Open main menu

The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/O'Connell, Hon. Sir Maurice Charles

O'Connell, Hon. Sir Maurice Charles, M.L.C., sometime Speaker of the Legislative Council, Queensland, was the son of General Sir Maurice Charles O'Connell, formerly Lieut.-Governor and Commander of the Forces in New South Wales, by his marriage with Mary, daughter of Admiral William Bligh, whose name has acquired world-wide notoriety in connection with the mutiny of the Bounty. He was for some years Governor of New South Wales; and when, in 1810, he was forcibly deposed by the officers in command of the forces in New South Wales, Lady O'Connell (then Mrs. Putland, widow of Lieut. Putland), courageously attempted to prevent the entrance of the insurgent officers into Government House. Failing in this, she vainly attempted to conceal her father, who was placed under arrest, and subsequently deported from the colony. Sir Maurice O'Connell, who was related to the "Liberator," was born in Sydney in 1812, and educated at the High School, Edinburgh, and in Dublin and Paris. He entered the army when sixteen, and joined the 73rd Regiment at Gibraltar. When twenty-three he went to Spain as colonel of a regiment of the British Legion which he himself had raised in the county of Cork and other parts of Munster, to sustain the cause of the Spanish Queen and constitution against the insurgent Carlists. Later on he became Deputy Adjutant-General, and ultimately succeeded Sir De Lacy Evans as general of brigade in command of the now British Auxiliary Legion in Spain. The Legion was disbanded in 1837, Sir Maurice O'Connell being rewarded for his services by having the knighthood of several Spanish orders conferred upon him. On his return to England he was appointed to the 51st Regiment, and afterwards becoming captain in the 28th, was appointed military secretary on the staff of his father in New South Wales in 1835. When the 28th was recalled to England, Sir Maurice sold out, and engaged in pastoral pursuits. In 1843 he unsuccessfully contested Sydney for a seat in the first Legislative Council of New South Wales, but was subsequently returned for the Port Phillip district (now Victoria). In 1848 he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Burnett district, and in 1854 was made Government Resident at Port Curtis. The latter post he held till 1860, when the Moreton Bay district, in which both the Burnett and Port Curtis districts were situated, was separated from New South Wales, and was converted into the colony of Queensland. Sir Maurice was at once nominated to the Legislative Council of the latter colony, and represented the Herbert Ministry in the Upper House as a member of the Executive Council, without portfolio, from May to August 1860, when he succeeded Sir Charles Nicholson as President of the Legislative Council, and held that position till his decease. He also held the command of the local forces, and was on four occasions Acting Governor of Queensland. In the latter capacity he entertained the Duke of Edinburgh at Government House, Brisbane, in 1868, in which year he was knighted. Sir Maurice, who was president of the Australasian Association and of the Queensland Turf Club, died on March 23rd, 1879, and was accorded the honour of a public funeral. He married on July 23rd, 1835, Eliza Emiline, daughter of Col. Philip Le Geyt (63rd Regiment), of Jersey, who survived him.