Thomas Welsby

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Thomas Welsby
Thomas Welsby (1).jpg
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Brisbane North
In office
16 September 1911 27 April 1912
Servingwith Edward Forrest
Preceded by Edward Macartney
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Merthyr
In office
27 April 1912 22 May 1915
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded by Peter McLachlan
Personal details
Thomas Welsby

(1858-11-29)29 November 1858
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
Died3 February 1941(1941-02-03) (aged 82)
New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland , Australia
Resting place Toowong Cemetery
Political partyMinisterialist
Spouse(s)Margaret Gilchrist Kingston (d. 1903)
Occupation Clerk, Accountant, Company director

Thomas (Tom) Welsby (29 November 1858 – 3 February 1941) was an Australian businessman, author, politician, and sportsman based in Queensland. He was a Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1911 to 1915.

Queensland North-east state of Australia

Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world's sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 1,852,642 square kilometres (715,309 sq mi).


Early life

Born in Ipswich, Queensland in 1858, Welsby was the fourth of ten children of William Welsby and Hannah Welsby (née Billsbrough.) His parents migrated from Cornwall, England to Moreton Bay three years earlier in 1855. He was educated at Mr John Scott's school and Ipswich Boys' Grammar School. In his senior year he won prizes in history, arithmetic and Latin. As a child, Welsby aspired to study medicine at Sydney University; however this became impossible following the death of his father in 1874. [1] The loss of his father caused the Welsby family to sell their substantial house in Ipswich and move to Brisbane. He started his working life in June 1874 at age 15 with the Bank of New South Wales in Brisbane and remained there for five years until a conflict with a manager (whom he described as "imported" from Sydney) caused him to resign. In May 1879, he took up a post with the Australian Joint Stock Bank. In July 1885 at age 25, he left his employment at the Bank to commence practice as a public accountant in Brisbane.

Ipswich, Queensland Suburb of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

Ipswich is an urban region in south-east Queensland, Australia, which is located in the south-west of the Brisbane metropolitan area. Situated on the Bremer River, it is approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of the Brisbane CBD. A local government area, the City of Ipswich has a population of 200,000. The city is renowned for its architectural, natural and cultural heritage. Ipswich preserves and operates from many of its historical buildings, with more than 6000 heritage-listed sites and over 500 parks. Ipswich began in 1827 as a mining settlement.

Cornwall County of England

Cornwall is a county in South West England, bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by Devon, the River Tamar forming the border between them. Cornwall is the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of the island of Great Britain. The southwesternmost point is Land's End and the southernmost Lizard Point. Cornwall has a population of 563,600 and an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). It is administered by Cornwall Council, apart from the Isles of Scilly, which are administered separately. The county town is Truro, Cornwall's only city.

Moreton Bay bay in Queensland, Australia

The Moreton Bay is a bay located on the eastern coast of Australia 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from central Brisbane, Queensland. It is one of Queensland's most important coastal resources. The waters of Moreton Bay are a popular destination for recreational anglers and are used by commercial operators who provide seafood to market.

Welsby married Margaret Gilchrist, née Kingston on 21 February 1893 at East Brisbane. Margaret died ten years later and Welsby never remarried. They had three children; a son who died in childhood and two daughters.

Business career

Welsby's business success was helped immeasurably by his affable nature and his personal popularity. He fully exploited the personal associations that he had formed during his time as a banker. His banking experience also gave him a detailed understanding of the Queensland economy and the affairs of many of the major business concerns in the Colony. After leaving the Bank, he briefly became a member of the Brisbane Stock Exchange but within a few months he opened an office as an accountant, trustee and auditor. He subsequently was engaged to audit the financial statements of the Brisbane Town Council. At that time the position of auditor was an elective one with a £60 fee and he remained in the position for ten years.

Also in 1885, Welsby formed a partnership with Captain George Wallace to operate maritime ventures. The business undertook to do survey work and make coal sales. A substantial part of the business was the recovery of cargo from wrecked vessels. Welsby became a leading figure in the Brisbane establishment of the day. This was reflected in his appointment to the boards of a variety of leading Brisbane companies including the Engineering Supply Company of Australia and the Royal Bank of Queensland. His board career culminated with his appointment as the Chairman of Directors of Queensland Brewery Ltd in 1907. This last appointment established him as one of Brisbane's elite.

Royal Bank of Queensland

The Royal Bank of Queensland was a bank in Queensland, Australia.

Queensland Brewery Ltd

Queensland Brewery Ltd was a company that operated a brewery in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Political career

Welsby was a candidate for the Queensland Legislative Assembly in the electoral district of Fortitude Valley in 1899, 1902 and 1909 elections but was unsuccessful.

Fortitude Valley, originally known as Hamlet of Fortitude Valley, was a Legislative Assembly electorate in the state of Queensland.

1899 Queensland colonial election

Elections were held in the Australian state of Queensland between 1 March 1899 and 25 March 1899 to elect the members of the state's Legislative Assembly.

1902 Queensland state election

Elections were held in the Australian state of Queensland on 11 March 1902 to elect the members of the state's Legislative Assembly.

Tom Weslby on board the vessel, Bearen on the South Passage StateLibQld 2 166755 Tom Welsby.jpg
Tom Weslby on board the vessel, Bearen on the South Passage

On 30 August 1911, Richard John Cottell, the Ministerial member for Toowong, died. The Secretary for Public Lands and member for Brisbane North, Edward Macartney, resigned on 5 September. By-elections for both seats were held on 16 September 1911, with Macartney switching to Toowong, allowing Thomas Welsby to win Brisbane North as a Ministerialist. [2] [3]

Richard John Cottell Australian politician

Richard John Cottell (1865–1911) was an Australian politician. He was a Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly and a mayor of the Town of Toowong.

Toowong was an electoral district of the Legislative Assembly in the Australian state of Queensland from 1888 to 1992. It was centred on the Northern Brisbane suburb of Toowong.

Brisbane North was an electoral district which elected two members to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland in the Australian state of Queensland from 1888 until 1912. It replaced the electoral district of North Brisbane.

In the 1912 election, Welsby was a candidate for the newly created seat of Merthyr and was elected on 27 April 1912. However, he subsequently lost his seat on 22 May 1915 when the Ryan Labor Government won the 1915 election. [2] [3]

Welsby was by no means a natural politician. Although his magnetic personality and sharp intellect drew people to him, the daily intrigue and backstabbing of politics was anathema to him. Nevertheless, he was able to make his mark on the parliament by advancing the causes of the Ipswich railway workshops, the transformation of St Helena Island in Moreton Bay into a recreational park, and by advocating that the Brisbane Tramways Company be acquired and operated by the government.


Thomas Welsby Thomas Welsby.jpg
Thomas Welsby

It is for his literary works, particularly his histories of Moreton Bay, that Welsby is perhaps best known. Welsby was an intellectual, a polymath and a voracious reader and collector of books. Born only 35 years after the Brisbane River was first seen by Europeans, he was acutely aware of the dramatic growth and development of Queensland that was occurring around him and the need to record these events in writing. He helped to found the Historical Society of Queensland in 1913 and later became its president. [4] Upon his death, he bequeathed to the Society a vast library of books that he had accumulated throughout his life.

Welsby was a rarity among historians. Not only was he in a position to record contemporary history, he was also an avid consumer of everything else written on the subject by others. Moreover, he was also born early enough to talk to a few eyewitnesses to the earliest days of Moreton Bay and to a great many others who were only one generation removed.

One of the great achievements of his historical writings was to flesh out much of the detail that was omitted by other historians. Welsby had a truly intimate knowledge of Moreton Bay and its environs. He had travelled personally to almost every part of the region and was particularly knowledgeable of the Bay Islands which he spent a lifetime exploring in a succession of yachts.

Literary style

Welsby writes in a relaxed, easy-to-read conversational style. His style can seem almost journalistic at times, though this is understandable as much of his published material originally appeared in newspapers.


Welsby was a prolific sportsman, particularly in the field of Yachting, Fishing and Rugby Union.

As a footballer, Welsby was the manager and half-back for Queensland in the first inter-colonial match between Queensland and New South Wales. He was appointed a life member of the Queensland Rugby Union in 1928 and was its president from 1929 to 1939. [5]

He was foundation secretary of the Brisbane Gymnasium in 1882 and in 1904 he became a foundation member of the Amateur Fishing Association. He sponsored boxing matches and formed the Queensland Amateur Boxing and Wrestling Union in 1909.

Welsby's motor launch Sunbeam StateLibQld 1 161555 Sunbeam (ship).jpg
Welsby's motor launch Sunbeam

Perhaps his most important contribution to Queensland sport was the part that he played in the formation of the Brisbane Sailing Club which was later to become the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. Welsby was a passionate yachtsman and owned a number of boats over the years including Rip, Charm, Vagabond, Bohemian, Amity and the motor launch Sunbeam. He was Commodore of the Squadron between 1903 and 1909 and donated the Amity Cup. In 1918 he published "The History of the Royal Queensland Yacht Club."

Later life

Welsby died in 1941 and was cremated. His ashes were later interred with his wife and son at Toowong Cemetery. [6]


The locality of Welsby on Bribie Island was named after him. [7]

The library of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland is named after him.

His residence Amity is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. [8]

Published works

Related Research Articles

Brisbane River river in Australia

The Brisbane River is the longest river in South East Queensland, Australia, and flows through the city of Brisbane, before emptying into Moreton Bay. John Oxley, the first European to explore the river, named it after the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane in 1823. The penal colony of Moreton Bay later adopted the same name, eventually becoming the present city of Brisbane.

Moreton Island island

Moreton Island is an island on the eastern side of Moreton Bay on the coast of South East Queensland, Australia. The Coral Sea lies on the east coast of the island. Moreton Island lies 58 kilometres (36 mi) northeast of the Queensland capital, Brisbane. 95% of the island is contained within a national park and a popular destination for day trippers, four wheel driving, camping, recreational angling and whale watching and a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane. It is the third largest sand island in the world. Together with Fraser Island, Moreton Island forms the largest sand structure in the world. It was the traditional country of the Ngugi before the onset of colonization.

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Bribie Island is the smallest and most northerly of three major sand islands forming the coastline sheltering the northern part of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. The others are Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island. Bribie Island is 34 kilometres long, and 8 kilometres at its widest. Archibald Meston believed that the name of the island came from a corruption of a mainland word for it, Boorabee. meaning 'koala bear'.

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Robert Cribb Australian politician

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Amity, New Farm heritage-listed house in Brisbane, Queensland

Amity is a heritage-listed detached house at 101 Welsby Street, New Farm, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was built from 1892 to c. 1900. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992.

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  1. "Thomas Welsby exhibition opens" (PDF). Seascape. Maritime Safety Queensland: 8–9. January – March 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2011.
  2. 1 2 "Part 2.19 - Alphabetical Register of Members of the Legislative Assembly 1860-2012 and the Legislative Council 1860-1922" (PDF). Queensland Parliamentary Record 2012-2015: The 54th Parliament. Queensland Parliament . Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  3. 1 2 "Part 2.21 - Representatives of Queensland State Electorates 1860-2015" (PDF). Queensland Parliamentary Record 2012-2015: The 54th Parliament. Queensland Parliament . Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  4. Journal of the Historical Society of Queensland, Nov 1951, p619
  5. Ruth Kerr, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, Melbourne University Press, 1990
  6. Welsby Thomas – Brisbane City Council Grave Location Search. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  7. "Welsby (entry 45497)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government . Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  8. "Amity (entry 600264)". Queensland Heritage Register . Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Thomas Welsby at Wikimedia Commons

Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
Edward Macartney
Member for Brisbane North
1911 - 1912
Served alongside: Edward Forrest
New seat Member for Merthyr
1912 - 1915
Succeeded by
Peter McLachlan