Biographies of the Early Aldermen

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Henry Munro

Chairman in 1865, Mayor in 1868, Councillor/Alderman in 1863-May 1872,Treasurer in 1863.

Henry MunroHenry Munro was leader of Council’s first faction and most active in finding proper Council Chambers.

He is listed in the Sands Directory in the 1860s as a compositor, someone who make up platens of type for letterpress printers. He and wife Isabella, who worked as a dressmaker, lived in Wellington Street from the late 1850s.

He and Thomas Munro were among the 223 residents of the then rural district who petitioned the Governor on 12 July 1862 to form a Municipality at Newtown.

Henry Munro represented Kingston ward and was on the 1863 committee of four to enquire about permanent accommodation. After his election as Chairman in February 1865, he and the committee recommended that £60 per annum be an offerred to rent parts of the under-used School of Arts building on the corner of King and Australia Streets. The ‘splendacious’ School of Arts had opened with enthusiam in 1848 but membership dwindled to fifteen in 1856 when its President, Joshua Josephson took over the mortgage and commenced fishing for a buyer.

Munro reported in August 1865 that Council’s finances were ‘wholesome’ and called a special meeting to discuss purchasing a triangle of land created by the railway line, Lennox and Oxford streets. It may have been intended for new Council Chambers, but the minutes are silent on the issue. (Richardson & Wrench advertised it on the 27th September and Premier Sir Charles Cowper was approached). This attempt failed, but it allowed the extension of Bedford and Lennox Streets, the creation of Horbury Terrace and a sale six months later for St Joseph’s Catholic Church for £220.

In December that year he and the Commitee reversed the owner/leasee arrangement with the Newtown School of Arts.

He was involved in an altercation at the end of his first year over W. H. Mackay whom he had previously endorsed as ‘very efficiently’ performing the duties of Council Clerk, Surveyor, the Overseer of Works and Collector of Rates on a salary of £200. On 16th January 1866 he announced he had suspended the Clerk on Saturday evening last. His reasons being that on examining the books with the Treasurer Henry Knight they discovered Mackay had misappropriated and drawn on a cancelled cheque for £10/4/5 to the Government Printing Office in July the previous year. A trial for the embezzlement was scheduled for 3 February, Mackay was replaced and the practice of paying into bank cheques as cash was discontinued.

Munro was again elected unopposed for his second term as Mayor in 1868. He would have presided over a number of functions in his role as mayor, the celebratory dinner for Thomas Holt MP for Newtown in July 1868) and then [check] the deputation to the Colonial Secretary and Premier John Robertson on 9 October 1869 to discuss issues relating to books bought with Government money being circulated at Newtown’s Free Library.

The purchase of the Wesleyan land on King Street had been stifled so in April/May of that year so he pointed out the advantages to be derived by Council buying the Newtown School of Arts building; it was a ‘liberal offer’, the building was built with public contributions and ‘Council would be doing an act of justice to prevent the building fall into private hands’.

The hall was refurbished at a cost of £132 by Mr Hawkins in 1869. It was presumably at this time that the words ‘Henry Munro, Mayor’ were added to the façade of the Town Hall as was then customary practice of the time for owners and proprietors of new buildings. There seems not to have been any recorded discussion on the matter at the time but there were certainly repercussions later.

Munro’s contribution was as active as ever until March 1872, when he was absent from the Council’s fortnightly Tuesday night meetings for two months. He seems to undergone a loss of interest. We know Munro (or his family members) worked in association in Edgeware Road with the Goodsell family brickworks, but we do not in what capacity. Perhaps it was financial only, perhaps labourers moulded the bricks which were then fired in the Goodsell’s kilns.

At a special afternoon meeting on 9th May 1872, Alderman Conley asked about Henry Munro’s two month absence and Mayor William Bailey stated that Mr Munro was required to vacate his seat in the Council.

It is thought that he died in 1872, wife Isabella living on over the next decade. His friends were loyal. In June 1874 two years after his death, Mayor Bailey suggested and authorised Mr Taylor to repaint the Town Hall’s exterior and in doing so obscure or remove the words ‘Henry Munro mayor’. An ‘indignant meeting’ was held at the Temperance Hall on Saturday 6 February 1875 and reported in the Herald. It ‘assembled in sympathy for the family of the late Mayor’ and resolved that its ‘numerously-signed’ petition be presented to Mayor Bailey praying for the restoration of the name of ‘our late respected Mayor’. Ten pounds was eventually allocated that year for the restoration of Henry Munro’s name. It remained there until the 1930s.

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