Joseph Lyons, the first and only Prime Minister from Tasmania, was born to a farming family at Stanley in 1879.
A self-educated teacher by trade, Mr Lyons cut his political teeth as a union man, eventually working his way up through the ranks of the Labor Party. He became premier in 1919, holding power for 10 years.
Mr Lyons attracted the attention of Labor Prime Minister James Scullin, who encouraged him to stand for the seat of Wilmot at the 1929 federal election. He was successful.
But the Left faction of Labor had a distaste for Mr Lyons, and it was in this context that he defected to form the United Australia Party in May 1931, with disgruntled members of the Nationalist Party, including Sir Robert Menzies.
With public discord festering in the wake of the Depression, the Scullin government lost the 1931 election to Mr Lyons and the UAP in a landslide victory.
Anne Henderson, biographer of Joseph and Enid Lyons, said Mr Lyons’ economic policy was a key factor of his appeal.
“He’d seen the problems in Tasmania over decades, where it was very difficult to find enough income to keep Tasmania’s public works going,” Ms Henderson said.
“He also came to believe that unproductive debt, when it didn’t bring in income, was a way downhill.”
University of Tasmania history lecturer Stefan Petrow said circumstances “aligned” for Mr Lyons. His conservative economic policy, Professor Petrow said, offered stability to the nation.
“He was seen by the electorate … as a very honest, upright, conservative, fatherly figure that united the nation.”
Weeks before Mr Lyons died of a heart attack in 1939, Sir Robert resigned from cabinet.
Ms Henderson speculated the Lyons family blamed Sir Robert for “hastening” the Prime Minister’s death by putting undue stress on him in his last days. In 1945, Sir Robert oversaw the transformation of the UAP into the Liberal Party.
Mr Lyons’ wife Enid, a formidable public figure in her own right, continued her late husband’s legacy when she won the federal seat of Darwin in 1943, becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives - and, later, the first woman appointed to the federal cabinet.
Mrs Lyons, who had a background in amateur theatre, was a natural public speaker.
“[S]he was fantastic at a microphone,” Ms Henderson said.
“When she spoke, she made pictures before we had movies.”
Mrs Lyons advocated for family values, emphasising the importance of marriage and the belief that women had a domestic duty to uphold. She died in 1981, aged 84. Home Hill, in Devonport, is the property where the Lyons family lived.