Edward William O'Sullivan Edward William O'Sullivan i(A9952 works by)
Born: Established: 17 Mar 1846 Launceston, Northeast Tasmania, Tasmania, ; Died: Ceased: 25 Apr 1910 Sydney,
Gender: Male
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O'Sullivan, printer, journalist and politician, was the second son of Peter O'Sullivan from Tipperary, Ireland and Mary Anne nee Burgoyne of Jersey. Deserted by his father, O'Sullivan grew up in Hobart, educated primarily by his mother. The military and school teaching traditions of the Burgoyne family were an influence upon him as were the democratic politics of Tasmania in the 1850s. By the age of eleven he was working in the printing room of the Hobart Mercury. A stay in Sydney from 1869 to 1871 quickened his interest in sport and the theatre. Returning to Hobart he founded an evening newspaper, the Tasmanian Tribune, in 1871. Like its founder the newspaper was practical rather than doctrinaire and advocated democratic reform.

O'Sullivan moved to Melbourne in 1874 and started the Evening Tribune, a cooperative of printers and journalists. It failed for want of capital and in 1875 O'Sullivan became editor of the St. Arnaud Mercury. In 1878 he married Agnes Ann Firman, a milliner, in Melbourne and worked as a journalist until his move to Sydney in 1882. He represented the New South Wales Typographical Association on the Trades and Labor Council and attempted to associate it with protectionist policies. After several unsuccessful attempts to launch a parliamentary career O'Sullivan won the seat of Queanbeyan in 1887 and was to represent it for nineteen years. He advocated the protectionist cause and served as secretary for public works in Sir William Lyne's ministry. O'Sullivan pursued an active public works program and saw the need for state action to promote economic activity and employment. He won Belmore in Sydney in 1904 and held it until 1909 when he joined the Labor Party.

O'Sullivan had always read widely and attended the theatre in Hobart and Sydney. As early as 1875 he had written a version of a melodrama, 'The Eureka Stockade'. It was produced by the Henry Dramatic Company at the Royal Standard Theatre on Easter Saturday, 1898, and was well received by a holiday audience. A revised version was next produced in 1907. A new melodrama, 'Coo-ee', was written in fourteen days and staged by E. I. Cole on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906. Given O'Sullivan's profile as a former government Minister, there was great interest and nearly three thousand turned up on the first night. Reviews were mixed but the melodrama was staged again in Melbourne at the end of March 1907. In June 1907 'The Eureka Stockade' was given another production in Sydney. Bruce Mansfield's Australian Democrat (1965): 298 comments: 'As a melodrama the piece is sensational but episodic and loosely organized. Minor characters are affecting but the whole follows the conventions of the spectacular but unsophisticated genre to which it belongs.' A further melodrama, 'Keane, of Kalgoorlie' co-authored with Arthur Wright was produced in 1908. 'A Quiet Little Dinner', a one-act comedy, had a single amateur performance. Apart from his novel, Esperanza : a tale of three colonies O'Sullivan also published works of social and political comment including Social, Industrial, Political and Co-Operative Associations, etc., in New South Wales (1892); The New Land Policy (1904) and Under the Southern Cross : Australian sketches, stories and speeches (1906).

(Source: Bruce Mansfield, Australian Democrat : the career of Edward William O'Sullivan 1846-1910 (1965); Bruce E. Mansfield, 'O'Sullivan, Edward William (1846 - 1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, MUP, 1988, pp 106-108).

Most Referenced Works


  • Unpublished plays and papers held at the Mitchell Library.
Last amended 3 Apr 2007 14:53:18
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