Biographies of the Early Aldermen
Chairman 1867, Councillor/Alderman in 1863-76
It is tempting to imagine James Conley singing Irish songs to the patrons at the Kingston Lodge Hotel. He lived with wife Jane at Kingston Lodge Hotel on the corner of Australia, Eliza and Lennox Streets from the late 1840s; one can see the original plain building from Eliza Street behind the two-storey façade now called the Courthouse Hotel
Conley was one of the 223 residents of the then ‘rural district’ who petitioned the Governor on 12 July 1862 to form a municipality and he was the most popular of those standing for election for the first council.
He received 107 votes in Kingston in February 1863, much more than the rest, but the eight councillors decided that Frederick Holland, who received less than a quarter of his, act as the chairman.
The new council met in shops, the third meeting was held at Kingston Lodge on 5th March 1863. Councillor Conley seems to have quite aware of propriety and decorum. In May 1864 he took umbrage demanding an apology that Thomas Goodin, the Inspector of Nuisances made use of his (and Councillor Curtis’) name to reinforce his power in the execution of his duties. And there was some sniping towards Councillor Kingsbury in March 1865 when Kingsbury was found guilty of a minor misdemeanour. Conley asked it was customary for Councillors to hold up their hand in voting ‘when the matter then at issue was concerning themselves? he thought it very mean’. Kingsbury replied asking that the word ‘mean’ should not be recorded in the minutes.
He was Chairman in 1867. Major events which occurred in his year in office were, the passing of the Municipalities Act, the intended visit of His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the lighting of the municipality’s first street gaslamp. The Australian Gas Light Company installed it on the Enmore Road corner in June 1867 at a cost of £9 per annum on the proviso that Council light and extinguish it daily; the lamp lasted 22 years.
James Conley remained on Council as an Alderman for the coming decade. James Conley, the father campaigned to voters in the 1875 election as ‘your old and tried friend’. He suffered from some kind of continuing indisposition, being granted three months leave of absence in February 1876. It is difficult to be sure of his date of death from the Registrar-General’s records as three generations of the family were named James Conley.
His son James Conley Junior was the pianist at the sell-out concert on 10 May 1869 which marked the opening of the Municipal Town hall. The Herald journalist remarked on his giving ‘every satisfaction as accompanyist’ on piano for the artists who were performing songs and musical sketches including ‘McGuffin and the Stash’, ‘Coming through the Rye’ and ‘Callaghan on his last legs’.
He was elected as Council auditor with Caleb Wilson Junior in 1870 and 1871 and later, in March 1874 and August 1875 he requested the use of the Town hall to practice for a benefit concert on behalf of the Newtown Free Library. In the 1880s he worked as a quarryman and lived in Station St.