Pub politics

The Queens Hotel, Market Square, Wollongong.

The Queens Hotel, Market Square, Wollongong.

By MICK ROBERTS ©

BEFORE the days of organised political parties, the present City of Wollongong was represented by just one Member of Parliament during the 1880s – a colonial electorate stretching from Yallah in the south to Helensburgh in the north.

Two local publicans decided to throw their hats in the ring to vie for the seat of Illawarra at the New South Wales Colonial Government elections of 1880. Talk of impending restrictive liquor legislation, being pushed by the powerful temperance movement of the time, caused concern amongst the colony’s publicans and prompted two Illawarra hotel keepers to nominate as candidates.

Alexander Stewart

Alexander Stewart

Andrew Lysaght, a high profile Wollongong businessman, of the Queens Hotel, and John Peter Orvad, a like person, of the Denmark Hotel at Bulli went up against the powerful capitalist and coal mine owner, Alexander Stuart.

Although a naturalised British citizen and land owner, Orvad had little chance of victory, being a Danish immigrant. The electorate’s proven preference for English born men of power would be a formidable hurdle to overcome for the Bulli hotelier.

Likewise, Lysaght was born to a convict father, and did not hold the standing in the community as the wealthy Stuart (pictured left) who owned the Coalcliff Colliery. Besides those pitfalls, the two hopeful publicans had the added dilemma of winning the temperance vote. The movement advised their members, numbering in the hundreds, not to cast a vote for a candidate in the liquor trade and had endorsed Stuart as their man.
Surprisingly, the 1880 election campaign did not centre on the liquor question and was fought on the familiar platforms of tax, immigration and transport – The major issue being the building of the Illawarra Government Railway.

The three candidates spent four hours putting their policies to a crowd of around three hundred people at Market Square Wollongong one afternoon in July before a show of hands took place to determine our region’s parliamentary representative.

The show of hands, which incidentally took place across the road from Lysaght’s Queens Hotel, was reported to have slightly favoured the publican, and, as was his right, Stewart demanded a poll that took place later that month.

The present northern suburbs of Wollongong had only two polling booths, Bulli and Fairy Meadow. The hotel-keepers were convincingly defeated by Stuart with Stuart polling 686, Lysaght 437 and Orvad a poor 14. Stuart convincingly won every booth, with the exception of Fairy Meadow (69 to 36). Lysaght’s booth win can be put down to Fairy Meadow being his home town, where he had once served on the North Illawarra Council and operated one of the region’s first coaching inns.

Alexander Stuart proved himself a worthy Illawarra representative in the New South Wales Colonial Government from 1880 to 1885, becoming Premier between the years 1883 to 1885.

Orvad decided not to pursue a political career and continued his passion to advance the local community through his representation on the Bulli Progress Committee.

Lysaght, however, persisted with his political ambition and eventually took the seat of Illawarra from Stuart in 1885.

FOOTNOTE: I have been trying to track down an image of Andrew Lysaght for sometime without any luck. As he later became a Minister of the NSW Parliament one would think an image does exist. Can anyone help? slackyflat@hotmail.com

 © Copyright Mick Roberts 2014

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