The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Jennings, Hon. Sir Patrick Alfred

Jennings, Hon. Sir Patrick Alfred, K.C.M.G., M.L.C., LL.D., is the son of the late Francis Jennings, of Newry, Ireland, where he was born in 1831, and subsequently educated. After some mercantile experience in Exeter, England he arrived in Victoria in 1852, and was fairly successful on the goldfields. 1855 he settled at St. Arnaud, in the same colony, where he introduced elaborate quartz crushing machinery. He was asked to stand for the Wimmera, but declined to enter the Victorian Legislature. In 1857 he was made a magistrate, and became Chairman of the first Road Board, and of the first Municipal Council of the borough of St. Arnaud. Until the year 1863 the future Prime Minister of New South Wales remained in Victoria; but in that year he changed both his colony and his course of life, and having secured a pastoral station at Warbreccan he henceforth followed the life of a "squatter" in the Riverina district of the mother colony, taking a leading part in the agitation which then sprang up for the separation of Riverina from New South Wales, and its constitution into a distinct colony. The distance from the centre of administration at Sydney was the principal plea, urged on behalf of Riverine autonomy; and in order to baulk the agitation the Central Government decided to establish local courts of justice, and to facilitate railway communication with the disaffected province. The then Premier, Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Martin, personally visited the district, frankly admitted its meagre parliamentary representation, and, as a compensation, offered to nominate several leading local gentlemen to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Mr. Jennings was the only member of the Riverina Association who accepted this diplomatic invitation in 1867. In 1869 he resigned his seat in the Legislative Council, and stood for the popular chamber. He was elected, and remained as the representative of the Murray district in the Assembly until 1873. Subsequently he was offered a Cabinet portfolio, but in 1874 he was unsuccessful in his contest for Mudgee, and remained out of Parliament for some years, being returned for the Bogan in 1880. In 1874 Mr. Jennings received the Order of St. Gregory the Great from Pius IX., and in 1875 acted as Special Commissioner for New South Wales at the Victorian Exhibition. In 1876 he represented New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania at the Philadelphia Exhibition; and subsequently visiting Europe, he was presented to the late Pope, and received the distinction of Knight-Commander of Pius IX. and of St. Gregory the Great. In Dec. 1878 Mr. Jennings agreed to accept office under Sir John Robertson as Vice-President of the Executive Council, and Leader of the Upper House; but the Ministry not being installed, the appointment lapsed. In 1879, in which year he was created C.M.G., he was appointed Executive Commissioner for the first International Exhibition of Australia, held in Sydney in September. The enterprise proved a great success, and Mr. Jennings was created K.C.M.G. in 1880. From Jan. to July 1883 he was Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Stuart Ministry, and was Colonial Treasurer in that of Mr. Dibbs from Oct. to Dec 1885. In Feb. 1886 he became Premier of New South Wales, with the office of Colonial Treasurer, but resigned in January of the next year, and was one of the representatives of his colony at the Colonial Conference held in London 1887. Subsequently he revisited Rome, and was created Grand Cross of Pius IX. by Pope Leo XIII. He was called to the Legislative Council in 1890, and was one of the New South Wales delegates at the Federation Convention held in Sydney in March 1891. Sir Patrick, who was made an honorary LL.D. of Dublin University during his stay in England, married in 1864 Mary Anne, daughter of M. Shanahan, of Marnoo, Victoria. He is a member of the Senate of Sydney University, a Fellow of St. John's (Roman Catholic) College, affiliated to the university, and a trustee of the Sydney National Art Gallery.