Edward William O’Sullivan was born on 17 March 1846 in Launceston, Tasmania, the second son of an Irish ex-soldier Peter O’Sullivan and his wife Mary Anne, née Burgoyne. In 1878 in Melbourne he married Agnes Anne Firman and had two sons and three daughters. He died on 25 April 1910 at his Mosman home, survived by his wife and children. He was buried in Waverley Cemetery after a funeral ceremony at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.
Occupation & interests
O’Sullivan was apprenticed as a compositor and worked in a paper warehouse. In 1871 he founded the Tasmanian Tribune, a Hobart evening newspaper. In 1874 he moved to Melbourne and founded the short-lived newspaper Evening Tribune. The following year he was appointed editor of the St Arnaud Mercury. He worked as a journalist on the Argus and was President of the Melbourne Typographical Society in 1881. Moving to Sydney, he became an overseer in the printing room of the Daily Telegraph. He represented the NSW Typographical Association on the Trades and Labor Council, becoming president from March to August 1883. In 1884, he founded the Democratic Alliance as a political voice for working men and in 1885 he was secretary of the more successful Land and Industrial Alliance of NSW. He was Commissioner of the Chicago Exposition in 1893. From 1898 to 1899 he edited the Catholic Freeman’s Journal. With William Patrick Crick, O’Sullivan was founder of the Sporting League in 1906. He published plays, essays and pamphlets and was a keen debater.
O’Sullivan was elected MLA for Queanbeyan for 15 years from 1885 to 1904; and for Belmore from 1904 to 1910. He was the Secretary for Public Works from 1899 to 1904 during the construction of the Central Railway Station in Sydney. He sat on numerous select committees and was also the Secretary for Lands in 1904.
Local government service
O’Sullivan was Alderman for Cook Ward, 1 December 1906 to 25 April 1910. He was a member of the Works Committee, 1907–10, the Fruit and Vegetable Markets Special Committee in 1907, the Finance Committee, 1908–09, the Health and By-Laws Committee in 1908 and 1910 and the Street Signs Special Committee in 1908. He was a member of the Royal Commission for the Improvement of the City of Sydney in 1908–09. He joined the Labor Party in August 1909.
Bruce E. Mansfield, ‘O’Sullivan, Edward William (1846–1910)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/osullivan-edward-william-7931/text13803, accessed 12 December 2012.
City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files: Photo: THC 88/713
Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: O’Sullivan family papers ML MSS 1603
Federation Gateway website: Edward William O’Sullivan
Mansfield, Bruce 1965, Australian democrat: the career of Edward William O’Sullivan, 1846-1910, Sydney University Press, Sydney