Two Irish Patriots
Dr Kevin Izod O’Doherty
Kevin O’Doherty was born on 7 September 1823 into a Catholic family in Dublin.
O’Doherty first arrived in Australia in 1849, when he was transported to Tasmania from Ireland for advocating the cause of a free Ireland. After his pardon in 1857, O’Doherty became a doctor. Eventually he and his wife, a radical nationalist poet, Mary Eva, known as ‘Eva of The Nation’, settled in Brisbane, where he became a leading surgeon. As a Member of the Legislative Assembly, O’Doherty introduced Queensland’s first public health Act, the Health Act of 1872, and contributed to public education.
Robert Travers Atkin
Robert Atkin was born on 29 November 1841 into a Protestant family at Fernhill, near Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland.
After the early death of Robert’s father, his mother took the family to France where Robert was educated. Back in England, Robert was found to be suffering from early indications of consumption (tuberculosis). So, Robert, with his family, decided to emigrate to Queensland on medical advice to seek a warmer climate. They arrived in Brisbane in March 1865. Robert worked as a campaigning journalist and Member of the Legislative Assembly, and promoted the cause of liberal democracy.
The Fenian (Irish Nationalist) Dr O’Doherty and the Protestant Robert Atkin became friends and made common cause to make Queensland a more democratic and fairer place. Robert Atkin and Kevin O’Doherty may have had their differences over Irish independence, but as public figures and unpaid Members of Parliament, these friends had a shared vision about Queensland’s future. They and other reformers, like Charles Lilley, opposed the vested interests of the squattocracy. Robert Atkin argued for fairness towards people in the North, for new railways, and for new industries of cotton and sugar. Atkin described the Polynesian Labourers Act as a legalised system of kidnapping. He and his colleagues did not want Queensland to become a plantation state, built on slavery, like the Deep South of the United States had been.
ON 28 November 1867 in Tank Street, Brisbane the birth on Robert’s son, Richard, was attended by Dr Kevin O’Doherty. Robert Atkin’s career as a campaigning journalist, newspaper editor and MP was short. By late 1871 his health was in terminal decline, and he died at Sandgate in May 1872, aged only 30.
Robert’s widow took his son, Richard (Dick), back to Wales where he was raised in Wales by his loving mother and by his grandmother, Mary Anne Ruck. He won scholarships and was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. Lacking connections in the law, Dick struggled financially at the junior Bar. However, his intelligence and work ethic were recognised and he became a successful barrister. In 1913, he was appointed as a judge, and shortly after was elevated to the Court of Appeal. His judgments were of exceptional quality and in 1928 this led to his appointment to the highest court in the United Kingdom – the House of Lords.
The Robert Travers Atkin Restoration Project
The original St Margaret’s church at Sandgate. Both Robert Atkin and his sister, Grace Atkin donated 50 pounds each toward the building of a church on the hill at Sandgate. The first stone was laid by Walter Barrett, the Mayor of Sandgate on 9 August 1891. In 1892 the building was rendered unsafe due to strong winds. The Atkin memorial can be seen on the right.
The memorial was restored in 1937 and is currently undergoing a further restoration. It is to dedicated on 29 May 2022. Full details available here
See also the Robert Travers Atkin Restoration Project on Facebook: