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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/O'Loghlen, Hon. Sir Bryan

O'Loghlen, Hon. Sir Bryan, Bart., M.L.A., M.A., formerly Premier of Victoria, is the third son of the late Right Hon. Sir Michael O'Loghlen, a distinguished Irish judge, who was created a baronet in 1838, and who was the first Roman Catholic raised to judicial office either in England or Ireland after the revolution of 1688. Sir Bryan's elder brother, Sir Colman O'Loghlen, represented the county of Clare in the English Parliament from 1863 to 1877, and was Judge Advocate-General in the Gladstone Government from 1868 to 1870. Sir Bryan was born on June 27th, 1828, and was educated at St. Clement's School, Oxford, Oscott College, Birmingham, and ultimately at Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered in 1846 and took honours in classics and mathematics. In 1847-8 he took part on the national side in Irish politics, and in the latter year was articled to Mr. T. Flanagan, the engineer of the Bolton, Blackburn, and Clitheroe line, with the view of becoming a railway engineer. Two years later the railway panic occurred, and Mr. O'Loghlen (as he then was) took to farming some of the family acres in county Clare. He grew tired of this too, and passed the year 1851 in a mercantile office in London. The next year he hit upon his metier, and decided to read for the Bar. With this view he went back to Trinity College, Dublin, where he was classed as a junior moderator in the degree examination (B.A. 1856) and received a silver medal. After reading in his brother, Sir Michael's chambers, he was called to the Irish Bar in Easter term, 1856. He spent five years on the Munster circuit, and then decided to emigrate to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in Jan. 1862. Here he was admitted to the local Bar in Feb. following, and entering on the active practice of his profession, was appointed Crown Prosecutor in April 1863. From 1871 to Jan. 1877 Mr. O'Loghlen was employed in this capacity in the metropolitan district and conducted some of the heaviest criminal cases in the colony. At the general election in May 1877, when the Berry party swept the country, Mr. O'Loghlen came forward for North Melbourne as an advanced Liberal, advocating annual elections, payment of members (since conceded), deprivation of the Upper House of the power of rejecting money bills, a free university and free and compulsory but religious primary instruction. He was defeated by only sixteen votes, and on July 22nd in the same year succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his surviving elder brother. His friends in Clare at once put him in nomination as his brother's successor in the representation of the county, and, despite the disadvantage of absence, he was returned at the head of the poll by an overwhelming majority over The O'Gorman Mahon and Mr. Reeves, who both also stood. In Jan. 1878 Sir Charles MacMahon resigned his seat for West Melbourne, and Sir Bryan O'Loghlen at once plunged into the fray as the Berryite candidate for the vacancy. He was opposed by Mr. J. G. Francis, an ex-Premier and probably the most popular embodiment of Conservatism in the colony. Popular enthusiasm on the side of the new Liberalism was, however, at its height, and on Feb. 4th Sir Bryan beat his doughty opponent by a majority of ninety votes, the contest exciting greater interest, owing to the strained nature of the political situation, than was probably ever aroused by a bye-election in the short but pregnant history of Victoria. Mr. Trench, the Attorney-General, subsequently resigned, and Sir Bryan O'Loghlen took his place on March 27th. He had thus again to go before the electors of West Melbourne within seven weeks of his first fight. Again Mr. Francis opposed him, and again Sir Bryan O'Loghlen repulsed the assault, though by a reduced majority. As legal adviser to the Government in the stormy times of the contest between the two Houses over the payment of members, "tack," and the "Black Wednesday" dismissals, Sir Bryan O'Loghlen had now to act a very similar part to that played by Mr. Higinbotham in the first MᶜCulloch Ministry, the bone of discord being in each case the claim of the Lower House to absolute financial supremacy over the Upper. The constitutional deadlock appearing insurmountable, it was decided to send an "embassy" (as it was called) to England to invoke the interference of the imperial authorities with a view to effecting necessary reforms for the liberalisation of the Legislative Council. It was at first intended that Sir Bryan O'Loghlen should form one of the deputation, but ultimately Mr. Berry and Professor Pearson went alone, leaving Sir Bryan O'Loghlen to cope with the acerbity of an excited political situation, with the added responsibilities of acting Premier during Mr. Berry's absence from Dec. 1878 to Nov. 1879. In the meantime the Elections Committee of the House of Commons had declared Sir Bryan O'Loghlen's seat for Clare vacant, owing to his having accepted an office of profit under the Crown—viz., the Victorian attorney-generalship—and he did not again contest the seat. In Feb. 1880 the elections turned against the once unboundedly popular Berry Ministry, and Sir Bryan O'Loghlen in consequence resigned with his colleagues in the following month, having previously been defeated for West Melbourne. Later on he was returned for West Bourke, and having in the meantime become estranged from the Berry party, who had come into office again in the interval, moved a vote of want of confidence in them, which on July 1st, 1881, was carried by 41 votes to 38. Mr. Berry at once resigned, and Sir Bryan O'Loghlen was sent for, and on July 9th assumed office as Premier, with the posts of Attorney-General and Treasurer. The new Government had hardly any direct supporters in the House, but by the forbearance of the Liberal and Conservative parties, who were neither of them strong enough to take office, they held on till the general election in Feb. 1883, when Sir Bryan O'Loghlen lost his seat for West Bourke, and his Ministry was displaced by the Service-Berry Coalition Government (March 1888). Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, who was soon afterwards returned for Port Fairy, for which he still sits, remained in opposition to the Service-Berry and Gillies-Deakin Ministries until Oct. 1890, when he assisted Mr. Munro to tern out the latter, but did not himself take office. During the session of 1890 he distinguished himself by his outspoken opposition to intercolonial federation, and especially to the form of it embodied in the Commonwealth Bill which emanated out of the Sydney Convention. Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, who is looked on as the leader of the Catholic party in Parliament, is a supporter of the Shiels Ministry. He married on Sept. 17th, 1863, Ella, third daughter of James Mackay Seward, of Melbourne. He was made an Hon. M.A. of Melbourne University in 1877.