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Maurice Joseph (Joe) Fagan (c. 1875–1938)

by Frank Cain

This article was published:

Maurice Joseph (Joe) Fagan, also known as Morris Fagin (c.1875-1938) gaoled wharf labourer, Socialist, painter

Birth: about 1875 at Mogilev, 160 kilometres from Smolensk, in Russia [now in Belarus], son of Michael Fagan, tradesman and Bessie née Molotneow. Marriage: 6 June 1923 in Registry Office, Sydney, to native-born Mary McLaughlin (188431945). Death: 12 July 1938 in hospital at North Sydney. Religion: buried with Catholic rites. 

  • Arrived in Australia in 1910. Worked as wharf labourer and glazier.
  • Leading member of Chicago local of Industrial Workers of the World in Sydney, establishing links with Sydney's Russian community; by 1913 was local's literature secretary.
  • One of the 'IWW Twelve' arrested on 22 September 1916 on charge of conspiracy to commit arson. On 2 December Judge Pring sentenced him to 15 years hard labour. After an inquiry by Judge Ewing Fagan was released on 3 August 1920.
  • Evaded deportation by marrying and settling in Sydney.
  • Though “crippled physically and financially”, worked for Labor cause in North Sydney in 1925 State elections; an appeal raised funds for his benefit.
  • Gave notice of his intent to apply for naturalisation in December 1930. Left his wife in 1932. Arrested in Brisbane, was charged with desertion and returned to his wife.
  • On platform with others of IWW twelve in October 1936.
  • Cause of death: empyaemia and lung abscess.

Frank Cain, The Wobblies at war; A history of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne, 1993); Workers' Weekly (Sydney), 22 July 1938.

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Citation details

Frank Cain, 'Fagan, Maurice Joseph (Joe) (c. 1875–1938)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Maurice Fagan, 1916

Maurice Fagan, 1916

Sydney Mail, 18 October 1916, p 7

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Fagin, Morris Joseph

c. 1875
Mogilev, Belarus


12 July, 1938 (aged ~ 63)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Places
Political Activism