Edwin Thomas McNeilly

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E T McNeilly, Mayor of Orange 1910-1911, 1912-1914, 1914-1918. Image courtesy Orange City Library.

Ted McNeilly’s funeral took place in Orange on Tuesday 18 June 1929. It was the town’s largest funeral to date, the cortege stretching almost 2.5km from the Methodist Church in Anson Street to the cemetery. The combined Orange Town and Silver Bands led the cortege of 207 motor vehicles, four sulkies, 20 lighthorsemen, 77 returned soldiers, 64 council employees and 98 members of the Foresters’ Lodge. Such a funeral was unprecedented in Orange and one befitting a man described as “the uncrowned king of Orange.”

Born in Berrima on 5 October 1863, Edwin Thomas McNeilly was the sixth of seven children of Thomas and Charlotte McNeilly. Charlotte was a member of the Atkinson family who introduced Saxon Merino sheep to Australia in the early 1800s. The family moved to Orange when Edwin was an infant. His father worked as a farmer and carrier and his mother attended to the house duties and ran a school room.

From a young age Ted took an interest in civic life. At the age of 18 he joined the Ancient Order of Forester’s Court of Little John. He was a prominent member of the order for the following 51 years and filled every office with distinction including that of Chief Ranger.

After a brief connection with stock and station agents Coulson and Leeds, Burke and Naylor, Mr McNeilly launched his own business. His name, integrity and honesty soon became widely known throughout central and western districts.

In 1892 Ted married Annie Elizabeth Johns, with whom he had five children: James, Edwin (Pat), Thomas, George and Emily (Essie).Tragically, Thomas died of pneumonia at the age of 14 months.

Ted joined Orange Municipal Council in 1897 and served as an alderman until his death in 1929, a total of 32 years. He served three terms as mayor between 1910 and 1918 and was, at that time, the town’s longest serving mayor.

The town of Orange developed considerably during McNeilly’s mayoral term. He was instrumental in the merger of Orange and East Orange municipalities in 1912 and was appointed as the first mayor of the newly constituted municipality. He was the driving force behind the implementation of Orange’s first sewerage scheme in 1917, and the town’s second water supply, Meadow Creek (later Lake Canobolas), in 1918.

Alderman McNeilly served tirelessly during WWI, undertaking a range of patriotic activities to assist the war effort. His passion and enthusiasm inspired community courage and optimism. He was affectionately known as the ‘Father of the Diggers’ and was ably assisted by Mayoress McNeilly, ‘Mother of the Diggers’. Their son, James Atkinson McNeilly, served with the 6th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt, and later in France.

Ted’s patriotism continued post-Armistice. He became a member of the Repatriation and Amelioration Committee and was executive of the Memorial Hall Trust. The erection and opening of the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall in 1922 was largely due to his loyalty, pride and devotion to Orange.

Mr McNeilly also played an active role in social circles. A keen horseman with an interest in trotting, Ted was clerk of the course and vice president of the Orange Jockey Club. As a youth he had been an exhibitor and judge with the Orange Agricultural and Pastoral (A & P) Society. In 1922 he was elected vice president, after an association spanning almost 50 years.

An Honorary Magistrate and Justice of the Peace, Ted was president of the Orange Branch of the National Association (later the Liberal Party) for 25 years. He also spent seven years on the Orange Hospital Committee.

Edwin Thomas (Ted) McNeilly died in Orange on 17 June 1929, aged 65 years. On Anzac Day 1930 a marble tablet in his memory was unveiled in the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall. In July 1930 Memory Park was dedicated as a memorial to ex-mayors Ted McNeilly and William Ernest Bouffler - lifelong friends and fellow-aldermen who had died just five days apart.

Death of Ald E t McNeilly [1]

  • Edwin Francis (Ted) McNeilly
  • Jennifer Paterson
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