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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taylor, Patrick Thomson (1862–1922)

by Heather Radi

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Patrick Thomson Taylor (1862-1922), businessman and politician, was born on 22 May 1862 at Newstead, near Govan, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of William Taylor, grain merchant, and his wife Jane, née Wilson. After education at home and at the High School, Glasgow, he was apprenticed to an accountant, but came to New South Wales before finishing his articles. A year of station life restored his health and, about 1882, he entered the office of Alfred Lamb & Co., Sydney. He then went to the Australian Kerosene Oil & Mineral Co. Ltd's shale works at Joadja Creek and soon afterwards began his own business as an accountant in Sydney. At Milsons Point he married Alice Maud(e) Sayers on 29 November 1883.

A shareholder in the North Shore Steam Ferry Co. from 1892, Taylor was a director from 1899 when the company was reconstructed as Sydney Ferries Ltd. From this basis in local shipping, he acquired interlocking directorships in steamships, gas companies (purchasing coke for his vessels), iceworks (using a gas works' residual product, ammonia) and insurance. His business interests benefited from urban growth on the north shore and from financial management involving share-splitting. An original alderman on Mosman Municipal Council (1893-98), Taylor was mayor in 1896. In time he became chairman of Sydney Ferries Ltd, North Shore Gas Co. Ltd and New South Wales Fresh Food and Ice Co. Ltd, deputy-chairman of the Australian Gas Light Co., and a director of the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Co., Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd and Toohey's Ltd.

His accounting skills and command of technology earned Taylor respect in business circles: when he acted for the gas company in arbitration proceedings arising from the resumption of the Kent Street gas works, the sum awarded was substantially more than the government's initial offer.

Two of his three sons served in World War I: Kenneth was killed in action in France and (Sir) Gordon served in the Royal Flying Corps. After the gas works had become involved in the 1917 strike, Taylor arranged evening entertainments for the volunteers who replaced the strikers. He was one of the negotiators when W. A. Holman and his followers joined the Liberals to form the National Party. Taylor remained influential in the new party and raised funds for it. He was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1917. His gas company was allowed a remission of £14,000 for losses incurred in the 1917 strike and shortly afterwards was permitted to increase the price of gas. Next year Taylor replaced J. Chalmers on the Commonwealth royal commission on defence and signed its report on naval administration.

A backroom politician, Taylor was irregular in his attendance at the council and never spoke. On leave of absence for health reasons in 1919, he visited Vancouver and San Francisco and later advised on trade prospects with North America. Sailing on Pittwater (where he once owned Scotland Island) and farming at Hartley were his main recreations. Taylor died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 17 November 1922 at his Edgecliff residence and was buried in the Presbyterian section of South Head cemetery. His wife, two sons and a daughter survived him. His estate was sworn for probate at £90,762.

Select Bibliography

  • H. V. Evatt, Australian Labour Leader (Syd, 1945)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1912, pp 886, 958, 1936, and 1917, pp 2507, 2711
  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1917-19, 4, p 175
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 May, 10 Sept 1917, 10 Nov 1919, 16 Nov 1922, 23 Feb 1923
  • Sydney Ferries Ltd, Annual Report, 1899 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Heather Radi, 'Taylor, Patrick Thomson (1862–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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