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John Francis (Jack) O'Reilly (1888–1942)

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John Francis (Jack) O'Reilly, (1888-1942) hairdresser, trade union official and politician 

Birth: 19 August 1888 at Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, son of John O’Reilly also known as Reilly (1865-1935), coach painter and later dancing teacher, born in Cavan, Ireland, and native-born Winifred, née Ward (1869-1937), domestic servant. Marriage: 1911 at Sydney, to native-born Mary Elizabeth Butel (1887-1979). They had two sons and two daughters. Death: 11 March 1942 in hospital at North Sydney; usual residence Sutherland shire. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Apprenticed hairdresser in youth. Became hairdresser and joined Hairdressers' Employees Union 1906. Vice-president in 1910, president in 1911, assistant secretary 1912-1921 and secretary from 1921 until his death.
  • Agitated for a decent hours and wage standards in the industry. Helped to establish hairdressing classes at Sydney Technical College.
  • Union delegate on Trades and Labor Council for many years. Organiser TLC from 1910 to 1914. President of the Trades Hall Association from 1924 to 1925.
  • Organiser of the Labor Club from 1910 to 1914. Moved first no-conscription resolution at the Labor Club in 1916.
  • Member of the Ballot Box Enquiry Committee. Director of Labor Daily. Member of the central executive of the Australian Labor Party from 1923 to 1927. Delegate to ALP Federal Conference 1924. Member of the ALP Federal Executive.
  • ALP candidate in Sydney city council election in 1917. Appointed a member of the NSW Legislative Council on 24 November 1931. November Left parliament on 22 April 1934 (having been narrowly defeated in elections for the reconstituted council in December 1933). Contested Legislative Council election in 1939.
  • Member, Eight-Hour Day Committee from 1910, president in 1922, trustee from 1923 to 1932 at Organiser, Eight-Hour Committee 1931-32. Secretary of the Union Secretaries Association 1926.
  • Amateur boxer and, like his father, a proficient dancer. Member South Sydney Harriers Club and won many trophies for walking and running. Also played football.
  • Long illness before death from carcinoma of stomach.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Shop Assistant, April 1942 Vol. 20 No. 18 p 9; Hairdressers' and Beauty Culture Trade Journal, 20 March 1942 pp 10-11; Labor Year Book, 1933, p 173, 1934-5 p 234; Labor Daily, 13 January 1927.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'O'Reilly, John Francis (Jack) (1888–1942)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Jack O'Reilly, 1931

Jack O'Reilly, 1931

Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 1931, p 12

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Reilly , John Francis

19 August, 1888
Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


11 March, 1942 (aged 53)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (stomach)

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