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William Eric (Bill) Gollan (1904–1991)

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This entry is from People Australia

William Eric (Bill) Gollan (1904-1991) school teacher, trade union official and Communist 

Birth: 20 August 1904 at Woodburn, on the New South Wales north coast, son of native-born parents William Ernest Gollan (1874-1946), farmer, and Jane, née McLean (1875-1950). Marriage: 7 March 1936 at Mosman, Sydney, to Marie Jean Stuart (1904-1985), a teacher from Goulburn. They had one son. Death: 6 August 1991 in the NSW Masonic Hospital, at Ashfield, Sydney; usual residence Browning Street, Campsie. 

  • Attended school at Woodburn and Lismore before travelling to Fort Street Boy's High School in Sydney to complete his final two years of schooling and gain his Leaving Certificate.
  • Graduated from Sydney University with a B.A. in 1926 and became a secondary school teacher. Taught at Lismore, Broken Hill, Goulburn, Cessnock and Sydney before being promoted to the position of subject master at Newcastle Boys High School (1943-46). Appointed justice of the peace in December 1937.
  • Deputy principal at Albury (1946-1949), where he stood for election to the city council in 1947, and was principal at Wyong (1950-51) before completing his teaching career at Macquarie High School at Parramatta, where he was principal from 1952 until his retirement in March 1966.
  • Active in the Teachers Federation, serving as president of the Secondary Teachers' Association and as a member of the federation's executive (1941-1943).
  • Joined the Australian Labor Party in the early 1930s and the Communist Party of Australia in 1936. President of the Newcastle district committee of the CPA (1943-46) and was elected to the Central Committee in 1943. Served on that body for thirty years and on the central executive of State Labor Party.
  • Candidate for Newcastle municipal council in November 1944. Contested two parliamentary elections, the first in 1940 when he stood as the State Labor candidate against the federal party's Rowley James, and in 1949 when he contested the Federal seat of Farrer as a CPA candidate.
  • Interest in socialism developed in Broken Hill after he accepted an offer to conduct classes for the Workers’ Educational Association. Continued to teach for the WEA until 1942 when the CPA withdrew its support for that body as a result of a dispute about a course which criticised the Soviet Union. This outlet for expression was soon replaced however by a growing commitment to the cause of world peace.
  • Leading peace activist and an opponent of the cold war. Chairman of the NSW Peace Council in the early 1950s and worked full time for the peace movement after his retirement from teaching. His work in this field was recognised by the Federal Government in 1986, with the award of a Peace Medal.
  • Author of pamphlets: 'State Aid for education: A Public Mischief '(1964); 'Education and the Crisis: The Way Forward' (1969); and 'Bond or Free' (1986).
  • Cause of death: carcinoma of the colon.
  • His wife Marie was an active CPA member and social activist and brother Robin (Bob) Gollan was an influential historian.

Ross Edmonds, In Storm and Struggle. A History of the Communist Party in Newcastle 1920-1940 (1991); Tribune (Sydney), 30 December 1943; Education, 2 September 1991; John Murphy, interview, with Bill Gollan, Labour History, No. 66, May 1994, pp 114-121.

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Citation details

'Gollan, William Eric (Bill) (1904–1991)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

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