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Heathcote, John Thomas (1871–1943)

by Chris Cunneen

John Heathcote, 1891

John Heathcote, 1891

Queensland State Archives, ITM341532, DR17771

John Thomas Heathcote (1873-1943?) labourer and gaoled trade unionist

Birth: 11 October 1871 in Castle district, Nottingham, England, son of Edward Heathcote, gypsum miner, and Sarah Ann, née Gun. Unmarried. Death: 3 January 1943 in Peak Downs hospital at Clermont, Queensland. Religion: Salvation Army. 

  • Stated in his reminiscences that he was a ploughboy in the village of Gotham [Nottinghamshire].
  • Arrived in Queensland as assisted immigrant in the Quetta on 28 May 1888. ‘Worked on the sheep stations for a while for £1 per week. Became a member of the Queensland Labor Union.
  • Joined the Capella camp during the shearers’ strike of 1891 was arrested and charged with involvement in confrontation with strike-breakers in the vicinity of Peak Downs, Queensland, on 19 March.
  • Tried at Rockhampton on 20 May for rioting at Peak Downs, and sentenced by judge George Harding to three years in prison with hard labour and ordered to find sureties for 12 months good behaviour on release.
  • Prison records indicate he could read and write, was a native of England aged 18, of medium build, 5 feet 9 ½ inches (177 cm) in height, with a fresh complexion, fair hair and grey eyes.
  • Obtained early release under the First Offenders Probation Act on 11 June 1892 having expressed regret for his actions and entered into recognisances to the amount of £100 for future good behaviour. Was criticised for “crawling’ but he had consulted his fellow prisoners and received their consent to his request for mercy on the grounds of his youth and inexperience. He received £18 15s. from the Union Prisoners Assistance Fund.
  • On release he went shearing in New South Wales, was accused of co-operating with John Whiteley King, secretary of the Pastoralists Association. In later years he attempted to recover his reputation, but was unfairly labelled a “traitor” by W. G. Spence in his history of the Australian Workers’ Union.
  • Returned to England for a time, then came back to Australia. In June 1927 he was back in Queensland, camped at Sandy Creek, near Clermont.
  • he was a mining prospector in Emerald and Clermont in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Sources
Queensland State Archives, DR 59901/301: Stuart Svensen, The shearers’ war; the story of the 1891 Shearer’s Strike (Brisbane, 1989).

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Heathcote, John Thomas (1871–1943)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/heathcote-john-thomas-32349/text40094, accessed 4 July 2022.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

John Heathcote, 1891

John Heathcote, 1891

Queensland State Archives, ITM341532, DR17771