James McGirr

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The Honourable
James McGirr
JP
James McGirr 1947.jpg
28th Premier of New South Wales
Elections: 1947, 1950
In office
6 February 1947 – 2 April 1952
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Governor Sir John Northcott
Deputy Jack Baddeley
Joseph Cahill
Preceded by William McKell
Succeeded by Joseph Cahill
Personal details
Born 6 February 1890
Parkes, Colony of New South Wales
Died 27 October 1957
Homebush, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Valerie Cecilia Armstrong
Religion Roman Catholic

James (Jim) McGirr (6 February 1890 – 27 October 1957) was the Labor Premier of New South Wales from 6 February 1947 to 3 April 1952.

A Catholic, McGirr was the seventh son of John Patrick McGirr, farmer and Irish immigrant, and Mary McGirr, whose maiden name was O'Sullivan. Born in Parkes, New South Wales, he grew up on a dairy farm near that town. Educated mostly at St Stanislaus' College, Bathurst, he was later apprenticed to his brother John Joseph Gregory ("Greg"), a pharmacist at Parkes. He soon forfeited his apprenticeship to work in stockyards for a while, but had to give up that work when he was thrown from a horse and seriously injured.

Subsequently he resumed his apprenticeship and attended the University of Sydney; he was registered as a pharmacist in 1913. Employed by Washington H. Soul Pattinson in Pitt Street, he later opened a pharmacy in Parkes, specialising in veterinarians' prescriptions. Later still, he operated pharmacies in partnership with his brother in Marrickville and Kings Cross.[1][2]

Parliamentary career[edit]

McGirr followed his brothers Greg and Patrick into Labor politics and joined the Parkes branch of the party in 1906. In 1922, Greg vacated his seat as a member of the Legislative Assembly for Cootamundra and stood successfully for a Sydney electorate. He managed to get Jim endorsement on the party ticket for Cootamundra and he was duly elected. Due to local party opposition in 1925, he was obliged to find another seat in 1925; and he successfully contested Cumberland in western Sydney.[2] In 1927, proportional representation was abandoned and Cumberland was abolished. He then stood for Bankstown, which he held until 1950. From 1950 to 1952 he was the member for another western Sydney constituency, namely, Liverpool.

When the Lang Government came to power, McGirr became Minister for Health from November 1930 to June 1931. He was Minister for Local Government from June 1931 to May 1932 and became Minister for Transport in March 1932.[1] On 13 May 1932, the Governor Sir Philip Game dismissed Lang and installed Bertram Stevens as Premier. The United Australia Party (UAP) won the subsequent election.

In October 1932 McGirr married Valerie Cecilia Armstrong.[1] Lang continued to lead the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party, which had effectively seceded from the Federal Labor Party, when Lang's supporters sided with the UAP to bring down the Scullin Labor Government in November 1931. McGirr continued to be a loyal supporter of Lang throughout the 1930s, even though Lang Labor did not win any elections. When Lang left the party to found the Australian Labor Party (Non-Communist) in April 1940, McGirr and six other parliamentarians followed him. However, they returned to the Labor Party before the May 1941 election that brought William McKell's government to power.[2]

McGirr became Minister for Local Government and Housing in the new Government, the only one of the ex-Langite faction appointed to Cabinet. He failed to make significant progress on local government amalgamation; but he did establish the Housing Commission of New South Wales, which became an important state body dealing with the post-World War II and post-Depression housing shortage. As a result he was given sole responsibility for housing in 1944.[2]

Premiership[edit]

In 1947, Prime Minister Ben Chifley named McKell as Governor-General of Australia, initiating a struggle between, on one side, Robert Heffron (supported by the Party Executive, McKell, many urban members, and many radical members) and, on the other side, McGirr (supported mainly by ex-Langite, rural and Catholic members). Eventually McGirr won by just two votes.[2]

Decent, humane and well-liked, he was nevertheless a great procrastinator, and delayed many proposals. Labor won the 1947 state election, but McGirr proved unable to increase significantly the representation of his supporters in the Cabinet as a whole.[3]

An ambitious public works program, which McGirr had promised in the 1947 campaign, was disrupted by post-war shortages and strikes. He also publicly threatened to resign because the party organisation had disendorsed four members of the Legislative Assembly for failing to follow the party's dictates in a vote for the Upper House,.[4] Subsequently, though, he withdrew his resignation threat, leaving him looking weak.

The 1950 election produced a substantial anti-Labor swing. It left Labor dependent on the votes of two of the disendorsed members, who had won as independents. Consequently, McGirr had to deal with the independents as well as a cabinet and parliamentary party full of factional opponents. On 2 April 1952, he resigned from the Premiership; Joseph Cahill succeeded him. He afterwards took up a controversial appointment as Chairman of the Maritime Services Board.[2][5]

McGirr died of a coronary occlusion at Homebush, inner-western Sydney, survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

His niece Trixie Gardner became a Conservative politician in the United Kingdom and is the only Australian woman made a life peeress of the UK parliament, as Baroness Gardner of Parkes.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Mr James McGirr (1890 - 1957)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Clune, David. "McGirr, James (Jim) (1890 - 1957)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  3. ^ In the Labor Party the collective membership of the ministry is chosen by a ballot of the parliamentary party after an election.
  4. ^ At the time, a third of the Legislative Council was elected by the Assembly after each election.
  5. ^ A state-owned enterprise then responsible for port services.
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Greg McGirr
Member for Cootamundra
1922 – 1925
With: Loughlin, Main
Succeeded by
Kenneth Hoad
Preceded by
Voltaire Molesworth
Member for Cumberland
1925 – 1927
With: FitzSimons/Shand, Walker
District abolished
New district Member for Bankstown
1927 – 1950
Succeeded by
Spence Powell
New district Member for Liverpool
1950 – 1952
Succeeded by
Jack Mannix
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Arthur
Minister for Health
1930 – 1931
Succeeded by
William Ely
Preceded by
William McKell
Minister for Local Government
1931 – 1932
Succeeded by
Michael Bruxner
New title Minister for Transport
1932
Succeeded by
Michael Bruxner
Preceded by
William McKell
as Minister for Local Government
Minister for Local Government and Housing
1941 – 1944
Succeeded by
Joseph Cahill
as Minister for Local Government
Succeeded by
Himself
as Minister for Housing
Preceded by
Himself
Minister for Housing
1944 – 1947
Succeeded by
Clive Evatt
Preceded by
William McKell
Premier of New South Wales
1947 – 1952
Succeeded by
Joseph Cahill
Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales
1947 – 1952
Preceded by
Eddie Graham
Minister for Agriculture
1947
Succeeded by
Eddie Graham
Preceded by
Jack Baddeley
Minister for National Emergency Services
1949
Office abolished
Secretary for Mines
1949
Succeeded by
William Dickson
Party political offices
Preceded by
William McKell
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
1947 – 1952
Succeeded by
Joseph Cahill