James Abigail Snr was born in Shoreditch, London, in 1833. His first marriage was on 27 May 1855 at Whitechapel, London, to Mary Corrock (1835-57). His second marriage was on 1 May 1859 in Shoreditch, England to Mary Ann Crudgington (1829-1917). He had four daughters and three sons from both marriages. Abigail and his second wife arrived in Sydney on 15 March 1866 with three children. Four more children were born in Australia.
He apparently had a strong Cockney accent, and was described as being ‘of sanguine temperament, witty and humorous’, and as ‘the life and soul of every gathering.’ Suffering from a heart condition from about 1904, his condition worsened in mid-1907. James Abigail senior died on 17 October 1907, aged 74, at his home, ‘Melinda House’, 45 Regent Street, Newtown.
His son James W. Abigail Jnr (link) was also an alderman on Newtown Council in 1897-98. His brother Francis Abigail, who had arrived in Sydney in 1860, was NSW MLA for West Sydney in 1880-91.
Occupation & interests
Having worked for condiment manufacturer Batty and Co. in London, James Abigail set up a similar business in Pyrmont after arriving in Sydney in 1866. He operated as a grocer in Missenden Road Camperdown from 1866 to 1874, and later at Denison Street, Newtown.
James Abigail Snr was strongly associated with Protestant Orange organisations. He was a Justice of the Peace. He was also a Past Master No 2 LOL Camperdown, a member of the Australian Protestant Defence Association, and Schomberg Lodge of Protestant Alliance Friendly Society.
Local government service
James Abigail Snr was an alderman on Camperdown Council from 1887 to 1892. He was involved in a council discussion in 1889 about ‘unruly boys of Camperdown’ who robbed flower gardens and hens’ roosts and never attended school. He suggested the construction of the Newtown markets.
He was also an alderman on Newtown Council, representing Kingston Ward. He won election for an extraordinary vacancy on 31 May 1902 and served until his death in 1907.
Biographical information for this alderman was originally researched by Mark Matheson for the Newtown Project Website.
‘A P.A.F S. Veteran’, Watchman, 5 May 1906, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111963877