Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fallon, Cyril Joseph (1887–1948)

by Mark Lyons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Cyril Joseph Fallon (1887-1948), physician and politician, was born on 18 April 1887 at Surry Hills, Sydney, second son of native-born parents John Fallon, tailor, and his wife Katherine, née Macken. His father died when Fallon was still a boy. Educated at St Mary's Cathedral High School, he won a Cardinal's scholarship to St Joseph's College, where he played in the first cricket and Rugby teams and was dux in 1904. He won an exhibition to the University of Sydney where he studied French, Latin, and English, graduating B.A. in 1908. He then enrolled in medicine, supporting himself by tutoring in classics at St John's College. Graduating M.B. in 1913, he was resident medical officer at Sydney Hospital before becoming a medical officer with the Department of Public Instruction, a position which required considerable travel throughout the State. After a year at Prince Henry Hospital studying infectious diseases, and a time as locum in Surry Hills, he commenced his own practice in Avoca Street, Randwick. On 28 September 1915 he had married Mildred Mary Hunt of Randwick; two years later the first of five children was born.

From a poor background, with parents of Irish stock, educated in the classics as well as a profession, handsome and with an eloquence practised in debating at school, university and the Waverley Catholic Debating Society, Fallon was well placed to become favoured son of Sydney's embattled Catholic society. A delegate to the 1919 Irish Race Convention in Melbourne, he was an active committee-member of the Self-Determination for Ireland League of Australia, formed in 1920. That year he defended Fr Jerger against deportation.

A member of the New South Wales branch of the Catholic Federation, Fallon helped its leader, P. S. Cleary form the Democratic Party in 1919 and was its vice-president during its unsuccessful election campaign in 1920. In the 1922 elections he led the party and was elected to the Legislative Assembly as fifth member for Eastern Suburbs. He embraced a wide range of social policies close to Labor's (in 1923 he joined the council of A. C. Willis's Industrial Christian Fellowship), but his main concern was to obtain government assistance for Catholic schools and charities. He attended parliament infrequently, but when he did, spoke with cool aplomb, attacking the Fuller ministry for its refusal to countenance child endowment almost as often as for its refusal to aid Catholic schools. It was a government in which Orangemen were prominent and Fallon's last speech was an attack on the marriage amendment (ne temere) bill, designed to prevent Catholic clergy from saying that Catholics who had contracted only a civil marriage were not properly married. The Democratic Party did not survive long and, after some indecision, Fallon stood unsuccessfully in 1925 as an Independent Catholic candidate.

Henceforth Fallon devoted his attention to his practice and to being a model Catholic layman; he became immensely popular. For a time in the 1920s he was an assistant physician at St Vincent's Hospital, but found teaching had little appeal. He helped persuade the archdiocese and Sisters of St Joseph take over from Gertrude Abbott St Margaret's Hospital, Darlinghurst. In 1933 he helped found the Catholic Medical Guild of St Luke; its master until 1936, he remained a council-member until 1948. Long active in the St Joseph's College Old Boys' Union, he assisted the Marist Brothers at every opportunity. He was president of the Marist Medical Mission Society and honorary physician to Marcellin College, Randwick. Active on many Catholic committees and societies, he was constantly in demand as a public speaker and in that role frequently extolled the life and works of his cynosure G. K. Chesterton.

In 1940 Fallon was appointed knight commander of the Order of St Sylvester by Pope Pius XII. On 20 April 1948 he died of lung cancer in St Vincent's Hospital and was buried in Waverley cemetery. His wife, three sons and two daughters survived him. He left an estate valued for probate at £7302.

Select Bibliography

  • Catholic Medical Guild of St Luke, Transactions, Dec 1947
  • Catholic Press (Sydney), 23 Feb 1922, 21 May 1925
  • Catholic Weekly (Sydney), 6 May 1948.

Citation details

Mark Lyons, 'Fallon, Cyril Joseph (1887–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fallon-cyril-joseph-6138/text10535, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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