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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lillico, Sir Alexander (1872–1966)

by David Dilger

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Sir Alexander Lillico (1872-1966), farmer and politician, was born on 26 December 1872 at Lillico's Siding on the north-west coast of Tasmania, son of Hugh Lillico, farmer, and his wife Mary Elliot, née Robson. He was educated at Don State School and left to work on his father's property. Lillico worked for two years as a miner and tributer at Zeehan and saved enough money for a deposit on 320 acres (130 ha) called Grey Peel at West Pine. On 10 June 1896, at the Wesleyan Church at Norfolk Creek (Forth), he married Frances Emma Vertigan, daughter of a farmer. They lived at Grey Peel from 1896 until 1909 when Lillico sold out, intending to farm in Victoria. Persuaded by his father to settle at Lillico's, he bought Cheviot Dale and developed it into 'one of the best farms on the north-west coast' before moving to Devonport in 1926.

Lillico was a member of the Penguin (1906-09) and Devonport (1914-20) municipal councils. A gentle and devoted family man, he was friendly and approachable with a keen sense of humour. He was a Presbyterian elder at West Pine and later for almost forty years an elder of Don Presbyterian Church.

In May 1924 Lillico, who at first had resisted nomination by local farmers, won the Legislative Council seat of Mersey. In May 1954 he retired, undefeated, having promoted the interests of his district with intense loyalty. As a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Public Works examining the Hobart Bridge bill (1941), he insisted that the project be put on a proper financial basis before the bill was passed. He especially liked to be associated with the Farmers' Debt Adjustment Act (1935, amended 1936) which helped many farmers to stay on the land. Lillico is reputed to have led the majority of the council who in 1943 refused to agree to temporary transfer of State constitutional powers to the Commonwealth. As a result of the resistance by several State parliaments, the Federal Labor government was forced to hold a referendum which was defeated. He was widely respected for his sound judgement on political and social questions and always fought hard for what he thought was right. His son Alexander Elliot, later a Federal senator, was elected to the Legislative Council in 1943, creating a then unique situation in Tasmanian parliamentary history with father and son in the same House. Lillico was knighted in 1962 in recognition of 'a lifetime of distinguished public service'.

He died on 14 December 1966 at Latrobe and was buried from St Columba's Presbyterian Church, Devonport, in the old Don cemetery. His wife had died in 1961 but he was survived by their three sons. In his obituary notice the Mercury described Lillico as 'the unchallenged, unofficial leader of opinion in the Legislative Council' who set 'a standard of integrity of purpose which would long be remembered with gratitude'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. A. Townsley, The Government of Tasmania (Brisb, 1976)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 16 Dec 1966
  • Advocate (Burnie), 16 Dec 1966.

Citation details

David Dilger, 'Lillico, Sir Alexander (1872–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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