Andrew Ferguson – Ernest Broughton: An Unenviable Task

Very few people know of the second president of the NSWRL. Largely due to the fact he served for less than a month, however Ernest Clement Vernon Broughton was the very definition of a career politician who very much worked himself into the ground.

He was born in Kangaroo Point, Queensland on January 29, 1865. His father was a police magistrate in Drayton at the time. Ernest was the youngest of four children.

In 1882, he finished his schooling and relocated to Sydney. Two years later, at the age of 19, he and his brother had set up a business where they performed real estate valuations, sales and auctions as well as offering financial advice. They set up their office in Pitt St, Sydney.

Late in November 1884, Broughton was one of three men who had their buggy crashed into by a bus that poorly executed an overtake. The buggy was destroyed but the escaped with just some scratches.

Just four months later and Ernest was involved in another mishap. This time while he was out sailing on Lake George with a friend, Albert Cooper, when the boat jolted both men clear due to a heavy squall. Broughton could not swim, but managed to grab hold of a life belt attached to the side of the boat. They lost the bag which contained their shoes and a change of clothes, so had to make their way home in soaked clothes.

1884 was also the year that Ernest Broughton was a member of the School of Arts debating club, becoming its secretary. One of his colleagues there was Edward O’Sullivan, with whom Broughton’s career would regularly cross paths with. They were regularly opposing one another in debates at the School of Arts.

In 1887, he and his brother went their own separate ways and Ernest continued running the business, solely under his own name.

In 1890 he married Amelia Lockyer and the following year became the Manager of the Universal Advance and Investment Association, the first of many boards and committees that he would be a member of.

In 1898 he began campaigning for the seat of Sydney-King in the NSW Legislative Assembly, representing the Progressive Party. He won the seat in 1901, the same year that he also became the Mayor for Ashfield.

In March 1901, he was an office-bearer for the Western Suburbs District Football Club in the early days of the Metropolitan Rugby Union. Two weeks later he was at a meeting of the Political Reform Association, which fought to reduce the number of members in the State Parliament.

In early 1902 he was then on the board for the Ambulance Association, presiding over one meeting, where he stated, to great cheer, “I would be a helper of those who practised the religion of good deeds.”

Four days after that meeting he was in another, this time for the trustees of Hyde Park, where he put forward the motion of having a designated section of the park exclusively for children.

A rather boisterous sitting of the Legislative Assemble in 1903 resulted in a physical altercation between Broughton and Mr Norton. Broughton voiced his disagreement at a comment made by Mr Norton, and called him “a social leper”. Mr Norton became incensed and swung a punch at Broughton. Norton stated afterwards that he gave Broughton a black eye, however Broughton publicly refuted the claim and adding that he scarcely felt the blow. The newspapers of Sydney supported Broughton, stating they had seen him after the incident and there were no indications he had been struck.

In 1904 the electoral boundaries were all changed, which saw an end to Sydney-King and the creation of King. Broughton won this election, thus making him the last sitting member of Sydney-King and the first member of King. In 1904 though, he was aligned with the Liberal Reform Party.

In 1905 he was elected as a member on the board of the British Empire League alongside Edward O’Sullivan.

He had spent many years as a property and infrastructure developer. In 1907 this saw him on hand at the turning of the first sod which marked the beginning of the extension of the train line past Belmore.

In March 1908 he was made president of the East Sydney Aussie Rules club.

5 months later, he put forward a proposal for a gun licence bill, which aimed to have all gun owners licenced.

On March 3 he was appointed as patron of the Eastern Suburbs Rugby League club and two days later, he attends the NSWRL Annual General Meeting, where he was put forward to take over the governance of the game from founding father and fellow politician, Henry Hoyle. Hoyle won the vote by 1.

On March 8 it was learnt that two of the voting delegates were acting on behalf of the Newcastle club, but had not been officially appointed. Hoyle was unable to produce a signed letter, which he claimed he had from the Newcastle club, where the two delegates had been named.

The Newcastle club then revealed that they hadn’t appointed any delegates and thus, all elections at the meeting were deemed null.

The meeting has held again on March 15, where Hoyle was again unable to produce a balance sheet, while he was also accused of having a secret account. Another election for office bearers was demanded. Hoyle, amidst the angst and emotion, resigned on the spot. Broughton was elected President.

On April 6, just 22 days after taking on the role of President of the NSWRL, Ernest Broughton handed in his resignation, citing ill-health, a heavy work schedule and an upcoming holiday, all of which meant he would not be able to devote himself to the role as much as was required.

He was replaced by none other than Edward O’Sullivan.

Broughton had been ordered to take 3 months rest from all his working duties, but he largely ignored the orders, continuing his work in the Legislative Assembly, as Mayor, on the board of all the committee’s he was a member of, while still running his very demanding business, which had expanded to property development as well.

In 1916, His father-in-law passed away, leaving Ernest to handle his will. Shortly after, Ernest himself fell ill and after 12 months of dealing with his poor health, he finally succumbed to it on August 15, 1917, at the age of 52.

In his life, aside from the roles already mentioned, he had also served as:
Treasurer of the Queen Victoria Memorial Fund in connection with the Prince Alfred Hospital
Vice President of the Pioneers Club
Co-founder of the British Empire League in Sydney
Director representing the Government on the Sydney Hospital Board
Treasurer of the Surgical Aid Society
Member of the Sydney Golf Club
Member of the Fresh Air League
Member of the Australian Protestant Defence Association
Justice of the Peace
President of the Ashfield Harrier Club
Vice President of the Sydney District Cricket Club

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