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Thomas E. Spencer (1845 – 1911)

Thomas Edward Spencer was born in London on 30 December 1845, the son of Daniel O'Brien, a carpenter, and his wife Ann. The details of his early life are unclear, but it appears that Ann O'Brien remarried a stonemason, Thomas Edward Spencer, whose name Thomas took. After training as a stonemason in London, Spencer visited the goldfields in Victoria in 1863, returning to London the following year after failing to make his fortune. He married Jane Harriet Strew in London in November 1869, and in 1875 the couple emigrated to New South Wales. In Sydney, Spencer went into business as a building contractor, and after being defeated in an attempt to win a seat in the New South Wales legislative assembly in 1894, became involved in industrial arbitration as a representative of employers' bodies.

By the early twentieth century, Spencer had also attainted a reputation as a writer, chiefly of humorous verse and prose. From the early 1890s he began contributing prose sketches and poems, generally in the popular bush ballad tradition, to the leading Australian literary journal The Bulletin, and he subsequently published two verse collections, How M'Dougall Topped the Score (1906), and Budgeree Ballads (1908), along with several collections of his short prose.

As with a number of the writers of vernacular verse of the early twentieth century, Spencer's work enjoyed significant popularity in his lifetime, but attracted little sustained critical attention. Spencer died at his home in Glebe, Sydney, on 6 May 1911.

Poetry Collections
  • How M'Dougall Topped the Score and other verses and sketches Sydney N.S.W. Bookstall Company 1906
  • Budgeree Ballads Sydney N.S.W. Bookstall Company 1908 Republished as: Why Doherty Died: Humorous Budgeree Ballads Sydney N.S.W. Bookstall Company 1922
Suggested Further Reading
  • David Heaton Spencer, Thomas Edward (1845 - 1911) Australian Dictionary of Biography 1999 vol. 12 Melbourne Melbourne University Press 1990 pp. 32-33.