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NICHOLAS FITZGERALD, M.L.C VICTORIA, PASTORALIST & BREWER

This O.H.M.S. New South Wales cover probably contained heavy papers for it had a single brown 1 shilling ‘Roo’ stamp with O.S. overprint and a pair of the green 3d stamps and the cancellation was illegible. However it was sent from the Government Printing Office, Sydney on 12-5-1891. It was addressed to The Honorable Nicholas Fitzgerald M.P., Parliament House (crossed out, and redirected to 454 Collins St.), Melbourne, Victoria (Figure 1).

Nicholas was born in Galway, Ireland on 7 August 1829, the eighth son of Francis Fitzgerald and his wife, Eleanor née Joyce. In 1845 he entered Trinity College Dublin, studied law in 1848 at King’s Inns and the next year won a scholarship to the new Queen’s College, Galway. In 1852 he turned to commerce in Ceylon and India, and he arrived in Melbourne in 1859. He joined his brother Edwin who had just started the Castlemaine brewery and in 1875 they opened a brewery in South Melbourne.

They extended their business to Newcastle and Brisbane in 1887 and the next year to Adelaide. They were very successful for when they converted to a public company, it paid a dividend of 25 percent. He was the Company’s managing director from 1892 until 1906, and when it was amalgamated into the Carlton and United he became a director of that firm. In the Melbourne ‘Boom and Bust’ depression he was quoted as saying: "The consumption of a light, nutritious and wholesome beer in this country is an absolute necessity to working men", at a time when workless men could not afford it. One of the precursors of the Carlton and United Brewery is seen in Figure 2.

In 1863 he had been appointed a magistrate and in a close contest he was elected as MLC for the North-Western Victorian Province in November1864 until November 1882, and then MLC for North-Central until August 1908. He preferred to do his duty as an independent member. He was a member of the National Australasian Conference in Sydney in 1891 and in 1894 he represented Victoria at the Colonial Conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was staunchly imperialistic. He was at his best when speaking to his fellow countrymen on subjects appealing to their native sympathies: "Justice has been put aside for power, but no wrong can be sanctified by success..... The sense of that injustice will never be removed until the law is altered".

In the 1880s and 1890s he had large pastoral interests in N.S.W. and Queensland, with the main station at Fort Bourke on the Darling River, but drought forced him to sell many of his holdings. He held directorial positions in the 1890s at Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre, Manchester Fire Assurance Co. and the Bellambi Coal Co. He was a prominent Catholic layman and was awarded the papal knighthood by Pope Leo XIII. In 1863 he married Marrianne née O’Shanassy and they had seven sons. He died at his home, Moira, Alma Road, St. Kilda on 17 August 1908, survived by his widow, and he left an estate valued at £5318.

The body of this paper was abridged from the on-line edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


 
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