The Fermoy man who became Premier of Western Australia

During the course of his research into Fermoy born people who were killed during the First World War, Paudie McGrath, discovered that the son of a man from Fermoy won the Victoria Cross for bravery at Gallipoli in August 1915.

The winner of the Victoria Cross was Hugo Vivian Hope Thrussell, who was born in Western Australia in 1884. Hugo's father, George Lionel Thrussell was born on May 24, 1840 in Fermoy, the eldest son of Michael Thrussell and his wife Jane. Michael Thrussell was a mail clerk and his son George went on to become the second premier of Western Australia. His story is truly remarkable, he came to Australia in 1850 with his parents and his younger brother and sister. By 1855 both George's parents were dead. Realising that he couldn't look after his brother and sister on his own, George sent them to live with relations in Sydney. He now found himself alone and penniless, but he was determined to succeed and found himself a job with the mercantile firm of Walter Padbury in Perth. In the evenings he went to the Swan River Literary and Debating Society, where George Reilly extended his education to such a degree that he became a manager at Padbury's firm. On June 6, 1861, when he was just over 21 years of age, George married Anne Morrell, the daughter of an early settler and farmer in Saint George's Cathedral in Perth. The following year he opened his own store in the Northam area of Perth and through hard work and drive and the support of his wife, he became the region's most successful businessman. He gave credit to small farmers, bought and sold stock, crops and sandalwood, speculated in land and was a building contractor. George was now one of the leading personalities in Perth and he became very involved in community affairs and was elected Mayor of Northam in 1887.

From 1890 he represented Northam in the new Legislative Assembly and in 1892 was largely influential in Northam being chosen as the starting point of the railway to the Eastern gold fields. By this time George was immensely wealthy and it was largely thanks to his efforts that the town of Northam grew to be the principal business centre of the Avon Valley.

George Thrussell was a man of the people, with is good looks and luxuriant head of hair, he became known as the 'Lion of Northam'. On February 15, 1901, the man who was born in Fermoy in 1840, achieved Western Australia's highest honour when he was elected as its second Premier. This was a period of great instability in Australia politics and when the factions supporting his party drifted apart, Thrussell lost his majority and on May 27, 1901, he resigned.

Having achieved his life's ambitions, in 1904 George retired from business and went to live in his mansion overlooking Northam. He hadn't forgotten his roots, his house was called 'Fermoy'. Two years later his wife Anne died. George Thrussell died on August 30, 1910, he was survived by six daughters and five sons.

George's son Hugo, the youngest of the family, was born in 1884, he was educated at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, where he captained the football team and became champion athlete and boxer. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Hugo joined the 10th Light Horse Regiment and was sent to Gallipoli in May 1915. On August 29, 1915, during a firerce battle with Turkish troops, Thrussell was wounded twice from grenade splinters and although covered in blood, he repeatedly kept encouraging his men. It was for this action that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

His citation for winning the Victoria Cross read as follows: "During operations in the Gallipoli Peninsula on August 29/30, 1915, although seriously wounded in several places during a counter-attack, Lieutenant Thrussell refused to leave his post to receive medical attention, until he was satisfied that all danger was past. When he had his wounds dressed he returned to the firing line, until he was sent out of action by the medical officers. He was largely responsible, at that critical period, for saving the situation by his personal courage and fine example, by which he managed to keep up the spirits of his party."

Hugo Vivian Hope Thrussell, the son of Fermoy born George Thrussell, was the first man from Western Australia to win a Victorian Cross in the First World War and was buried with full military honours in Karrakatta cemetery in Perth.

Courtesy of the Avondhu