Jennings, Patrick Alfred (DNB01)
JENNINGS, Sir PATRICK ALFRED (1831–1897), premier of New South Wales, was son of Francis Jennings of Newry, a merchant, who came of a family long settled in that part of Ireland, and his wife, Mary O'Neil. He was born at Newry on 17 March 1831, and educated in that town till he went to the high school at Exeter. Intended for the bar, he preferred engineering, but ultimately began life in a merchant's office; he emigrated to the goldfields of Victoria in 1852. Here he was fairly successful. In 1855 he settled at St. Arnaud and erected quartz-crushing mills.
Jennings soon made an impression in the young colony. He was asked to stand for the Wimmera in the first Victorian assembly (1856), but resolved to devote himself for the present to his own business. In 1857, however, he was made a magistrate, and then chairman of the road board, and afterwards of the first municipal council, of St. Arnaud.
In 1863 Jennings acquired a large pastoral property on the Murrumbidgee in New South Wales, and, migrating to that colony, settled at Warbreccan in the Riverina district as a squatter. Shortly afterwards the agitation for the separation of the Riverina district and its erection into a separate colony reached its height. In 1865 Jennings was asked to go to England as a delegate to represent the grievances of the separatists, but declined because he expected the local government to tackle the question effectively. In 1866 James Martin [q.v.], then premier of New South Wales, personally visited the district and nominated several leading residents to the legislative council. Jennings accepted his nomination and entered the council on 28 March 1867. He resigned in 1869, and was elected to the assembly as member for the Murray district, for which he sat till 1872, when he decided to contest Mudgee and was beaten, thus losing his seat in parliament. In 1875 he represented the colony at the Melbourne exhibition, and in 1876 was commissioner for New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania at the United States centennial exhibition at Philadelphia. Here he received a special medal from the States and was also thanked by the British authorities. From America he travelled to the United Kingdom and Europe, and at Rome was presented to the pope (Pius IX) and decorated with the order of St. Gregory the Great. In December 1878 Jennings was offered by Sir John Robertson (1816–1891) [q. v.] a seat in his projected cabinet as vice-president of the executive council and leader of the upper chamber, but the forma-tion of this ministry was not completed. In 1879 he was executive commissioner for New South Wales at the international exhibition held at Sydney, and in connection with this service was made a C.M.G. and a year later K.C.M.G. In November 1880 he once more entered the assembly as member for the Bogan. From 5 Jan. to 31 July 1883 Jennings was vice-president of the executive council in Alexander Stuart's [q. v.] ministry. From 10 Oct. to 21 Dec. 1885 he was colonial treasurer under (Sir) George Dibbs. The period was a stormy one in colonial politics. Sir John Robertson came into power only to be defeated on a vote of censure; Sir Henry Parkes [q. v. Suppl.] was condemning severely all parties without having strength to form a government. Jennings was called upon and attempted to form a coalition ministry with Robertson; finally, on 26 Feb. 1886, he became premier, holding office as colonial treasurer. The questions with which he had to deal were those of retrenchment and fresh revenue, certain reforms in the civil service, and the amendment of the Land Act. His financial proposals evoked very determined opposition; Parkes condemns them as a protectionist effort put forth by a professed free-trader. They were only carried by extraordinary expedients and all-night sittings. His land tax bill was lost. His colonial secretary, Dibbs, quarrelled with him and left him. At the end of the session his position was greatly weakened, and as he was not wedded to politics, he resigned office on 19 Jan. 1887, partly perhaps in order that be might visit England, where he represented the colony at the colonial conference in London in June and July 1887. After his return he practically eschewed local politics; he was, indeed, appointed to the legislative council in 1890, and was delegate for New South Wales in the convention on federation held at Sydney in March 1891, but that was practically the close of his public life. He died at Brisbane at a private hospital on 11 July 1897, and was buried at Sydney.
Jennings is described by a contemporary as 'a clear-headed, cultured Irishman' who 'turned every honest opponent who came into contact with him into an admiring friend' (Sydney Mail, 17 July 1897, p. 115). He did much to promote the cultivation of music in New South Wales, and gave large sums for the erection of the organ at Sydney University, of which he was a member of senate. He was also a trustee of the National Art Gallery. He was a fellow of St. John's (Roman catholic) College in Sydney, a knight grand cross of Pius IX in 1887, and was made LL.D. of Dublin in 1887.
Jennings married, in 1864, Mary Anne, daughter of Martin Shanahan of Marnoo, Victoria; she died in 1887. He left two sons and a daughter.
[Sydney Mail, 17 July 1897; Heaton's Australian Dictionary of Dates; Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biogr.; Parkes's Fifty Years in the making of Australian History, vol. ii.; New South Wales Blue-books; New South Wales Parliamentary Debates.]