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John Joseph Ware (1858–1921)

by Chris Cunneen

John Joseph Ware (1858-1921) trade union official and South African politician

Born in Sydney in 1858, son of Charles and Mary Ware. Married Irish-born Margaret Mary Brennan at Newtown in 1883, they had six sons and two daughters between 1884 and 1898.

  • From about 1885 lived at 179 Rose Street, Darlington, Sydney.[1] That year he became president of the Operative Stonemasons’ Society, one of the colony’s stongest trade unions. In the following years he held many positions, including vice-president, secretary and tyler.
  • Left for South Africa, probably in early 1898.[2] His wife and children remained in Australia. His wife continued to live in Rose Street, Darlington.  Their 12-year old son, Charles, died in 1908.[3]
  • In Transvaal he joined South African Operative Masons’s society.
  • Became president of the Witwatersrand Trades and Labour Council, won on a seat on Johannesburg Town Council in 1906, served as deputy mayor. Previously a member of the Transvaal Political and Labour League, he became one of the founding members of the South African Labour Party in 1910. He won a seat on the Transvaal Provincial Council that year and was appointed to the Senate of South Africa in 1915, which he held until 1921.[4] According to the Australian Worker he was known in Transvaal as “Honest John Ware”.[5] But historians now observe that he, and other Australian trade unionists who migrated at the same time, brought with them to South Africa “White Australia” values, proposing a franchise “which excluded blacks” and “legislation to prevent the introduction of “Asiatic” labour in the mines.[6]
  • Kept in touch with ALP members in Australia and returned there in October and November 1917.
  • Died on 28 June 1921 at Johannesburg.[7]

 [1] Sands Sydney Directories 1886, 1890,

[2] He was replaced as secretary of the Sydney Stonemasons’ society in January 1898.

[3] SMH 17 March 1908, p.6.

[4] See entry in Wikipedia.

[5] Australian Worker (Syd) 18 March 1915, p.5

[6] Jonathan Hyslop, ‘The Imperial working class makes itself ‘white”, in Stephen Howe (ed), The New Imperial Histories Reader (Routledge, London, 2010, published as ebook 25 July 2020).

[7] SMH, 4 July 1921, p,8

Original Publication

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Ware, John Joseph (1858–1921)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012