Joseph Cahill

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For the IRA Volunteer, see Joe Cahill.
The Honourable
Joe Cahill
Joe Cahill in 1956
Joe Cahill in 1956
29th Premier of New South Wales
Elections: 1953, 1956, 1959
In office
2 April 1952 – 22 October 1959
Deputy Bob Heffron
Preceded by James McGirr
Succeeded by Bob Heffron
Constituency Cook's River
Personal details
Born John Joseph Cahill
(1891-01-21)21 January 1891
Redfern, New South Wales
Died 22 October 1959(1959-10-22) (aged 68)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Resting place Rookwood Cemetery
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Esmey Mary Kelly
Children Tom Cahill

John Joseph Cahill (21 January 1891 – 22 October 1959) was Premier of New South Wales from 1952 to 1959. He is best remembered as the Premier who approved construction on the Sydney Opera House, and for his work increasing the authority of local government in the state.

Early years[edit]

Joe Cahill, as he was popularly known, was born in the inner-Sydney suburb of Redfern, and was educated at St Brigid's convent school, Marrickville and the Patrician Brothers' College, both close to central Sydney. He became an apprentice at the Eveleigh workshops of the contemporary equivalent of NSW RailCorp in 1916.

Politically active even at the age of fifteen, he was even more politically active during his twenties. He opposed Conscription in 1916, and lost his railway job in 1917 after taking part in a workers' strike. After that, he had difficulty finding permanent employment, working in many temporary jobs (including selling insurance for a year) when working at all. During the early 1920s, though, his prospects improved; and in 1922, he married Esmey Mary Kelly.[1]

The first attempt Cahill made to enter New South Wales's parliament, in 1917, failed. He ran on an Australian Labor Party ticket for the Legislative Assembly seat of Dulwich Hill that year, but was defeated. Eight years later, he won another Sydney constituency, St George. He was never among the close allies of ALP Premier (and fellow-Catholic) Jack Lang, and his progress in the ALP was delayed by false rumours that in 1927 he had been bribed to help bring down the Lang government,[citation needed] repeated by Lang's Labor daily. With the abolition of St George in 1930, Cahill ran for Arncliffe and was appointed party whip.[2] He failed to be re-elected in 1932 in the anti-Lang landslide.

This defeat, nevertheless, proved to be only a temporary setback. In 1935, Cahill returned to Parliament, again as Member for Arncliffe. He remained in Parliament for the rest of his life, although when Arncliffe was abolished in 1941, he switched to the new electorate of Cook's River. Also in 1941, he was appointed Secretary for Public Works. In 1944 he became Minister for Local Government, a position he would hold for eight years; he used this position to augment local governments' powers. He established the State Dockyard at Newcastle and the State Brickworks at Homebush Bay. In addition, he supervised the establishment of the Electricity Authority, which brought electricity to much of rural New South Wales, and the Cumberland County Council plan. In 1949, James McGirr appointed him as Deputy Premier.[1]

Premier[edit]

Cahill succeeded McGirr as New South Wales Premier in 1952, and held the position until his death in office. He won the state elections of 1953, 1956, and 1959. It was in November 1954 that he first began to champion the idea of an opera house in Sydney, though the building was not completed and opened to the public until 1973. (A plaque within the building commemorates his activism in this regard.)

His political skills, his determination to avoid another Jack Lang-style split in the party, and (in particular) his government's close alliance with Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Norman Gilroy, ensured that Labor in New South Wales avoided the devastating divisions which forced the party out of office in Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland during the 1950s split. No earlier premier of New South Wales had remained in office as long as Cahill did, and none would manage to surpass the length of Cahill's tenure until Sir Robert Askin in the 1970s.

Cahill, a heavy smoker, suffered increasingly poor health during 1959. He died at Sydney Hospital of a myocardial infarction in October of that year, and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. His wife, two daughters, and three sons survived him. One of his sons, Thomas James Cahill, was similarly a Member of the Legislative Assembly.[1]

Honours[edit]

Cahill received an honorary LL.D from the University of Sydney in 1952, a D.Litt from the University of New England in 1956, and a D.Sc from the New South Wales University of Technology in 1956.[1] The new public high school in his former seat decided to honour his memory by naming themselves in 1961 as the "JJ Cahill Memorial High School".

In 2009 Cahill became the subject of a biography, They Called Him Old Smoothie: John Joseph Cahill, by Peter Golding (Australian Scholarly Publishing, Kew, Victoria, 2009).

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
William Bagnall
Member for St George
1925 – 1930
With: Arkins, Cann, Gosling, Ley
District abolished
New district Member for Arncliffe
1930 – 1932
Succeeded by
Horace Harper
Preceded by
Horace Harper
Member for Arncliffe
1935 – 1941
District abolished
New district Member for Cook's River
1941 – 1959
Succeeded by
Tom Cahill
Political offices
Preceded by
Lewis Martin
Secretary of Public Works
1941 – 1952
Succeeded by
Jack Renshaw
Preceded by
James McGirr
as Minister for Local Government and Housing
Minister for Local Government
1944 – 1952
Preceded by
Jack Baddeley
Deputy Premier of New South Wales
1949 – 1952
Succeeded by
Robert Heffron
Preceded by
James McGirr
Premier of New South Wales
1952 – 1959
Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales
1952 – 1959
Succeeded by
Himself
as Treasurer
Preceded by
William Sheahan
Minister for Transport
1953
Succeeded by
Clarrie Martin
Preceded by
Himself
Treasurer of New South Wales
1959
Succeeded by
Robert Heffron
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jack Baddeley
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
1949 – 1952
Succeeded by
Robert Heffron
Preceded by
James McGirr
Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales
1952 – 1959