The Goggin Family: Their Labour Movement Ties

John Dean

Members of the Goggin family were active supporters of political and industrial labour causes in regional NSW, Western Australia and later the ACT for many years. Even when managing hotels and mines, their sympathies remained with the workers, for which they were widely admired, and they were acquainted with some of the leading labour movement figures of the day. This article focuses on Mary Ann Goggin and her son Jack.

Jack Goggin

John Thomas (Jack) Goggin was born at Burketown, Araluen, NSW, on 12th October 1866, the second of four sons and six daughters born to radical Irish parents Daniel & Mary Ann Goggin. At Araluen on 8 December 1869, Daniel, a gold miner, was embroiled in an election fracas that resulted in him appearing on summons with two other men in Braidwood on charge of riotously assembling for the purpose of breaking the peace associated with the election of Michael Kelly, a local Irish shopkeeper, to Parliament. Several witnesses claimed to have been obstructed from voting by parties armed with sticks and other weapons, but none of them identified the defendants.1

In 1874 the Goggin family moved to a railway construction camp at Manton’s Creek, near Yass, where Daniel was employed as a navvy and Mary Ann conducted a boarding house for railway workers.  For the next fifteen years the family followed the expansion of the railway to many places in NSW including Bethungra, Tamworth, Lue, Bungendore, Queanbeyan and Bredbo near Cooma. Along the way Mary Ann continued her occupation; Daniel and their sons worked as navvies,2 and Jack developed a reputation for his boxing skill.3

The Goggin family arrived in Captain’s Flat in 1889, and for a short time Jack held the licence of the Captain’s Flat Hotel before it was transferred to his mother, the owner.  Reflecting the attitude of the time the Licensing Inspector did not oppose the transfer, but he drew attention to the Licensing Act which referred to married women as persons under legal disabilities.4 Ironically, it was not until 1954 that unmarried women were allowed to hold a publican’s licence, when Mary Ann’s granddaughter Dorothy Hartigan was issued a licence for the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Erskineville.5

In 1890 there was a downturn in mining in Captain’s Flat. Jack Goggin went to Mt. Zeehan in Tasmania, where he worked as a miner and boxed local opponents.6  From 1 November 1892 to 1 June 1893 he was the manager of the ‘Great Western Mine’ at Peak Hill, NSW, employing twenty-seven underground miners.7

In 1894, Jack, now married with two children, went with his brother-in-law Denis Hartigan and family to West Wyalong, where Denis established the Imperial Hotel.8  Over the next decade the Imperial Hotel was to feature as the rallying point for much political and industrial action.

Meanwhile in Captain’ Flat, after years in the doldrums, signs were appearing that a mining boom was to occur. The Captain’s Hotel could accommodate 75 boarders, and among the many and diverse visitors were future NSW governor Lord Carrington, and Mary MacKillop, who stayed at the hotel in 1899 in connection with establishing a convent school.9

The espirit de corps that resulted from the Goggin family’s involvement in civic and community life in Captain’s Flat was a fillip for their businesses. Adjacent to the hotel the family owned a building named Goggin’s Hall, a place for entertainment and public discourse to which mine workers, along with others, would go to shindy at dances and balls. The names of the entertainers, in turn, can be found in the hotel’s visitor’s book.

The Hall was also a venue for discussion and debate in the 1890s, with Australia’s march toward federation and the growing influence of trade unions and the Labor Party. Perhaps the most famous debate there was between long serving Member for Queanbeyan Edward William O’Sullivan, whose views were sympathetic to labour, and Billy Hughes, on 8 February 1898. The meeting concluded with three cheers for the Labor Party.10

Although an avid Labor supporter, Mary Ann Goggin had a congenial relationship with various local politicians, including protectionist-aligned Austin Chapman as well as E. W. O’Sullivan, who had strong labour sympathies. Both men were regular guests at her hotel and O’Sullivan was co-patron with her of various sporting and recreation clubs.  O’Sullivan served as Secretary of Public works in (Sir) William Lyne’s Ministry. He established a minimum wage on government work and increased the use of day labour instead of contractors – reforms welcomed by unions and the Labor Party. On 9 November 1900, a muster of delegates from trade unions presided over by union official and Labor Party activist J. M. Toomey took place at the Trades Hall, Sydney, in recognition of his sterling efforts. Among the supporting letters from country areas was one from Mr. John Goggin, West Wyalong.11

Mary Ann Goggin was honoured by starting the press for the first edition of the Captain’s Flat Mining Record. In March 1898 she announced her retirement, and management of the Hotel passed to her daughter Maggie and son-in-law Arthur Cooper. At the time, Captain’s Flat was at the zenith of an economic cycle and its immediate future seemed secure. The good times didn’t last, however, and within two years the local mines became unproductive and were closed.

Mary Ann became a widow in 1908 and spent her retirement with her daughter Kate and son-in-law William Pitt Hammond at the Post office Hotel, Cobargo. Hammond had a privileged upbringing in Tasmania, but his political views were likely influenced by the Goggin family. At Captain’s Flat he was involved in civic affairs and in 1898 he was appointed the Mining Registrar officer and Warden clerk. He spoke in favour of Federation, and in 1899 at Moruya it was reported that his elucidation of the Commonwealth Bill was much appreciated, and influenced many Moruyaities to support it.12He initiated the founding, and was President (1903-1921), of the Cobargo Political Labor League (PLL), 13and was the first president of the ALP Eden-Monaro Federal Electorate Council (FEC).14 In Canberra he was a foundation member of the ALP and a vice-president. He became an official of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) branch of the Australian Workers’ Union and in 1930 he was second on the ALP ticket for election to ACT Advisory Council, but was not elected.15 His son Patrick Hammond was one of nine Goggin grandsons that served in the Great War. He became an official of the ACT branch of the Australian Workers’ Union and a founding member of the ACT Trades and Labour Council in 1931. He was the Council’s assistant secretary (1939-56) and compensation officer (1946-56); during the Second World War he acted as Secretary in the absence of S.J. Blumenthal.16

Mary Ann Goggin died in 1918 and the following obituaries appeared in the Queanbeyan Age:

Mrs Goggin a very old and beloved identity of the southern districts, died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs W.P. Hammond of Cobargo last Wednesday aged 83. Deceased had had a varied experience on the goldfields, in the early 17days, and for some time kept a hotel at Captain’s Flat.

The late Mrs Goggin, affectionately known as “Mother” to many weary wayfarers, was a true Christian, broad –minded, and generous in thought and deed. She will be missed by many as she was one of the best.18
The above obituaries were almost certainly penned by John Gale, the proprietor of the Queanbeyan Age. Gale was also the proprietor of the Captain’s Flat Mining Record, and had known the Goggin family at Araluen.

In the NSW election held on 24 July 1895, William Holman was the endorsed Labor candidate for the seat of Grenfell, but the Labor vote was split when the former Labor man R.M. Vaughn contested as a Protectionist.   Consequently the seat was won by G.H. Greene, a farmer and Free trader.

At the 1898 election Labor again decided to support Holman.   On 16 January 1898, the Wyalong PLL approved his endorsement and formed a committee to support his election with Jack Goggin as its chairman.

At a subsequent meeting of the PLL on 13 February, it was agreed to support the idea of establishing a branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association (A.M.A) by inviting two politicians, Alf Edden and Richard Sleath, to Wyalong. 19sup>   On 26 March, Richard Sleath, William Ferguson and Chris Watson addressed a meeting of miners, following which a branch of the Association was formed with officials being:  President, Jack Goggin; Secretary, Fred Hancox; Treasurer, Denis Hartigan.20

The decision to establish a branch of the AMA was given urgency when a worker, J. Stanford, lost his life at Wyalong in a mining accident in February.  Jack Goggin, who was then the manager of the Perseverance mine when the Branch was created,21was elected chairman of a committee to raise money for Stanford’s widow and children.22

On 28 March Chris Watson and Richard Sleath addressed a public meeting from the veranda of Hartigan’s hotel. They spoke in support of Labor candidate William Holman, who was being opposed in the forthcoming Sta23te Election by Andy Kelly, a local publican and one of the original 1891 Labor members of Parliament.  Kelly was a formidable opponent who had resigned from the Labor party over the 1892 strike at Broken Hill, but in the election held on 27 July, Holman won and did best on Kelly’s turf, West Wyalong, where Jack Goggin and his campaign team were most influential.  243 August, Holman attended a public meeting at West Wyalong and was introduced to supporters by Jack Goggin. In December 1900 Holman invited Jack and Fred Hancox to participate in the Commonwealth Federation parade in Sydney on 1st January 1901,in which they rode on trolleys dressed in orthodox mining togs.25

In 1901 Holman stood for re-election to the State seat of Grenfell, once again assisted by Jack Goggin, who was in charge of overseeing local campaign strategy.26  In the election Holman was returned by a mere 86 vote majority, against determined conservative opposition.    Overall he did best at West Wyalong, where he beat his opponent by 100 votes.  Some historians have declared that if Holman had lost this election he may have departed politics forever. Holman never forgot the support he got from Jack Goggin, and he remained friends with the Goggin family.  When he was Premier of NSW, he and his wife are known to have visited Jack’s sister Kate and her husband William Pitt Hammond at the Post Office Hotel, Cobargo, which they owned from 1901 to 1921.27

Chris Watson was a frequent visitor to West Wyalong. When he switched from state to federal Parliament in 1901, his electorate encompassed the district of Wyalong, evoking the support of the Wyalong PLL. On 26 April 1904, shortly after Watson became Prime Minister, Jack Goggin read aloud a telegram giving the names of the first Labor Ministry to a large, rejoicing crowd opposite West Wyalong Post Office.28

On 15 September 1904 Denis Hartigan died suddenly at West Wyalong.  His funeral was attended by Labor MLA Andy Kelly and several hundred mourners.   Following his funeral the West Wyalong Advocate published an obituary that paid tribute to his life.  Denis had financially backed his brother-in-law in many of his boxing bouts. Jack Goggin retired from boxing in 1899 after a better than average career, having more than once being declared a champion middleweight,29  but returned in 1905 to fight a number of contests, the last one of note being  against future Australian heavyweight champion Bill Squires on 3 June, which at Jack’s suggestion, benefitted the Wyalong hospital. Squires won on points.30

Mining Identities West Wyalong. Jack Goggin, then manager of the Barrier Mine Back Row, 2nd Left, Town & Country Journal 31 Jan 1906. (Bland Historical Society
Mining Identities West Wyalong. Jack Goggin, then manager of the Barrier Mine Back Row, 2nd Left, Town & Country Journal 31 Jan 1906. (Bland Historical Society)

In 1906 Jack Goggin left West Wyalong to try his luck at prospecting in Wes30tern Australia.   Supporters paid tribute to him by presenting him with a gold watch and chain at a valedictory dinner attended by over three hundred people.  The Wyalong Star reported that he had engaged in many mining ventures and been the manager of many local mines, only resigning management of the Barrier Mine a few days previously.  The paper also noted that he was President of the Miners’ Association for a considerable time and took an active part in politics as a genuine advocate of the Labor cause.  Others also gave praise to his deeds.31

In 1906 Jack is recorded as being the part owner of the Try Again mine near Coolgardie32, and was active in politics.33 In 1908 he returned to NSW and on 13 July 1909 he married for a second time, in Sydney.  In 1910 he was at Cobar where his brother-in-law, Richard Hawkins, was Secretary of the local Branch of the A.M.A.  On 7 August he chaired a public meeting attended by Mr. D Macdonell, M.L.A, who 34 was seeking support to establish a daily Labor paper in Sydney.  From Cobar he went to Canbelego where he worked at Mt. Bobby Mine and was proprietor of the Federal hotel.35

In June 1911 Jack returned to Western Australia with his family and ventured to Meekatharra.   In 1916, as the candidate of the Amalgamated Workers’ Association (AWA), he was elected by miners to the position of Safety Inspector of Mines for the East Murchison District.36 On 18 May 1920 he gave evidence before an Arbitration hearing that he considered that forty hours work in five days was enough for any man to work in a mine, adding, “Miners knew that they would inevitably finish up with the miner’s phthisis…”.37 Jack had more than good reason to believe what he did, as his brother George had died from phthisis in 1907 aged 32.

Jack resigned as Inspector of Mines in November 1923. Australian Workers Union organiser and President of the Eastern Goldfields Council of the ALP, Jack McCathy, paid tribute to Jack Goggin’s deeds in WA including:  being a staunch supporter of the O.B.U.; an advocate of the amalgamation of the Murchison AWA and the AWU, which took place in 1921; being an office holder of the Murchison Branch of the ALP; and never missing a meeting of the Miner’s Union.38Jack was a member of the Meekatharra AWA from 1912 to its amalgamation and in 1918 was a Trustee of the Branch.

In December 1923 Jack returned with his children to NSW and settled in Marrickville, where he became involved in local politics. But he moved again in 1931, having been appointed mine manager for Newton Boyd Syndicate at Barney’s Hill near Newton Boyd in northern NSW.39  In 1932 while fossicking for gold near Barry Jack contracted pneumonia. He was taken to Blayney hospital where he died on 27 November.


  1. Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jan. 1870.
  2. Various marriage and birth certificates.
  3. Referee, 12 Sept.1917; Gundagai Independent, 18 Jan. 1926.
  4. Goulburn Penny Post, 23 Nov. 1889.
  5. Daily Telegraph, 14 Aug. 1954.
  6. Referee, 10 June 1891.
  7. NSW Dept. of Mines: Register of Underground Mine Managers
  8. Wyalong Star,  12 February 1895
  9. Mary MacKillop’s diary; oral family history Maggie Cooper
  10. Captain’s Flat Mining Record, 12 February, 1898
  11. Freeman’s Journal, 17 November, 1900
  12. Cobargo Chronicle, 2 June 1899
  13. Ibid, 5 May 1903
  14. Canberra Times, 16 May 1930
  15. Ibid, 11 Feb. 1947
  16. ACT Labor Council minutes, once in possession of author, now in Noel Butlin archives. Canberra Times 18 May 1963
  17. Queanbeyan Age, 1 Feb. 1918
  18. Ibid, 5 Feb. 1918
  19. Wyalong Argus, 9 February 1898
  20. Ibid, 2 April 1898
  21. Ibid 2 March 1898
  22. Ibid 9 February 1898
  23. Ibid, 20 March 1898
  24. Ibid,5 August 1898
  25. Wyalong Star, 11 December 1900 & 11 January 1901
  26. Wyalong Star,  2 July 1901
  27. Cobargo Chronicle, 14 June 1901,  19 December 1913 &  5 November 1921
  28. Wyalong Star, 29 April 1904
  29. Various newspaper cuttings 1890-99 in possession of author
  30. Ibid, 7 June 1905
  31. Ibid, 9 February 1906.
  32. Federal Electorate Roll 1906; The Daily News (Perth W.A,) 30 June & 30 November 1906
  33. Kalgoorlie Miner 27 Nov. 1906, page 6
  34. Cobar Herald, 12 Aug. 1910, page 4
  35. Ibid, 7 March 1911
  36. WA Government Gazette, 17 March 191
  37. Western Argus Kalgoorlie, 25 May 1920
  38. The Western Australian Worker, 14 December 1923.
  39. Letter of appointment in possession of author.