Timothy Augustine Coghlan

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Sir Timothy Coghlan
Sir Timothy Coghlan, NSW Government Statistician c. 1905.jpg
Born(1856-06-09)9 June 1856
Died30 April 1926(1926-04-30) (aged 69)
London, England
Alma mater Cleveland Street Public School
Sydney Grammar School
Occupation(s)Public servant, diplomat
SpouseHelen Donnelly (m. 1897–1926)
ChildrenArthur Coghlan
Ellen Coghlan

Sir Timothy Augustine Coghlan KCMG ISO FRSS MICE (9 June 1856 – 30 April 1926) was an Australian statistician, engineer, economic historian and diplomat. He held the post of New South Wales government statistician for 19 years, and served various periods as Agent-General for New South Wales in London from 1905 to his death in 1926. [1] [2]


Early life

Coghlan was born in Sydney, the second son of Thomas Coghlan of Irish Roman Catholic extraction. He was educated at Cleveland Street Public School and Sydney Grammar School, and in 1873 joined the public works department, becoming assistant-engineer of harbours and rivers in 1884. [3]

Statistical career

When the New South Wales department of statistics was created, Coghlan was appointed government statistician and began his duties early in 1886. [4] The appointment was much criticized, but Coghlan held the position for 19 years and showed great industry and ability. He published in 1887 the first issue of The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales which continued to appear almost at yearly intervals.

Other work

Coghlan was also registrar of Friendly Societies from 1892 to 1905, a member of the public service board from 1896 to 1900, chairman of board of old age pensions 1901–5, and was president of the economics and statistics section at the 1902 meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science.

In December 1905, Coghlan was offered the chance to become the inaugural Commonwealth Statistician, heading the newly created Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. In February 1906, he informed Prime Minister Alfred Deakin that he could not accept the offer due to his obligations to the Premier of New South Wales, Joseph Carruthers. He later told Deakin that Carruthers had threatened to withdraw his pension entitlements if he accepted the federal position. [5]

In 1905 Coghlan was appointed Agent-General for the state of New South Wales at London and held the position until his death apart from three short breaks. Coghlan was well qualified for this role and to deal with the many loans floated in London. Coghlan also promoted emigration to Australia.

On 15 December 1914, Banjo Paterson reports he was in London when he,

Dropped in for a chat with Sir T.A. Coghlan, our agent-general for New South Wales. As unemotional as a professional billiard player, and as self-reliant as a sea captain, Coghlan has battled his way from a minor civil service job to his present position through sheer ability. [6]

He published in 1918, in four volumes, Labour and Industry in Australia from the first Settlement in 1788 to the Establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901. It has been said of this work,

This document provided the first great economic history of Australia, covering the period from European settlement to the creation of the Commonwealth … [its] 2449 pages constitute a great, pullulating Victorian panorama in words and numbers that seemingly capture every person, law and landmark … Beyond its use as an encyclopedic reference work, its enduring value lies in its bounty of quantitive data. Much of the latter proved an essential input into estimates of national accounts, other elements remain standing in their own right, with Coghlan’s figures for gold production remaining unsuperceded. And posterity has ultimately granted him his famous claim to use his own name as the authority for the statistics he cites. [7]

Coghlan was serving as Agent-General when he died suddenly at London on 30 April 1926. His funeral was held at St Mary's, Cadogan Street.

In 1897 he married Helen Donnelly (d. 1936), [8] the daughter of Denis Donnelly, who survived him with a son, Arthur, and a daughter, Ellen. Coghlan left them an estate of the value of £43,197. [9] Coghlan was awarded the Imperial Service Order (ISO) in 1903, was knighted in 1914 and created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1918. [10] [11] [12]

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  1. Neville Hicks, 'Coghlan, Sir Timothy Augustine (1855 - 1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography , Volume 8, MUP, 1981, pp 48-51.
  2. Serle, Percival (1949). "Coghlan, Timothy Augustine". Dictionary of Australian Biography . Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
  3. "The Government Statistician". Australian Town And Country Journal. Vol. XXXVIII, no. 979. New South Wales, Australia. 13 October 1888. p. 28. Retrieved 16 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Bureau of Statistics". Record agency. NSW State Archives & Records. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  5. Carment, David (1975). Australian liberal: a political biography of Sir Littleton Groom, 1867-1936 (PDF) (PhD thesis). Australian National University. pp. 47–49.
  6. Paterson, A.B. (1935). Happy Dispatches (First ed.). Sydney: Angus & Robertson. p. 198.
  7. Ville, Simon; Withers, Glenn (2015). The Cambridge Economic History of Australia (First ed.). Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. pp. 12, 472. ISBN   9781107029491.
  8. "LADY COGHLAN". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 30, 606. New South Wales, Australia. 6 February 1936. p. 15. Retrieved 17 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "LATE SIR TIMOTHY COGHLAN". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 27, 689. New South Wales, Australia. 2 October 1926. p. 19. Retrieved 17 February 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "COGHLAN, Timothy Augustine - Imperial Service Order". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. 29 May 1903. Retrieved 16 February 2018. Agent-General for New South Wales in London
  11. "COGHLAN, Timothy Augustine - Knight Bachelor". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. 24 February 1914. Retrieved 16 February 2018. Agent-General for New South Wales in London
  12. "COGHLAN, Timothy Augustine - The Order of St Michael and St George- Knights Commander". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. 3 June 1918. Retrieved 16 February 2018. Agent-General for New South Wales in London

Wikisource-logo.svg Works by or about Timothy Augustine Coghlan at Wikisource

Government offices
New title Government Statistician of New South Wales
Succeeded by
William Heney Hall
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Preceded by Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Preceded by Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by
Preceded by Agent-General for New South Wales
Succeeded by