James McGirr

James McGirr

James (Jim) McGirr (6 February 189027 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 O'Sullivan. Born in Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, he grew up on a dairy farm near Parkes. He was educated at Parkes and St Stanislaus' College, Bathurst. He was apprenticed to his brother John Joseph Gregory ("Greg"), a pharmacist at Parkes. He soon broke his apprenticeship to work in stockyards for a while, but was thrown from a horse.

He subsequently resumed his apprenticeship and attended the University of Sydney; he was registered as a pharmacist in 1913. Employed for a while 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.cite web
title =Mr James McGirr (1890 - 1957)
work =Members of Parliament
publisher =Parliament of New South Wales
url =http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/1fb6ebed995667c2ca256ea100825164/e28bf63dec7a4aa1ca256cb7007c3a0a!OpenDocument
accessdate = 2007-02-14
] cite web
title =McGirr, James (Jim) (1890 - 1957)
publisher =Australian National University
work=Australian Dictionary of Biography
url =http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150255b.htm
accessdate = 2007-02-14

Parliamentary career

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. 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 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. 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. 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 the McKell Government to power.

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.


In 1947, Prime Minister Ben Chifley named McKell as Governor-General of Australia, initating 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.

Although he was decent, humane and well-liked, he was 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. [In the Labor Party the collective membership of the ministry is chosen by a ballot of the parliamentary party after an election.]

An ambitious public works program, which he had promised in the election 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 ticket in a vote for the Upper House, [At the time, a third of the Legislative Council was elected by the Assembly after each election.] . 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. [A state-owned enterprise then responsible for port services.]

McGirr died of a coronary occlusion at Homebush, 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.


NAME=McGirr, James
SHORT DESCRIPTION=New South Wales politician and Premier
DATE OF BIRTH= 6 February 1890
PLACE OF BIRTH=Parkes, New South Wales
DATE OF DEATH= 27 October 1957
PLACE OF DEATH=Homebush, New South Wales

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