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John Charles (Jack) Meehan (1865–1930)

This article was published:

Jack Meehan, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Jack Meehan, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Labor Call (Melbourne), 11 September 1924, p 8

John Charles (Jack) Meehan (1865-1930) shearer, gaoled trade union officer, politician

Birth: 6 February 1865 at Ballyconnell, Cavan, son of John Meehan, sub-constable, later custom officer, and Mary, née McAdam. Marriage: 21 July 1890 at St Mary’s Church, Hughenden, Queensland, to native-born Clara Mary Theresa O'Reilly. They had one son. Death: 16 February 1930 at Woollahra, New South Wales. Religion: Catholic then Anglican. 

  • Family moved to Everton, Liverpool, England, where Jack was an omnibus conductor, aged 16, in 1881.
  • Arrived Queensland mid 1880s. Worked as a woodcutter at Charters Towers and battery hand and shearer in western districts.
  • Participated in formation of Queensland Shearers' Union (QSU) and Queensland Labourers' Union (QLU) late 1880s. Represented QSU & QLU at inter-colonial conferences in Adelaide in 1891.
  • Prominent in shearers’ strike in Queensland in 1891 when he was in charge of one of the biggest camps of shearers and organising food supplies. Delegate to inaugural conference of Amalgamated Workers' Union (Queensland).
  • Again active in the 1894 shearers’ strike, Meehan was sentenced at Adavale Police Court on 12 September 1894 to three months hard labour at Roma gaol, for intimidation of strike-breakers at Eurongella woolshed, which was burned down on 13 August. In gaol received funds from collections made on his behalf.
  • Was appointed delegate to annual Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) convention in Albury, New South Wales, in March 1895, supporting amalgamation. Moved to NSW soon after, working at shearing, mining and droving. Was AWU agent at Wilcannia in 1899 and secretary of the Bourke branch of the AWU in 1900-04. His wife appears to have remained in Queensland.
  • Elected Labor member of the Legislative Assembly, NSW, for Darling in August 1904. Held the seat until it was abolished in November 1913.
  • Assistant Secretary of Ballarat Australian Workers Union (AWU) and vice-president and secretary of the Victoria-Riverina branch.
  • Assistant-secretary of AWU’s head office in Sydney in 1927-30.
  • Cause of death nephritis and uraemia. [Place of birth Scarriff, Ireland, on death certificate: informant on death certificate no relation. Place of birth Liverpool, England on his marriage certificate: if he moved there as an infant he might not have known he’d been born in Ireland.]

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); John Merritt, The Making of the AWU (Melbourne, 1986); Stuart Svensen, The Shearers' War: the story of the 1891 shearers' strike (Brisbane, 1989); Australian Worker, 11 July 1923, p 1, 11 February 1925, p 1.

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Citation details

'Meehan, John Charles (Jack) (1865–1930)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Jack Meehan, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Jack Meehan, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Labor Call (Melbourne), 11 September 1924, p 8

Life Summary [details]


6 February, 1865
Ballyconnell, Cavan, Ireland


16 February, 1930 (aged 65)
Woollahra, 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.

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