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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Connor, Daniel (1832–1898)

by Rica Erickson

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

Daniel Connor (1832?-1898), merchant and pastoralist, was born in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, Ireland, son of Michael Connor, labourer, and his wife Mary, née Sweeney. He migrated to Western Australia in August 1853 and later peddled his wares in a small way and developed a trade as a stock-dealer around Newcastle (now Toodyay). He soon bought land at Guildford for a holding paddock. On 16 January 1859 he married Catherine Conway, a servant girl from Kerry; they had four daughters and five sons. Next year they moved to Newcastle where Connor ran a store and agency. By 1870 he owned several buildings including a flour-mill and hotel. He held mortgages over many farms and pastoral leaseholds and when drought, flood, or economic depression ruined his clients, Connor foreclosed on their stock and properties.

He belonged to the Newcastle Mechanics' Institute and Agricultural Society and, despite limited schooling, was elected in 1871 to the local board of education. From that year also Connor was a foundation member of the Toodyay Road Board which he chaired in 1879-81 and 1883-93. He sat on the Newcastle Municipal Council from 1877 until his death. Known as 'the King of Newcastle', his wishes, public and private, were rarely denied. He held gambling parties at his hotel and would flout the Road Board's by-laws to gain his ends. A newspaper correspondent once denounced Toodyay people for 'allowing the one oracle to work for his own advantage to the detriment of the general weal'.

In Perth in 1883 Connor bought the Shamrock Hotel which he leased to Timothy Francis Quinlan (1861-1927), who had come to Toodyay aged two and been orphaned soon after. Reared by a kindly Irishman, Quinlan worked in shops at Perth and Roebourne and returned to the city to manage Connor's hotel; he married Connor's daughter Teresa. In 1889 Quinlan became a member of Perth City Council; he represented West Perth in the Legislative Assembly in 1890-94 and Toodyay in 1897-1911. This political success gave Connor great satisfaction.

During the prosperous 1890s Connor was reputedly worth over a quarter of a million pounds. One of Perth's leading financiers and landholders, he sold land for its offices to the Australian Mutual Provident Society, of which he was a shareholder. He was a director of the Stanley Brewery Co., founder of the Port Brewery Co. Ltd, and a major shareholder in the National Bank of Australasia.

Connor was a benefactor of the Catholic Boys' Orphanage and his family endowed a convent at Newcastle for the Sisters of Mercy in whose care his wife ended her days. Aged 67, he died at Perth on 12 January 1898; Bishop Gibney's appraisal was: 'Be to his faults a trifle blind, and to his virtues ever kind'. Connor's estate was sworn for probate at £76,584.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Erickson, Old Toodyay and Newcastle (Toodyay, WA, 1974)
  • Newcastle Municipal Council, Minutes, and Toodyay Road Board, minutes (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Rica Erickson, 'Connor, Daniel (1832–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 26 September 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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