Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Donaghy (1842–1894)

by Paul E. Ginnivan and P. M. Macanally

This article was published:

John Donaghy (1842-1894), businessman and politician, was born probably on 11 May 1842 at Liverpool, England, son of Michael Donaghy, rope-maker, and his wife Mary, née McManus. He arrived at Corio Bay, Geelong, with his parents about 1852. In 1854 his father established a rope-making industry in a shed near the Barwon River, at Marnock Vale, Geelong. After a short time on the Ballarat goldfields John joined his father in the business which was later known as Fairview Ropeworks. In 1864 a second site was bought at Geelong West for larger works and new machinery was imported from England and America. Later ropeworks were built at Port Adelaide and at Dunedin, New Zealand, and depots were established in Melbourne and Sydney. About 1878 John and his younger brother Michael went into partnership with their father. Before Michael senior died in 1883 the first flat mining ropes in Australia had been made, up-to-date machinery was used and the range of products broadened.

John Donaghy was a justice of the peace. He had long supported the movement for separate councils for Geelong and Geelong West. He became a councillor and was mayor of Geelong West in 1879-80 and 1885-86. He founded the first Geelong West Post and Telegraph Office in 1886. Later he chaired the meeting to form an Electric Tramway and Lighting Co. He helped to establish the first free library in the town, was vice-president of the Gordon Memorial Technical College and served on the hospital committee. At various times he was a member and president of the St Patrick's Society, president of the Geelong Yorick Club and vice-president of the Mechanics' Institute. He also supported the Fire Brigade, assisted at the opening of the mineral springs at Drysdale and presented Geelong West with its town clock. He was an active parishioner of St Mary's Catholic Church.

Donaghy represented Geelong in the Legislative Assembly in 1886-88. A zealous advocate for improvements in his electorate, he also supported the first grant of land to the Chaffey brothers and an extra tariff of 5 per cent to protect native industries. He died at Geelong West on 9 October 1894, survived by his wife Norah, née Darcy, whom he married in 1867, and by their three sons and two daughters. In 1968 the firm, M. Donaghy & Sons Pty Ltd, merged with another long-established rope and cordage company, James Miller Holdings Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • T. W. H. Leavitt (ed), Australian Representative Men (Melb, 1887)
  • J. F. Hogan, The Irish in Australia (Melb, 1888)
  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • E. A. Vidler (ed), The Book of Geelong: Its People, Places, Industries and Amusements (Geelong, 1897)
  • M. Donaghy & Sons, Pty Ltd, One Hundred Years of Rope Making, 1852-1952 (Geelong, 1952)
  • W. R. Brownhill, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay (Melb, 1955)
  • R. H. Holden, The Story of the Fairview Ropeworks (Geelong, no date)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1886.

Citation details

Paul E. Ginnivan and P. M. Macanally, 'Donaghy, John (1842–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 May, 1842
Liverpool, Merseyside, England


9 October, 1894 (aged 52)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.