Hugh Nelson (Australian politician)

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The Hon
Sir Hugh Nelson
Sir Hugh Nelson.jpg
11th Premier of Queensland
In office
27 October 1893 – 13 April 1898
Preceded by Sir Thomas McIlwraith
Succeeded by Thomas Joseph Byrnes
Constituency Murilla
17th Treasurer of Queensland
In office
27 March 1893 – 2 March 1898
Preceded by Thomas McIlwraith
Succeeded by Robert Philp
Constituency Murilla
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Northern Downs
In office
7 September 1883 – 28 April 1888
Preceded by George Thorn Jr
Succeeded by Seat abolished
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Murilla
In office
28 April 1888 – 13 April 1898
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by William Moore
Member of the Queensland Legislative Council
In office
13 April 1898 – 1 January 1906
Personal details
Born (1833-12-31)31 December 1833
Kilmarnock, Scotland, UK
Died 1 January 1906(1906-01-01) (aged 72)
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Resting place Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery
Political party Ministerialist
Spouse(s) Janet McIntyre
Relations William Nelson (father)
Occupation Dairy farmer, Sheep breeder, Station Hand
Religion Presbyterian

Sir Hugh Muir Nelson, KCMG (31 December 1833 – 1 January 1906) was Premier of Queensland from 1893 to 1898.[1]


Nelson was born at Kilmarnock, Scotland. His father, Dr William Lambie Nelson, was elected to the first Queensland parliament in 1860 but was unseated because he was a minister of religion. The boy was educated at the Edinburgh High School, and began a promising course under Sir William Hamilton at Edinburgh University. This was cut short when he went with his father to Queensland in 1853 and settled at Ipswich. Nelson obtained a position in a mercantile house, and then took up a pastoral life about six miles out of Ipswich. He then went to the Darling Downs to manage a station, and in 1870 married Janet, daughter of Duncan McIntyre.[2]

Afterwards Nelson took up Loudon station in the Dalby district and in 1880, when the divisional boards act came in, he was elected a member of the Wambo board. His strong personality and cultivated intellect soon led to his being appointed chairman of the board. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland for Northern Downs on 7 September 1883, and after the 1887/8 redistribution of seats, he was member for Murilla (28 April 1888 to 13 April 1898).[3] In June 1888 he became secretary for railways in the McIlwraith ministry and held the same position when Morehead succeeded McIlwraith. When Griffith became premier, Nelson was elected leader of the opposition, but when Griffith resigned in March 1893 to become chief justice, Nelson formed a coalition with McIlwraith taking the portfolios of treasurer and vice-president of the executive council. In October he became premier in a ministry which lasted four and a half years, for the last three years of which he was also chief secretary.

Nelson did most valuable work as treasurer during the depression which followed the financial crisis of 1893. When the Byrnes ministry came in in April 1898 Nelson became president of the Queensland Legislative Council, and in 1903 lieutenant-governor, for both of which positions his fine appearance, tact and grace of manner eminently fitted him.

Survived by Lady Nelson, two sons and three daughters, Nelson died at Toowoomba on 1 January 1906. He was accorded a State funeral, and was buried in Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1896 and was appointed to the privy council at the time of his visit to England during the diamond jubilee celebrations in 1897.

Nelson had an intimate knowledge of men, and was an excellent parliamentarian with a good grasp of constitutional matters and a keen understanding of financial questions. His genial nature made him personally popular and though scarcely an orator, his practical common sense always made him worthy of attention. He was opposed both to the separation movement in Queensland and to federation. He showed himself to be a strong man during the shearers' strike of 1894, but his best work was done as treasurer when he led the colony out of a state of financial chaos.


  1. Waterson, D. B. "Nelson, Sir Hugh Muir (1833–1906)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 31 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Harris 1912.
  3. "Nelson, Hugh Muir". Former Members. Queensland Parliament.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas McIlwraith
Premier of Queensland
Succeeded by
T.J. Byrnes
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
George Thorn Jr
Member for Northern Downs
New seat Member for Murilla
Succeeded by
William Moore