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James Owen (Jamie) Moroney (1867–1926)

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James Owen ('Jamie') Moroney (1867-1926) tobacco worker, trade union leader, Socialist activist 

Birth: 24 September 1867 at Campbelltown, New South Wales, son of John Moroney, labourer, later carrier, and Catherine, née Lacey formerly O’Donnell; both parents had been born in Limerick, Ireland. Unmarried. Death: 29 September 1926 at Lewisham Hospital, Petersham, Sydney, New South Wales. Religion: Catholic

  • Secretary Tobacco Workers' Union in early 1890s. Led union's successful bid to affiliate with Sydney Labour Council against opposition from craft-based Tobacco Twisters' Union. Union's delegate to Sydney Labor Council throughout 1890s. Widely respected union activist. Advocated union coverage for all workers, irrespective of skill, age or gender.
  • Joined Australian Socialist League in early 1890s, active in West Sydney Labor Electoral League (LEL) in early 1890s. Secretary, Denison Branch LEL in 1893-94, supporting Andrew Thomson and other 'solidarity-ists'. Member Political Labor League executive, 1895-97.
  • Resigned from Labor Party, along with fellow ASL activist Charles Barlow and others in 1898, claiming that Labor had 'degenerated into a mere vote-catching machine'. With Thomson and Charles Barlow co-produced ASL's monthly paper, the Collectivist/People from 1897. Opposed proposed reunification between ASL and International Socialist Club because of latter's anti-racist stance. Instrumental in ASL's reformation as Socialist Labor Party (SLP) advocating De Leonite ideas in early 1900s.
  • Opposed industrial arbitration, resigning secretaryship of Tobacco Workers when union registered under Arbitration Act.
  • With E. Holland involved in organising campaign for Tailoresses Union 1901; elected union vice-president. Resigned as delegate to Sydney Labour Council in January 1902 after council’s failure to support Tailoresses’ strike.
  • With Tom Batho and H. Drake constituted Press Committee of the People from 1902, undertaking some of the writing. Succeeded Barlow as SLP General Secretary 1902, retaining position until c.1919.
  • Continued to work as tobacco worker throughout 1900s, remained an active union official, and gave some time to the Blind Workers’ Union.
  • Stood as ASL/SLP candidate in Senate elections for NSW in 1901, 1903, 1906, 1910, 1913 and also contested NSW State elections for ASL/SLP in 1901 and 1904. Undertook propaganda work for SLP in Sydney Domain, Marx Hall, Newcastle and elsewhere.
  • SLP delegate to socialist unity conference in 1907, opposing SLP's incorporation into the resulting Socialist Federation of Australia (SFA).
  • Active in formation of the first Industrial Workers of the World club in Sydney in 1907. Represented SLP at abortive 1913-14 unity meetings with SFA's successor, the Australasian Socialist Party (ASP). With E. E. Judd referred unity issue to SLP General Executive in order to outmanoeuvre fellow delegates supporting amalgamation, leading to resignation of Jessie Lorimer, Fred Sinclair, and others from SLP. Resigned from SLP in 1922 when Party, at Judd’s instigation, prohibited officials from engaging in trade union activity.
  • Like Batho, devoted virtually whole of adult life to the ASL/SLP.
  • Died of duodenal ulcer and chronic interstitial myocarditis.

Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, (Sydney, 1985; R. Sharpe MA thesis, 2003); The People, 18 Jan. 1913; Revolutionary Socialist?, Dec. 1926?

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Citation details

'Moroney, James Owen (Jamie) (1867–1926)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


24 September, 1867
Campbelltown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


29 September, 1926 (aged 59)
Petersham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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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Political Activism