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James Desmond (Des) McNamara (1881–1950)

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McNamara, James Desmond (Des) (1881-1950) engineer and trade union official

Birth: 1881 at Sydney, New South Wales, son of James McNamara (1861-1905), blacksmith, born at Clare, Suffolk, England, and native-born Elizabeth Augusta, née Houghton (1855-1932). Marriage: 1904 at Forest Lodge, Sydney, to native-born Margaret Rose Hickey (1879-1957). They had one son who predeceased him. Death: 7 October 1950 at Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, usual residence Barden Street, Arncliffe, Sydney. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Served an apprenticeship in NSW Government Railway Workshops, Eveleigh, Sydney.
  • Joined Australasian Society of Engineers in 1904. Became a shop steward. Represented the society on the NSW Labor Council and on Metal Trades Groups.
  • President of the Trades Hall Association. Associated with the Eight-hour Day Committee and later Six-hour Day Committee.
  • Secretary of the Sydney branch of the Engineers’ Society from 1918, assistant secretary and organiser, NSW branch, under Oscar Bryant when branches amalgamated. Federal secretary of the union from about 1921 until 1943. Sometime State president.
  • Secretary of Arncliffe branch of the Australian Labor Party. Industrial advocate for union.
  • Retired in 1943.
  • Cause of death: uraemia and arteriosclerosis after a long illness.

Australian Society of Engineers
, December 1950, p 1; May 1972, p 13, September 1972 p 21; Labor Year Book, 1933, p 173, 1934-5, p 234; Labor Daily, 13 January 1927.

Additional Resources

  • short profile, Labor Daily (Sydney), 13 January 1927, p 6, column 4
  • photo, Labor Daily (Sydney), 7 February 1935, p 7
  • death notice, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 1950, p 4

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'McNamara, James Desmond (Des) (1881–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


7 October, 1950 (aged ~ 69)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

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 Organisations
Political Activism