Thomas Edward Spencer (1845-1911) – Perhaps the fairest peacemaker in NSW

None of my relatives come close. Thomas Edward Spencer was the husband of my first cousin three times removed, Sarah Ann Christie (1852-1938). -The Freemasons, the Lawyers, the Employers and the Employees all held in in high regard and respect. Some of my relatives did great things, but none got the overwhelming praise of this man. Here are his praises and obituaries I have found thus far. And he wrote some well known poetry.

Freemasonry. (1893, July 29). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 – 1872), p. 11. Retrieved December 8, 2011, from

Right Wor. Brother. Thomas Edward Spencer, P.G.W., has had the honor of being re-elected for the third time un-opposed to the important position of President of the Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge. He. was initiated in the Leinster Marine Lodge, now No. 2, in the year 1875. He assisted to form Lodge Tuscan in Goulburn in 1882, and became the W.M. of that lodge in 1883-84. In the old Grand Lodge of New South Wales he filled the office of Grand Pursuivant for one year, and Grand Sword Bearer for two years. He occupied the chair of his mother lodge, Leinster Marine, for two years 1887-88 and 1888-89. He was a strong advocate for self-government in connection with Aus-tralian Freemasonry, and always worked consistently in the direction of securing unity among the then separate ruling bodies upon a self-governing basis. He was elected to represent the Grand Lodge of New South Wales at the now historic conference in 1888, and the labors of the conference resulted in perfect unity being established. At a meeting convened for the purpose in the large hall of the University, 600 Past Masters were present, the Articles of Union submitted by the conference were adopted and the United Grand Lodge established ; Lord Carrington being elected Grand Master. From that time to the present, Brother Spencer has continued to hold office in the Grand Lodge, first as Grand Director of Cere-monies, then for two years as President of the Board of Benevolence, and now he is entering upon the third term as President of the Board of General Purposes, which is the executive committee of the craft in New South Wales. Brother Spencer has taken a very active part in all the detail work resulting upon the Union of the Craft. He was a member of both com-mittees elected to deal with the laws of the craft, first to frame them, and subsequently, to revise them; chair man of the ritual committee; mem-ber of the bylaws committee for three years, and has been on the ceremonial committee at the installations of Lord Carrington and Jersey and Sir R. W. Duff. He has also held a seat on every Board of General Purposes since the union in 1888. In Royal Arch Masonry Brother Spence has not been idle, as he is now filling for the third time the ofiice of First Principal of the oldest chapter in Australia, Leinster Marine. He is also Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Free masons’ Benevolent Institution.

The subject of our sketch was born in London, England, and came to the colony about 20 years ago. He is a contractor and has carried out a number of important works for the New South Wales Govern-ment, among others the erection of the new gaol, Goulburn, and the physical laboratory Sydney University. He has also carried out several contracts in connection with the Bondi sewerage system, and is now building the railway station buildings at the various places on the line Molong to Parkes. The pop-ularity of Brother Spencer among the members of the Craft may be judged from the fact that, although the various positions in the Craft are, as a rule, keenly contested, he has never yet been defeated for any position for which he has been nominated. To show the work done by the craft under the advice of Brother Spencer and his fellow members of the Board, we quote, in conclusion, one of the paragraphs of the last report presented to the Grand Lodge by Brother Spencer, and adopted unani-mously by that body :

In the early part of the year the neighboring colony of Queensland was visited by a series of most dis-astrous floods. These were followed by very severe floods in the northern part of this colony, and much privation and distress re-sulted. This Grand Lodge voted £100 to the relief of the Queensland sufferers. and you will be asked this evening to confirm a recommendation of the Board that the sum of £250 be voted to those of our own colony. We are thus enabled to demonstrate to the outer world that our benevolence is not limited to the members of our own Craft, nor to the people of our own colony.”

Right Worshipful Bro. Thomas Edward Spencer, P.G.W.

From a photograph by Jay, 518 George-street.


TRIBUTE BY JUDGE HEYDON. (1911, May 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from


When Judge Heydon took his seat in the Industrial Court yesterday he referred in sympathetic terms to the death of the late Mr. T. E. Spencer, who for some time acted as employers’ representative on the bench of the old Arbitration Court.

“I have seen with very great regret the announcement of the sudden death of Mr. Thomas Edward Spencer,” his Honor said. “He was for a time my colleague in the State Arbitration Court, and inspired me with great respect. He was one of the fairest-minded of men. He well understood the views of both employer and employee. Though he was se-lected by the employers, he was not at all a partisan, but always aimed, not at winning a victory, but at making a fair award. He had a kindly and sympathetic nature, a very reasonable mind, a conciliatory disposition, much shrewdness, great experience, and an ever-wakeful instinct for fair play.

“After the system of wages boards had been Instituted I felt for some time a difficulty about nominating him as a chairman, when nominations were left to me, because heo had been the representative of the employers in the previous Court; but it became manifest after a time that both sides felt confidence in him, for they often chose him themselves. Under the circumstances. I think this was a high tribute to his character. Only a short time ago, in a responsible and troublesome case in which the nomination was left to me, I was greatly relieved when I found that I was able to get Mr. Spencer to act as chairman. I was very sorry when I lost his help as a colleague, and I feel now that the community has suffered a real loss, and that it will be difficult to find another man with Mr. Spen-cer’s valuable combination of qualities. I would wish to express my respectful sympathy with his family and friends.”

Mr. A. W. Nathan (Messrs. Minter, Simp-son, and Co.), speaking on behalf of the legal profession, said that the deceased gentleman had made an excellent arbitrator. Of all the men it had been his lot to appear before, added Mr. Nathan, he had never known anyone who had a happier disposition and ability to produce harmony and pence In industrial cases. He was, above all, fair, had a marvellous knowledge of the law, and possessed a high degree of ability.

Mr. M. J. Connington, secretary of the Trolly, Draymen, and Carters’ Union of em-ployees, also expressed his keen sympathy with the late Mr. Spencer’s family in their sad bereavement. He said that the sympathy of all trades unionists went out to them. The Draymen’s Union was the first to select Mr. Spencer for their chairman, and also the last. As late as Friday it had been decided that he should again occupy the position.

Mr. T. Miller, secretary of the Storeman’s Union, said that the deceased gentleman had been chairman of three of the storemen’s boards. The awards might not at times have met with the absolute approval of employees, but they at least felt and knew that in every case the decisions were beyond question, ab-solutely fair.

Mr. R. Croft and Mr. J. W. Maund also feelingly alluded to Mr. Spencer’s death, and expressed sympathy with his family.


A Pencemaker. (1911, May 16). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), p. 7. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from

A Peacemaker.

The death of Mr. T. E. Spencer removes a man who can very ill be spared. His special genius was that of a peace-maker. He composed quarrels in the only manner in which they can be allayed namely, by showing the groundlessness of morbid susceptibilities and baseless fears, and then by devising ingenious modes of compromise, which should be acceptable, or, at any rate, not intoler-able to both sides. Although he made his first appearance on the field of indus-trial arbitration, as a representative of the employers, his evident fairness and desire to conciliate won him the confi-dence of the employees. He was presi-dent of more Wages Boards, by far, than any other, man in the State, and more often than not he was selected by the unions. It will be difficult to fill his place, and if it cannot be filled, the course of industrial arbitration will be more difficult than ever. A man of ex-ceptional, ability, and full of enthusiasm for the establishment of peace, can ren-der workable, for a time, expedients which, in the hands of ordinary men, would promptly proclaim their inepti-tude. It is usual to say, when it is pointed out that it is impossible that the Arbitration Court can overtake more than an insignificant fraction of the in-dustrial disputes which are perpetually occurring, that these tribunals can read-ily be multiplied. But unless men of exceptional attainments, can be found to preside over them, the minor courts will be an utter failure. The death of Mr. Spencer reminds us that such men are extremely rare. He goes to his rest with a reputation that the noblest may well envy. Rebuking, by his example, those whose misguided zeal prompts them to do their utmost to fan the flames of’ class-antagonism and racial hatred, he lived for the restoration of peace, and very often he had the satis-faction of knowing that his benevolent aspirations were in, some degree realised.

“HOW McDOUGALL TOPPED THE SCORE.”. (1911, May 11). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 4. Retrieved December 8, 2011, from

The Register of Monday reported the death in Sydney on Saturday evening of Thomas Edward Spencer, best known to Australians as the author of that broadly humorous effusion, ‘How McDougall Top- ped the Score.’ He was ill only an hour.

Mr. Spencer who had reached the age of 66, was Chairman of a number of Wages Boards, and was a prominent Mason.. From time to time he contributed verses to the newspapers, and wrote one or two volumes sitting forth the surprising adventures of Mrs. Bridget McSweeney. In his verses, ‘How McDougall Topped the Score,’ Mr. Spencer depicted bush life of the sort with which Lawson, Rudd, ahd others have fa-miliarized city readers. McDougall, “a Scotchman, and a canny one at that,” and his dog Pincher, “old, and worn, and grey,” are the heroes of the cricket match between Piper’s Flat and Moloney’s. Every one who lends his ear to the amateur elocu-ionist knows how Pincher took the ball in his mouth, and carried it till the scorer shouted ‘Fifty,’ and ‘McDougall gasped out ‘Drop it!’ as he dropped within the crease.’