Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John (Jerry) Dolan (1901–1986)

by Harry C. J. Phillips

This article was published:

John (Jerry) Dolan (1901-1986), schoolteacher, Australian Rules footballer and politician, was born on 25 December 1901 at Victoria Park, Perth, third child of Cormick Dolan, an Irish-born carrier, and his wife Ellen, née McMahon, who came from Victoria. Brought up on the goldfields, `Jerry’ was educated by the Christian Brothers at Kalgoorlie. In 1920 he became a monitor at North Kalgoorlie State School and next year joined the Australian Labor Party. He trained (1922-23) at Claremont Teachers’ College, Perth, and in March 1924 was posted to Fremantle Boys’ Central (High) School. On 31 December 1932 at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Fremantle, he married Eileen Margaret Foley, a shorthand-typist. They were to live at Fremantle all their married life. He was active in the State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia and coached football at Aquinas College, Manning. From 1956 until June 1963 he held senior positions at John Curtin Senior High School, Fremantle.

Dolan was a champion Australian Rules footballer; 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall and slender, he was a centre half-forward and ruckman. In 1923-38 he played sixteen seasons in the Western Australian National Football League, eleven with East Fremantle and five with East Perth. He participated, often as team captain, in twenty-two finals games and nine grand finals: 1923-25, 1928-31, 1933 and 1936. A club coach for seventeen years, he took East Fremantle to a WANFL record of thirty-five straight wins, including an unbeaten 1946 season. In 1946-49 he coached Western Australia to three successive wins against Victoria.

Secretary of the East Fremantle ALP branch for many years, Dolan seldom missed a party meeting. He had frequent contact with John Curtin and as early as 1933 was campaign manager for John Tonkin. After twice unsuccessfully seeking preselection, he was elected the member for West Province in the Legislative Council in a by-election on 29 June 1963. In his maiden speech on 14 August he called for greater investment in education and presented a strong case for the benefits of smaller class numbers. He also underscored his teetotal approach to life, complaining that Australian spending on liquor consumption greatly exceeded outlays on education. In 1965-74 he represented South-East Metropolitan Province.

Tonkin became premier of a new Labor government in March 1971 and appointed Dolan to the police and transport portfolios. In October Dolan took on railways as well. As police minister he caused a furore, and was censured by the ALP State executive, when he crossed the floor in December to vote for an Opposition amendment to the parliamentary commissioner bill exempting police from investigation by the Ombudsman. Leader of the government in the council from 7 February 1973, and minister for education, transport and railways from 30 May that year until 8 April 1974, he did not stand at the general election on 30 May. He was reported as saying, `I’ve never really been a politician in the true sense of the word’, and was not pleased that a woman, Grace Vaughan, succeeded him in his seat and then lost it after only one term.

Throughout his life Dolan was a devout Catholic, rarely missing Mass at 7 a.m. on Sundays. His legendary status as a footballer was recognised in 1986 with his induction into Western Australia’s sporting `Hall of Fame’. Survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, he died on 26 December 1986 at Bicton and was buried in Fremantle cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Glossop (compiler), East Perth, 1906-1976 (1976)
  • D. W. Black (ed), The House on the Hill (1991)
  • J. Lee, East Fremantle Football Club (1998)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, Western Australia), 14 Aug 1963, p 270, 3 Dec 1971, p 822
  • Daily News (Perth), 22 May 1967, p 19
  • West Australian, 27 Dec 1986, p 30
  • R. Jamieson, taped interview with E. Dolan (1989, State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Harry C. J. Phillips, 'Dolan, John (Jerry) (1901–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 December, 1901
Victoria Park, Perth, Western Australia, Australia


26 December, 1986 (aged 85)
Bicton, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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