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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Connah, Thomas William (1843–1915)

by Margaret H. Connah

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Thomas William Connah (1843-1915), public servant, was born on 2 November 1843 at Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, son of Thomas Connah, head of a Liverpool and New York mercantile and shipping house of that name, and his wife Emily, née Wrigley. Educated at Hawthorn Hall, Wilmslow near Manchester, he won junior certificates from both Oxford and Cambridge in 1858, then trained as an accountant in his father's firm, expecting eventually to manage the New York office. The American Civil War virtually ruined the business; smaller shipping lines were bought up by the Cunard line. At 22 Connah came to Australia instead, reaching Brisbane by the Young Australia in September 1866. Until his marriage he lived with his sister Anne, wife of Thomas Blacket Stephens.

After working as accountant and bookkeeper for Bright Bros & Co. from November 1866, he joined the public service as an Audit Office clerk in January 1873, transferred to the Treasury in October 1875, became under-secretary in January 1902 and returned to the Audit Office as auditor-general in November 1907. He was awarded the Imperial Service Order in June. A member of the Government Advertising Board and a commissioner of stamps for six years he was managing director of the Civil Service Co-operative Stores which he had helped to establish.

On 9 March 1871 Connah married Emma Barton Heywood who had come from England for the wedding. They had three sons and two daughters. While living at South Brisbane, the family attended the near-by Congregational Church where Connah held various offices. After moving to Langlands, Coorparoo, he became active in St Philip's Anglican Church, Thompson Estate, as lay reader, church warden and synodsman. When lack of sufficient funds for a stipend threatened closure of the church, he was licensed to conduct services there for a year until the appointment of a minister; after his death the church erected a belfry in his memory. He served on a number of Anglican synod committees from 1890, filling various positions including synod treasurer in 1893-96. He is said to have arranged reburial of Bishop Webber's body under the high altar of St John's Cathedral.

Staunchly British, Connah would proudly wear a red rose (for Lancaster) in his buttonhole every St George's day, saying that a Connah fought in the Wars of the Roses. He was equally proud of his family's ancient Welsh lineage. Enthusiastic about both tennis and cricket, he was a member of the Queensland Lawn Tennis Association and, after being a vice-president, became its president in 1905. He died of a heart attack in his office on 2 November 1915 and was buried in the South Brisbane cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • L. E. Slaughter, Coorparoo, Stones Corner Centenary (Brisb, 1956)
  • Church of England, Diocese of Brisbane Year Book, 1890-1916
  • Annual Review of Queensland, vol 1, 1902
  • Brisbane Courier, 3 Nov 1915
  • synod reports and parish records (Diocesan Registry, Brisbane)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Margaret H. Connah, 'Connah, Thomas William (1843–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 2 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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