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John Barkell Holman (1872–1925)

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John Holman, n.d.

John Holman, n.d.

John Barkell Holman (1872-1925) journalist, trade union leader and politician 

Birth: 26 February 1872 at Clunes, Victoria, son of Edward Holman (1841-1885), miner, a Cornishman, and Mary Ann, née Barkell, who had also been born in Cornwall, England. Marriage: 14 February 1893 in Broken Hill, New South Wales, to native-born Katherine Mary Row Bowden (1876-1935). They had six daughters and four sons. Death: 23 February 1925 in Subiaco, Western Australia. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Educated in Bendigo, Victoria. Started work in mining at an early age. Member of the Bendigo Miners’ Association 1886.
  • Moved to Broken Hill, NSW, in early 1890s. Became a prominent unionist in 1890s and appointed special officer for Defence Committee in Broken Hill strike of 1892 for five months duration.
  • Moved to WA, Nannine on Murchison goldfields, 1893, prospecting and becoming mine manager. Represented miners in first dispute at Murchison (Nannine) 1893. Secured reduction in working hours to 44 for men of Star of the East 1894. Chair of Defence Committee at big Day Dawn Strike against wage decrease 1896. First organiser on Murchison for Amalgamated Workers’ Association (AWA of WA), 1899, and journalist.
  • Responsible for launching, and undertook complete business management of The Labour Vanguard, official organ of Labor Party in WA. Founder and chairman of directors of People’s Printing and Publishing Co., which later took over the Westralian Worker. Secretary of Amalgamated Workers Association Murchison District, Cue branch, to 1901. Successfully represented workers in Abbott’s Dispute Strike against wage decrease. General President AWA of WA in 1902, retired from post for appointment to Ministry; Federal President to 1925;
  • Labor member of the Legislative Assembly for North Murchison from 10 December 1901 to 1904. MLA for Murchison from 1904 to 1921 (lost preselection to W. M. Marshall – accepted decision without question). MLA for Forrest from 1923 (by-election) to 23 February 1925.
  • Minister for Railways and for Labour 1904-1905. Chairman of committees 1911-1917. Secretary and whip for parliamentary Labor Party. Contested Mt. Magnet 1901, Swan 1921, Fremantle (Federal House of Representatives) 1922.
  • Chairman of Timber Workers’ Defence Committee in 14-week dispute 1907. Secretary, Federal Timber Workers’ Union (TWU), from 1908 to 1925 and organiser; expanded membership to 3000. Elected life member, TWU of WA, in 1908.
  • Worked towards avoiding strikes, but also led strikes. Workers’ advocate before State Arbitration Court for many unions, including AWA WA, other branches of AWA, Murchison Miners’ and Timber Workers’ Union and TWU WA branch; Represented TWU WA branch before Federal Arbitration Court, 1909. Represented entire union in big arbitration case of 1919 for TWU, WA branch.
  • Keen athlete early in life. Leading founder of Volunteer Fire Brigade movement in WA. Foremost member of Cue Brigade when it was the football State Champion. Life member of WA Fire Brigade Association and president.
  • His eldest daughter, May, had acted for many years as her father’s secretary and assistant. She was MLA for Forrest from 1925 to 1939. His son Edward Joseph Frederick Holman (1904-1951) became member for Forrest after May’s death and served from 1939 to 1947.

Westralian Worker
27 February1925 p 4; Australian Worker (Sydney), 11 July 1923 p 1, 25 February 1925 p 1; Labor Call (Sydney), 26 February 1925; D. J. Murphy (ed), Labor in Politics: State Labor Parties in Australia, 1880-1920 (St Lucia, Qld, 1975); G. C. Bolton and Ann Mozley, The Western Australian Legislature (Canberra, 1961); Members of Parliament biographies - WA 24 Feb. 1925; F. Bateson, Murchison 1894, Journal of the Historical Society of Western Australia (December 1946); Battye I 344-45 (port.), Carter.

Additional Resources

  • tribute, Daily News (Perth), 24 February 1925, p 8
  • funeral, Westralian Worker, 6 March 1925, p 5

Citation details

'Holman, John Barkell (1872–1925)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

John Holman, n.d.

John Holman, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


26 February, 1872
Clunes, Victoria, Australia


23 February, 1925 (aged 52)
Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

surgical complications

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