Let me take you back 120 years to Australia's first election at Federation. The election was held over two days on March 29-30, 1901. Colonel Alexander Wilkinson, Maitland's Mayor, declared Edmund Barton the first member for Hunter.
Barton was of course Australia's first Prime Minister, having received his commission from the Governor General, Lord Louis Hopetoun after William Lyne returned his commission on Christmas Eve 1900 after failing to form a government.
Barton remained the member for Hunter for the entirety of his incumbency, resigning to serve under another of Maitland's sons, Sir Samuel Walker Griffith on the newly created High Court in 1903.
Barton's story of course predates Federation but not the Federation story. He had in 1891 inherited from Sir Henry Parkes the mantle to lead the movement.
That same year the most important of the Federation Conferences was convened with Barton and Griffith playing prominent roles. Both were members of the drafting Committee of our Constitution, Griffith as Chair.
So important was Griffith to the Federation story that Parkes' famous Tenterfield oration was during a 'whistle stop' on the return train trip after visiting Griffith in Brisbane. Griffith at that time was Queensland's premier and the leading federation advocate.
In 1900 Barton was part of the colonial delegation that 'squired' the Commonwealth of Australia Bill through the English Commons.
In 1901, as leader of the Protectionist Party, Barton chose to offer his party's vision for Australia to the new nation from Maitland's Town Hall.
The list of notables accompanying him on that occasion represented a who's who of the Australian political scene. This was NOT Sydney or Melbourne, but Maitland. Yes, I repeat . . . . Maitland.
Maitland's role in the history of Federation is therefore unique. Maitland and the Hunter were represented by our first Prime Minister. Two of the principal authors of the Constitution had direct links to Maitland . . . Barton and Griffith. Griffith attended William McIntyre's school in Free Church Street when his father Edward was incumbent minister at the Congregational Church in High Street (today's Repertory Theatre).
He married a local East Maitland girl in Julia Thompson at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church.
Two of his brothers are buried in the Wesleyan cemetery at Oakhampton. Barton, whilst not a resident of Maitland, 'chose' to become Maitland's son by accepting the offer to become its first member.
Barton is remembered by virtue of a street named after him at Eastville. Other than an entry in the Maitland Council's digital 'Hall of Fame', Griffith is not eulogised at all.
As Australians we have a penchant for reverence towards our sporting heroes. Rarely do we give acknowledgement to those whose contribution is to the welfare and advancement of their peers and their nation, the beneficiaries often being their grandchildren's children.
In Barton and Griffith Maitland spawned two of Australia's greatest . . .