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Donoghue, Raymond Tasman (1920–1960)

by Graham Clements

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Raymond Tasman Donoghue (1920-1960), by unknown photographer

Raymond Tasman Donoghue (1920-1960), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 081390

Raymond Tasman Donoghue (1920-1960), tram conductor, was born on 10 December 1920 in Hobart, seventh of twelve children of Percy Donoghue, fisherman, and his wife Elsie Ruby Myrtle, née Guppy, both Tasmanian born. Raymond was educated at Macquarie Street School, South Hobart, and Albuera Street State School (1930-34). On 14 March 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served with the 2nd/12th Battalion in Britain and the Middle East before being sent to Greece where he was captured by the Germans on 28 April 1941. Freed on 8 May 1945, he returned to Tasmania and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 7 November. At Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, on 12 July 1947 he married with Anglican rites Eileen Patricia Morris, a biscuit-packer. Donoghue worked in turn as a racking cellarhand, mariner, wood carter, tradesman's assistant and lorry driver. Nicknamed 'Puddin', on 25 September 1959 he joined the Metropolitan Transport Trust as a car cleaner, but hoped to become a driver. Within seven months he qualified as a tram conductor.

On Friday 29 April 1960 Donoghue was the conductor of tram 131 as it left the city, bound for Springfield (Moonah). About 4.45 p.m. it collided with a lorry in Elizabeth Street, near Warwick Street, leaving the driver dazed in his damaged cab. The tram, with air-brake pipes fractured and emergency electric brakes ineffective, began rolling downhill, gaining speed towards the city. Assisted by passengers, Donoghue tried to apply the handbrake, but without effect. He then moved the passengers as far back into the car as possible, doing his best to calm them. As the tram rushed backwards at 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 km) per hour along Hobart's main street in peak-hour traffic, he occupied the cab, sounding the warning gong and struggling to apply the handbrake. Neglecting ample opportunity to save himself by retreating into the passenger compartment or jumping clear, he continued to warn traffic until his tram struck tram 137 at the foot of the Elizabeth Street hill. Partly telescoped, both were projected almost the length of a city block before stopping near Bathurst Street. Donoghue was killed instantly and forty-three passengers were injured, four seriously. It was the Hobart tramways most serious accident.

Donoghue was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. The Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia conducted the service at which fifty tramwaymen marched ahead of the cortège to join a police guard of honour at the graveside. At the time of the accident the Donoghues had four sons and two daughters; a third daughter was born three weeks later. An appeal to assist the family confirmed the remarkable depth of public feeling by collecting over £7000. Praised in the coroner's report for 'great fortitude in the face of imminent danger . . . doing all in his power to save the lives of numerous passengers', Donoghue was posthumously awarded the George Cross on 11 October 1960. The medal and citation are displayed in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. A memorial plaque was placed in the Metropolitan Transport Trust's depot at Moonah in June 1961.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 30 Apr, 5, 31 May, 3 Aug 1960
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Oct 1960
  • Premier's and Chief Secretary's Dept records, PCS 19/3/44 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Metropolitan Transport Trust records
  • private information.

Citation details

Graham Clements, 'Donoghue, Raymond Tasman (1920–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/donoghue-raymond-tasman-10032/text17687, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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