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Fergus Conroy (1890–1957)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Fergus Conroy, 1927

Fergus Conroy, 1927

Sun (Sydney), 4 June 1927, p 3

Fergus Conroy (1890-1957) postal worker, trade union leader and Labor Party official

Birth: 4 July 1890 at North Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, son of Michael Conroy (1850-1938), a storeman born in County Clare, Ireland, and native-born Margaret, née Lenehan (1859-1931). Never married. Death: 5 November 1957 at Annandale, Sydney. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Bought up in Annandale, Sydney, where he lived for the rest of his life. Educated at Sisters of St Joseph Schoool, Leichhardt, and Christian Brothers, Lewisham.
  • After leaving school he entered the Australian Post Office service in March 1909 as a telephone attendant, in May 1915 became a junior mechanic in the Electrical Engineer’s Branch, and in June 1915 became a telephonist.
  • Dabbled in politics from an early age. By 1918 he was president of the Annandale branch of the Political Labor League and soon was honorary secretary of the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Electorate Council for Dalley and then for Balmain. In 1920 he was president of the Annandale Labor League.
  • He became a member of the Telephone Exchange Union and a prominent official in the Postal Electrician’s Union, holding office in various positions from secretary to president and delegate to several ALP conferences.
  • In 1922 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the State seat of Balmain. The following year he was elected to the ALP’s General Executive and was a member of the disputes committee.
  • In 1924 he was again elected president of the Annandale branch of the ALP and member of the Balmain Council.
  • In April 1926 Conroy was elected a vice-president of the ALP executive, with W. H. Seale elected president. When Seale was suspended in March 1927 Conroy was elected president and announced his opposition to Communism.
  • The expulsion of Seale split the ALP in NSW. Supported by Premier Jack Lang, Seale presided at a party conference at Easter 1927, which was dominated by “militants”, introduced new “Red Rules” and proceeded to suspend Conroy and his executive.
  • The Conroy executive battled on, supported by some anti-Lang politicians, such as Tom Mutch and H. V. Evatt, the Federal ALP conference, the Australian Workers’ Union and Henry Boote’s Australian Worker. In June it expelled Lang and all his ministers from the party. But Lang and the Seale faction, backed by the Labor Daily, triumphed at the unity conference held in late July 1927 which declared Conroy and his executive “bogus” and suspended its members from the ALP for three years.
  • On 1 August 1927 William Carey, the secretary handed over the Conroy executive’s office at the Trades Hall and its books to a new provisional executive. Conroy’s connexion with the official ALP ceased. In March 1930 he was listed among those present at the funeral of his nemesis — and fellow Catholic — Bill Seale.
  • Conroy’s interests included Rugby League, and he worked for the Wednesday afternoon football competition. He also enjoyed “a week-end flutter at the horses”. Conroy was also involved in Catholic activities, prominent in the Catholic Club and was an officer in the Guild of St Christopher.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion, arteriosclerosis and gastric ulcer.

Sources 
N. B. Nairn, The “Big Fella”: Jack Lang and the Australian Labor Party, 1891-1949 (Melbourne, 1986); Christopher Cunneen, William John McKell: boilermaker, premier and governor-general (Sydney, 2000), pp 86-88.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Conroy, Fergus (1890–1957)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/conroy-fergus-33603/text42033, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Fergus Conroy, 1927

Fergus Conroy, 1927

Sun (Sydney), 4 June 1927, p 3

Life Summary [details]

Birth

4 July, 1890
Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Death

5 November, 1957 (aged 67)
Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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