Biographies of the Early Aldermen
James William Abigail.
Alderman May 1897-1898.
James William Abigail was the son of James W. and Mary Abigail but we cannot be sure if this is James Abigail, Newtown’s grocer/butcher and alderman. He married Clara E. Seymour in 1891 in Newtown, and purchased two blocks adjoining Stanmore School between Cavendish and Cambridge Streets.
They lived in ‘Mona Villa’ in Cavendish Street and had Doris in 1892 and Minnie in 1895. He was a solicitor and commissioner for affidavits with an office at 97 Elizabeth Street; his company existed until at least the 1960s.
He sent a declaration offering to replace Alderman Jolly who was obliged to step down in May 1897. This was probably a surprise to Charles Lane who had no doubt counted on taking his colleague’s place without opposition. A ballot put James Abigail onto the Council.
James Abigail had a reputation for tactlessness. He declined an invitation to be Vice President and Patron of the Newtown Electorate Cricket Club in 1899 saying he was not “interested in cricket but in politics”. He complained that the children playing in Stanmore schoolyard disturbed his domestic life. He twice asked that Australia Street be properly tarred in January 1899, so noise from the street would not disturb proceedings within the courthouse. But he was not heartless. In August 1897 he brought forward a petition that unemployed old men should not be compelled to break blue metal by hand.
He was often absent from Council meetings due to the “heavy strain of work” or having to go “off on a sea trip for 7 or 8 weeks” or be “off in a neighbouring colony”. He chose to retire at the end of the 1898 term.
James Abigail’s twenty-years of griping with Stanmore schoolchildren ended in 1911 when the School purchased his house to extend their playground. He owned ‘Ophir’ in Addison Road in 1914 but the following year moved to ‘Glen Carron’ in Stanton Road, Mosman and he died in Woollahra in 1928.