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O'Kane, Thadeus (1820–1890)

by H. J. Gibbney and June Stoodley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Thadeus O'Kane (1820-1890), newspaper editor, was born on 24 January 1820 and probably christened Timothy Joseph at Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, son of Gregory O'Kane and his wife Johanna, née Fraimes. Educated at Maynooth College and intended for the priesthood, he turned to journalism in London, where he lived with the actress Margaret Matilda Augusta Morris and claimed to have married her on 2 October 1851; they had one son and four daughters. After a visit to Ireland, where he edited the Kerry Star, he returned to London and pursued his career in radical journalism. It seems clear that he was the T. J. O'Kane who in October 1863 sought a divorce from his wife for adultery with Lord Palmerston. In February 1864 he withdrew the suit, and the case was dismissed as an attempted extortion, no proof of marriage having been produced. Soon afterwards O'Kane adopted the name Thadeus and sailed for Australia.

In 1865 O'Kane was a sub-editor on the North Australian at Ipswich and prominent in the Irish community. He then moved to Rockhampton where he taught in a private school and sub-edited the Morning Bulletin until 1872. From August 1873 to mid-1890 he edited the Northern Miner in Charters Towers, owning a half share by 1874 and sole interest after a successful libel action. He served as alderman in 1880-83 and 1884-87, and as a prominent member of the early Goldfields Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and boards of the School of Arts, the state school and the hospital was largely responsible for establishing a local school of mines. However, he failed in parliamentary contests for Bowen in 1880 and for Charters Towers in 1883 and 1888. He died at Ipswich on 17 May 1890, survived by two daughters and a son, who succeeded him in the Northern Miner.

O'Kane was one of the most colourful, influential and hard-hitting figures in early Queensland journalism: he lost count of the libel actions he faced. In his own words, he had 'a warm temperament and strong passions', and was a staunch friend and a bitter enemy. He abhorred J. M. Macrossan, editor of a rival paper, but was a persuasive advocate for such favourite interests as the Liberal Party, Roman Catholicism, separation, republicanism, Irish Home Rule, mining development and miners' safety. Once called 'the best Radical in North Queensland', he had a brand of paternalistic liberalism which, by his death, ceased to satisfy an increasingly radical mining community.

Select Bibliography

  • G. C. Bolton, A Thousand Miles Away (Brisb, 1963)
  • J. Ridley, Lord Palmerston (Lond, 1970)
  • ‘O'Kane v O'Kane and Lord Palmerston’, Times (London), 27 Jan 1864, p 11, 3 Feb 1864, p 10, 5 Feb 1864, p 12
  • ‘editorial’, Times (London), 5 Feb 1864, p 10
  • Brisbane Courier, 18 Feb 1865, 19 May 1890
  • Boomerang (Brisbane), 21 Jan, 28 Apr, 5 May 1888
  • Gympie Miner, 21 May 1890
  • H. Bryan, The Political Career of John Murtagh Macrossan (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1954)
  • CO 234/12/162.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney and June Stoodley, 'O'Kane, Thadeus (1820–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/okane-thadeus-4328/text7023, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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