Daniel O’Connor

Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O’Connor (1844-1914) was born in Tipperary. In 1854 he migrated with his parents to Sydney. After a few months schooling he worked in his father’s butcher’s shop. He read avidly, and was essentially self-taught. With his own butchering business, by 1871 he had amassed fourteen houses and £7000 which he lost in speculation in gold-mining shares in 1871-72, but soon rehabilitated himself.

Active in the Catholic Association, O’Connor’s 1876 campaign for Phillip Ward in the Sydney City Council was organised by Irish Catholics. He represented the ward until 1885 except for a few months in 1879 after irregularities in his election. His florid oratory and warm personality soon gained him power in city politics.

O’Connor represented West Sydney, the main working-class electorate, from 1877 to 1891. He campaigned against Chinese immigration, for the extension of municipal franchise and the payment of members of parliament. He strongly opposed Henry Parkes’s 1880 Public Instruction Act. Soon, after a council meeting, O’Connor charged a fellow Catholic with truckling to Orangemen and received a black eye in the scuffle. In 1887 he finally obtained free rail travel for children attending denominational schools. He backed most sports, especially sculling, and supported the licensed victuallers and their wares.

With white beard, silk hat, frock coat and buttonhole, he was a picturesque and popular figure. The advent of the Labor Party and his campaign against a popular but bawdy journal, however, lost him his seat in 1891, but he was appointed to the Legislative Council.

In 1892 he was declared bankrupt and resigned from the Council. Reappointed in 1895 he resigned in 1898. With protectionist support in a 1900 by-election he won Sydney-Phillip. He held the seat in the 1901 elections but next year was successfully sued by Paddy Crick, Secretary for Lands, for money Crick had given for O’Connor’s campaign in exchange for a promise of support.

In 1904 O’Connor started a world tour, and lost his belongings in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He lived quietly after his return and in 1913 was admitted to the Liverpool Asylum, where he died. In 1868 he had married Mary Carroll (d.1899) and was survived by two of their seven children.