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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Spring, Gerald (1830–1888)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Gerald Spring (1830-1888), by unknown photographer

Gerald Spring (1830-1888), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 16004

Gerald Spring (1830-1888), politician, was born on 1 July 1830 at Castlemaine, County Kerry, Ireland, youngest child of Francis Spring (1780-1868), gentleman, and his wife Catherine, daughter of Tobias Fitzgerald of Rathkeale, County Limerick. He arrived in New South Wales about 1853 and after visiting the goldfields probably became a squatter. On 8 February 1862 he became chief constable at Dubbo and on 27 January 1865 a sheep inspector for Coonabarabran at a salary of £250. He resigned in 1869.

Spring represented Wellington in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1869-72: he advocated westward extension of the railway, secular education, free trade, triennial parliaments, the eight-hour day and suggested that the miners make their grievances known and 'organize themselves for that purpose'. For a short time he was a commission agent and in 1876 was returning officer for Gulgong's first municipal elections. On 2 February 1878 he was appointed inspector of conditional purchases in the Department of Lands at a salary of £350. Exchanging appointments with W. J. Barnes in November 1882, he became agent for the sale of crown lands at Goulburn. On 4 December he defeated James Watson for the seat of Young in the assembly; as 'a thoroughly independent member' he sat until 26 January 1887.

Spring's practical experience as a departmental official enabled him to concentrate on the land question. Critical of both Sir John Robertson's 1861 Acts and the Stuart ministry's 1883 bill, he suggested a compromise by taking the best features of each; he strongly opposed 'dummying' and the system of land auctions. Champion of the small settler, liberal, fair-minded and a good speaker, Spring made a notable contribution to the 1883-84 land legislation debate and became secretary for lands in Robertson's fifth ministry from December 1885 to February 1886. He also opposed local option and advocated payment of members of parliament. In failing health, he did not contest the election of 1887. He died of consumption at his 130-acre (53 ha) property, Moorong near Young, on 9 November 1888, and was buried in the Church of England cemetery, Young. On 27 August 1867 at Pine Ridge station, Denison Town near Dubbo, he had married Jane, daughter of David Watt, grazier. He was survived by five sons and a daughter; his third son David Hugh (b.1875) represented Mudgee in the Legislative Assembly in 1932-35.

Select Bibliography

  • Ex-M.L.A., Our Present Parliament, What it is Worth (Syd, c1886)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2, 22, 29 Dec 1869, 3 Jan 1870, 30 Nov, 2, 5 Dec 1882, 15, 23 Oct, 23 Dec 1885, 7 Jan 1886, 12 Nov 1888
  • Town and Country Journal, 16 Jan 1886, 17 Nov 1888.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Spring, Gerald (1830–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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