Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Boyland (1874–1922)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

John Boyland (1874-1922), miner, unionist and politician, was born on 11 September 1874 at Sandhurst (Bendigo), Victoria, son of John Boyland, miner, and his wife Jane Fraser, née Duncan. He went to work at an early age and was involved in the Queensland shearers' strike of 1894. He moved to Western Australia in 1895 and worked as an underground miner at Menzies and on the Murchison goldfield. A prominent racing cyclist, he won the classic Coolgardie Austral wheel-race in 1897. He worked in South Africa, went briefly to England and, on 21 May 1906 in Perth, married a South Australian girl Bertha Bridges. He then joined his father and a brother in Kalgoorlie; his wife stayed in Perth until 1914.

An enthusiastic unionist, possibly because he had contracted miner's phthisis, Boyland represented the Federated Mining Employees' Association at the Australian Labor Federation Conference of 1913. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in 1914 but was rejected because of his disease and sought to serve by, from late 1915, fervently advocating conscription on democratic grounds. His frequent press controversies, his belief in standing by the Empire 'in its hour of need' and his executive membership of the Boulder National Referendum League made him unpopular with leftist leaders. Although a marked man, he convincingly won the powerful position of secretary of the mining union in November 1916, and in December he also became its president and delegate to the federal council.

When the labour movement split, Boyland became president of the National Labor Party, formed first on the goldfields. He stood unsuccessfully for the Brownhill-Ivanhoe seat in the Legislative Assembly in September 1917, and in November resigned as secretary of the mining union, complaining of '… the hottest bosses I ever worked for. The capitalistic boss is not to be compared …' He soon became secretary of the Eastern Goldfields Mining and General Workers' Union, the National Labor Party's industrial wing. The struggle to maintain and extend what was generally seen as a 'scab' union strained his weakening constitution and in 1918 he resigned from party office but retained his union position. In October 1919 he entered the Woorooloo Sanatorium and stayed there probably until the middle of 1920. When he was discharged, his union gave him £100 to start a stall in the Kalgoorlie Municipal Markets. On 12 March 1921, as an independent Nationalist, he defeated the Labor candidate A. E. Green for the Legislative Assembly seat of Kalgoorlie by 205 votes. On 14 December 1922 after a long severe winter, he died of pulmonary fibrosis at his Leederville home. He was buried in the Methodist section of Karrakatta cemetery, survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Labor Federation (Western Australia), Official Report … of General Council, 1913, 1916
  • Western Argus (Kalgoorlie), 21 Nov, 19 Dec 1916, 7, 14 Jan, 18 Feb 1919, 10 Feb 1920, 22, 29 Mar 1921, 19 Dec 1922
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 19, 27, 28 Nov, 7 Dec 1917
  • West Australian, 14 Mar 1921, 15 Dec 1922.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Boyland, John (1874–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 September, 1874
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia


14 December, 1922 (aged 48)
Leederville, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.