Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Anthony Ogden - a moral crusader dogged by controversy

Anthony Ogden was variously an iron-moulder, a journalist for the Townsville Daily Bulletin and Townsville Star, a Board Member of the Townsville Harbour Board, a Mayor of Townsville, a Member of Parliament, a union organiser and advocate for industrial rights, editor of the Townsville Labor newspaper – the Clarion, a methodist lay preacher, a temperance advocate, a career politician, and many other things besides. And he is definitely an interesting figure in Townsville’s history.
Anthony Ogden, mayor of Townsville from 1924-1927
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection
Born in Yorkshire in 1866, Ogden arrived in Queensland – at Cooktown – in 1884, when he was 18 years old. He married in Townsville in 1888 and he and wife Mary-Ann had seven children together. Ogden served as Mayor of Townsville from 1924-1927. 

Ogden Street, in the city, takes its name from this, at times, controversial character. In 1926 Flinders Lane was renamed Ogden Street. Alderman Ogden had long lobbied to have Flinders Lane cleared of its reported “slum-like conditions”. There were a lot of sub-standard buildings in Flinders Lane and many of these harboured illegal gambling dens and brothels, which Ogden wanted to stamp out.

Controversy seems to have followed Ogden everywhere
In 1912, when Alderman John Henry Tyack was appointed as Mayor of Townsville, Alderman Ogden vigorously opposed Tyack’s appointment as Mayor because although he was appointed by the Queensland Governor-in-Council - he wasn’t the majority choice of the Townsville Council. An election had been held but the council had failed to appoint a Mayor in the allotted timeframe, so the Governor had to act as an adjudicator to resolve indecision on the part of the Council. Tyack’s appointment caused a real storm within the council, and there was so much dissension, that at one meeting, the Town Clerk had organised for two police constables to be stationed at the entrance to the Town Hall, while two more were stationed inside the building.

Several aldermen refused to recognise Tyack’s appointment until they had seen the official Government Gazette. Alderman Ogden was the most vocal in his opposition to Tyack’s appointment as Mayor. He argued that until he had seen the Governor’s signature, then it was not official. Ogden was scathing about the appointment, arguing that:

“It was only by log-rolling and pulling strings that Alderman Tyack was appointed in any case. He was the nominee of a minority.”

After Ogden had stirred everyone up, one of the other aldermen asked Tyack to resign. Tyack’s response to this outburst was to promptly reply: “No hope!”.


A few years later Ogden came close to punching the Mayor – this time it was Alderman McClelland - at a council meeting in March 1916. On this occasion, before the meeting even began, Ogden was extremely worked up about an incident earlier in the day where the Mayor had apparently interfered in his business – by asking him not to take copies of the council minutes until they had been confirmed – which on this occasion they had not.  The banter went backwards and forwards for a while, until Alderman Ogden jumped up out of his chair and in a couple of strides had reached the Mayor. He went to strike the Mayor, but stopped, shaking his fist just inches from the Mayor’s face. Apparently the other aldermen shouted as one, “Stop man!” After this incident, the headline in the newspaper read: “Alderman Ogden in Les Darcy act”.


The previous month, Ogden had tried to have Dr Anton Breinl removed from his position as resident surgeon at the Townsville Hospital, on the grounds that he was an “enemy alien”. Breinl was foreign-born - Austrian - and at this time the First World War was raging in Europe. The Townsville Hospital Committee voted on the motion but it was easily defeated. Ogden then said that he would move a request be sent to the Federal Government to have Dr Breinl removed from the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine. It’s worth mentioning here that Dr Breinl had been in Townsville since January 1910, so it must have been galling to him to have been singled out in this way because of his nationality.


In 1931 Ogden was prosecuted for defamation. This was a rare occurrence in Townsville in those days. The judge presiding over the case said there hadn’t been a defamation case in the city for 10 years. Ogden found himself in court after he declared at a council meeting that a man named Don McInnes was a “systematic law breaker”. This was in regards to not having licensed the Hollywood Miniature Golf Links that his daughters ran. To be fair to McInnes on this one, the other miniature golf links had not applied for a license either. Never one to tread lightly, Ogden also accused McInnes of having bribed police so that his illegal gambling establishment – located in the basement at the back of his tobacconist shop in Flinders Street – would not be raided. Ogden defeated the defamation suit.


There's no doubt though, that the conservative sections of society thought Ogden was truly marvellous. The combined churches of Townsville lauded his efforts in trying to stamp out gambling, and praised his moral convictions generally. Perhaps by today’s standards, Anthony Ogden might be considered to be something of a fanatic. But what's undeniable, is that he never shied away from his convictions, and he worked absolutely diligently at everything he took on.