Snippets from the Past (3)

William Edward Brooker - 31st Premier of Tasmania
Brooker Highway - Tasmania

Did you know that one of our residents became Prime Minister of Tasmania – he could also come under the section of famous Laindon people.

Southend Times and recorder 31 December 1947

Former Laindon man is P.M. of Tasmania.

Mr Edward Henry Brooker, nephew of Mr and Mrs Brooker of Waverley Road, Laindon has been appointed Prime Minister of Tasmania following the resignation of Mr Robert Cosgrove. His appointment took effect on Thursday December 18.

Mr E H Brooker, who is 54 years of age, was born in Willesden and before the 1914-18 war, worked at Asciatic Petroleum Company. He joined the Army in 1914 and spent most of his service in the East.

From 1919 until 1922 he lived in Laindon with his parents at Brooklands in the High Road and Londesboro, in the High Road. His parents, Mr and Mrs Henry Brooker are still remembered by the older residents of Laindon for their work in the district, locally. Mr Brookers father died in 1934 and his mother is now living with her sister at Woolwich.

The Hard Way.

Mr Brooker went to Tasmania in 1922 and after a series of “hard times” obtained a position at Cadbury’s. He became a member of the Tasmanian government and held cabinet offices Minister of Transport, Minister of State and Minister of Land and Works.

Members of the Brooker family still residing in Laindon are well known and remembered for their connections in farming and business circles.


It is not surprising that the papers got his name wrong, probably confused because his fathers name was Henry. His correct name was William Edward and the following is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

William Edward Brooker (1891-1948), premier and fitter-and-turner, was born on 4 January 1891 at Hendon, Middlesex, England, son of Henry Brooker, journeyman instrument-maker, and his wife Sarah Ann, née Knowles. Edward was educated at Enfield School, London. He worked for his father and as a clerk for the Asiatic Petroleum Corporation before managing Henry’s business. A member of the Territorial Force, Brooker served from August 1914 with the Royal Army Medical Corps on Gallipoli, at Salonika and in Palestine. He was training as an observer pilot when demobilized in April 1919 with the rank of sergeant. At St Andrew’s parish church, Bethnal Green, London, on 13 September 1919 he married Lydia Grace Minnie Wilson.

Postwar difficulties persuaded Brooker, then employed as a mechanical engineer, to take a free, ex-serviceman’s passage to Australia. Arriving in Melbourne with his wife and infant son in the Orsova on 31 August 1921, he moved to Tasmania and was briefly employed as a labourer on a farm at St Marys. From 27 October he was a pipe-fitter at Cadbury Fry Pascall Australia Ltd, Hobart.

A member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Brooker joined the Australian Labour Party and in May 1931 was an unsuccessful candidate for the State seat of Franklin. Next year, attracted by the ameliorative possibilities of Major C. H. Douglas’s economic ideas, he was founding president of the Hobart branch of the Douglas Credit Association. Campaigning on a platform which included social credit policies, Brooker was returned to the House of Assembly in June 1934 as a Labour member for Franklin, an electorate he was to represent until his death. The Ogilvie Labour government (1934-39) held office with the support of an Independent, G S Carruthers who was another Douglasite.

A ‘vigorous and able debater’ with a ‘high degree of administrative ability’, Brooker served as government whip (1936-39). In Robert Cosgrove‘s cabinet (1939-47) he was minister for transport (1939-42), chief secretary (1939-43) and minister for tourism (1942-43); in November 1943 he was given the portfolio of lands and works, and that of postwar reconstruction. Meanwhile his party support steadily increased. Elected to the State executive of the A.L.P. in 1935, he was Tasmanian delegate to federal conferences (1936 and 1940) and to the federal executive (1941-48). He was the party’s State president (1943) and treasurer (1946-48), and twice topped the Franklin poll (1941 and 1946).

In December 1947 Cosgrove was indicted for bribery and conspiracy. Pending a decision on the charges, on the 18th Brooker became premier. Following Cosgrove’s acquittal, Brooker resigned the premiership on 24 February 1948 and was appointed treasurer and minister for transport. An avid reader, a keen musician and a dabbler in poetry, he was a justice of the peace, vice-president of the Glenorchy branch of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, a member of the Hobart Public Hospitals Board and belonged to Legacy. Survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters, Brooker died suddenly of acute pulmonary oedema on 18 June 1948 at his Montrose home and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. Hobart’s northern outlet, the Brooker Highway, commemorates him.


Does anybody out there remember his family?

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  • I have been unable to find any evidence that William Edward Brooker lived in Laindon between 1919 and 1922.  My research had shown that his parents were Sarah and Henry Brooker,  His  older brother was called Henry and his three sisters were Helena, Annie and Doris.  On the 1911 Census the family were living at 5 Copeland Walk, Walthamstow. 

    His parents aren’t mentioned on the Laindon Electoral Register until 1921 when they are named living in the High Road with their son Henry jnr.  The name of the house isn’t mentioned although it was probably Brooklands because a couple named Annie and Robert Smith were living in Londesboro at that time.    Considering that the Southend Times and Recorder got his name wrong, I think this could be part of their confusion.  The newspaper article was written 26 years after William left for Melbourne.  His uncle and aunt may have said that William’s parents had once lived in Laindon with their son (meaning William’s brother Henry and that’s where the paper confused William with his brother – hence the mistake in the name).  It appears that William had an Uncle Edward which added more to the confusion.  Sarah and Henry did move to Londesboro but in later years, they were living there in 1929.  I believe these houses were in the part of the High Road north of the A127.

    It is reported that William Edward was in Bethnal Green at least until the time of his marriage to Lydia Wilson in September 1919.  Their son Edward M Brooker was born at Romford in 1920 and they arrived in Melbourne on 31st August 1921.  They must have left England several weeks earlier as they travelled by sea on the ship ‘Orsova’. (It could take anything from 8 to 12 weeks in those days, depending on the weather).

    The 1921 Census would show exactly where he had been living just before he left for Melbourne but that won’t be available for several years.  Conclusion:  I think it was his parents and brother Henry who had lived in Laindon.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (10/01/2014)

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