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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Farleigh, John Gibson (1861–1949)

by G. P. Walsh

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

John Gibson Farleigh (1861?-1949), manufacturer and politician, was born in County Sligo, Ireland, son of Edward Manicom Farleigh (d.1909), and his wife Elizabeth, née Gibson. He arrived in Victoria in 1865 with his father and uncle John Farleigh (d.1885); in 1874 all moved to Sydney where his father set up a tannery at Canterbury. In 1876 John senior, with W. C. Nettheim and the Melbourne firm Michaelis, Hallenstein & Co., set up a tannery at Concord and later a boot upper factory in Kent Street, Sydney. 'King of Mimosa' leather soon became well-known and in 1901, when the tannery was treating 500 hides a week, a new trade mark 'Australian Leather' was widely promoted.

In 1875, after attending Cleveland Street Public School, John junior worked as office boy, clerk and salesman and in 1877 began as a junior clerk in Farleigh, Nettheim & Co. Always well prepared for the next promotion, Farleigh rose through bookkeeper, accountant and manager to partner and senior partner, attributing his success to 'hard work with a steady attention to duty'. He qualified as a fellow of the Institute of Incorporated Accountants of New South Wales; in 1906 he became a justice of the peace and in 1903-08 was an alderman on Rockdale Municipal Council.

A free trader, Farleigh was founding president of the Liberal and Progressive League in 1909. A council-member of the Liberal, National and United Australia parties, he was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from July 1908 until its reconstruction in April 1934. His speeches, usually on industrial and social questions, were short, direct and fair minded, although as a councillor of the Employers' Federation of New South Wales he was always careful to protect that particular interest. From September 1920 to June 1923 he served on the Commonwealth royal commission on taxation chaired by W. W. Kerr.

Prominent in manufacturing organizations, Farleigh was a councillor of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures (president 1907-10) and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and president of the Master Tanners' and Leather Manufacturers' Association; he was also a member of the Pure Food Act (1908) advisory committee. A great believer in the application of scientific research to industry and technical education, he established a tannery school and night classes so that his workers could better understand 'the routine of their daily duties'. A Freemason, he was a member of the Loyal Orange Institution of New South Wales, the Millions and National clubs, Sydney, and the Prisoners' Aid Association of New South Wales of which he was president in 1928-34. In 1926 he became a director of Rubber Moulders Ltd.

Farleigh died on 5 May 1949 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and was cremated after a service at Arncliffe Methodist Church. At St Peters, Sydney, he had married Alice Elizabeth Howard on 13 November 1883; they had three sons and two daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £54,612.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 2 (Syd, 1889)
  • Town and Country Journal, 6 Apr 1878, 6 Oct 1909
  • Clarion (New South Wales), 25 May 1901
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 9 July 1908
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 17 Apr 1922
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Sept 1920, 6 May 1949
  • Labor Daily, 17 Jan 1934.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Farleigh, John Gibson (1861–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 19 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 8

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