Representatives > Richard Denis Meagher

Richard Denis (Dick) Meagher

Richard Denis (Dick) Meagher (1866-1931), solicitor and politician, was born at Bathurst, son of a policeman from Ireland. Educated at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, and St Aloysius College, Sydney, he was admitted as a solicitor in 1889.

Meagher acquired “a fruity eloquence” and in 1892 he became a partner in a firm of solicitors. He won the seat of Sydney-Phillip in 1895 but had to resign after unprofessional behaviour led to his being struck from the roll of solicitors.

Without a reliable income, he became a land agent. In 1898 he won the seat of Tweed, where the Irish protectionists were strong. He regained his social position in Sydney when he horse-whipped John Norton, who had called him ‘Mendax Meagher’ in Truth. Norton pulled his revolver, but missed; Meagher was fined £5 for assault. He became a popular parliamentarian although in 1904 his seat was abolished. He was an alderman for Phillip Ward in 1901-20.

In 1907 he was re-elected to parliament for Phillip. In 1909 he joined the Labor Party and was on the executive in 1910-16, and president in 1914-15. He became Speaker in 1913. He was appointed by the government as the first Labor lord mayor of Sydney in 1916 and was elected to that position for 1917.

Meagher deplored the Dublin 1916 Easter rising, and had no sympathy for an Irish republic. Though a large party majority rejected conscription, he supported Prime Minister Billy Hughes, and was expelled from the party. He and Premier Holman were hooted at the St Patrick’s Day sports in 1917.

Holman appointed him to the Legislative Council but he resigned in 1920 to contest the seat of Sydney. He lost, but the Labor government and some Opposition members restored him to the solicitors’ roll (despite petitions from the Law Institute and the Council of the Bar). He quickly rebuilt his legal career.