Biographies of the Early Aldermen

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Thomas Cullen JP

Councillor in 1863

We cannot be too sure of much of Thomas Cullen’s life. The ‘Men of Mark’ book mentions a Thomas Cullen who was born in 1819 in Sligo Ireland, came to the colony in 1839 and was engaged for twenty years in transport between Sydney and the western districts and who no doubt benefitted from the gold rush.

Alderman Cullen’s election campaign in O’Connell Ward in February 1863 was assisted by an elderly but influential rival retiring from the race. Sixty-one year old Felix Wilson was a former Director of the Bank of NSW who lived at ‘Pine Villa’ in Wilson Street. Cullen took out an advertisement claiming himself to be ‘straightforward and independent’ and gently mocked his opponents, saying 23 year-old Joseph Mitchell is a ‘muff’ and that William Curtis is likely to ‘give us good service’.

He received 47 votes. He served on the Finance and Bylaw Committees but contributed little in his year in office and initiated no proposals. The minutes record that he was absent for two months from October and had to ‘unavoidably’ leave for Adelaide for a month in February, so presumably he was engaged in business in the western districts.

His next and last meeting after that two months absence was in December 1863 when he ‘begged as a matter of privilege’ to state he had received a letter complaining of his conduct and language during the appointment of Bailiff and Inspector of Nuisances. He thought ‘as the matter was conducted with closed doors it was an unfair thing that the confidence of the Council should have been abused upon the occasion’. We do not know if the unpleasantness was resolved or whether he sought election the following year.

We cannot be sure when he died. The ‘Men of Mark’s’ Thomas Cullen was alive in 1889 and owning 600 acres at Rockley. Yet Percy Gledhill’s 1946 publication ‘Stroll through historic Camperdown Cemetery’ mentions a Thomas Cullen being buried there in 1864, but unfortunately the State Library of NSW’s copies of the Cemetery records are illegible.

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