra, V. Kelly ed (Syd, 1960)
  • Postmaster-General, Annual Report, 1883, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1883-84, 9, 443
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Mar 1854, 5 Oct 1885, 5 July 1916
  • Bulletin, 16 July 1881, 3 Nov 1883
  • Town and Country Journal, 12 May 1883, 26 Feb, 10 Sept 1887
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 3 Oct 1885
  • R. Parsons, Lawyers in the New South Wales Parliament, 1870-1890 (Ph.D. thesis, Macquarie University, 1972).

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Trickett, William Joseph (1843–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 22 May 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]


2 September, 1843
Gibraltar, England


4 July, 1916 (aged 72)
Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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