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Jacob Garrard (1846–1931)

by Bede Nairn

This article was published:

Jacob Garrard (1846-1931), by unknown photographer

Jacob Garrard (1846-1931), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, PX*D 624

Jacob Garrard (1846-1931), trade unionist and politician, was born at Harwich, England, son of Joseph Garrard, revenue officer, and his wife Martha, née Piggott. Educated at Harwich National School and Southwark Borough School, he migrated at 13 with his family to New Zealand and worked on coastal ships. Apprenticed in 1861 to an engineer he moved in 1867 to Sydney where he lived at Balmain and until about 1883 worked in turn at docks owned by Thomas Mort, (Sir) Peter Russell, the Australasian Steam Navigation Co. and Davy & Sands. He joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and in 1874 became its delegate on the Trades and Labor Council.

Garrard's tenacity and fluency made him one of the most prominent young trade unionists in the 1870s. He was a leader in the 1873-74 strikes that won the eight-hour day for iron-trades workers and he gained valuable experience by seeking support in Victoria for the strikers. Impressed by Francis Dixon's vision of the social role of trade unions, he contested West Sydney in the 1877 election, claiming that he was 'no railler against capitalism … [but] it was class legislation to have a House composed of capitalists and squatters'. Failure sharpened his political ambitions and he widened his electoral appeal by his teetotalism and Orangeism and by serving on the Balmain Borough Council in 1879-86. In 1880 he was mayor and, although the Trades and Labor Council would not officially support him, he was helped by many unionists and won the new seat of Balmain.

In parliament Garrard was one of the best-equipped members to respond to colonial technological, industrial and administrative change in the 1880s. He co-operated with the Trades and Labor Council and (Sir) Frederick Darley to pass the Trade Union Act, 1881, and sponsored the Employers Liability Act, 1882. He was a member of the Tramway Inquiry Board and acted as an arbiter in coal-industry disputes. In 1887-92 he was a member of the royal commission into the civil service. An unwavering free trader he adjusted to the complex parliamentary situation as protection became more popular. In 1885-86 he was secretary for public works under Sir John Robertson and supported Sir Henry Parkes's ministries in 1887-91. By 1888 he was an accomplished parliamentarian who often acted as temporary chairman of committees and provoked the judgment that 'when he turns his head to the Opposition, and looks at them quizzingly, why, Burke and Fox wouldn't have been able to stand it'. Meanwhile he had left his trade and become a successful estate agent and auctioneer, chairman of the City and Country Investment Land and Building Society and director of the Australian Mutual Prudential and Medical Assurance Society. He retained links with the Labor movement and in 1884, when unveiling the Engineers' Society's new banner, declared that unionists 'desired, while protecting themselves, to lend a helping hand in building up the [country's] great industries'. In 1885 he was responsible for making a public holiday in celebration of the eight-hour objective. In 1886 he became one of the first trustees of the Sydney Trades Hall.

Garrard observed the need for structural political change and in 1889 was on the council of the ephemeral Free Trade and Liberal Association. In 1891 he was on the Parliamentary Executive Committee that organized the elections for the free traders, but could not harmonize his electoral style in Balmain with the novel circumstances posed by the Labor Party. Defeated there he won Central Cumberland at a by-election and refused to join Labor. His radicalism, if somewhat modified, found expression in the revivified Free Trade Party led by (Sir) George Reid for whom he was an effective organizer. In 1894-98 he was member for Sherbrooke and minister for education and from 1895 the colony's first minister for labor and industry under Reid. In the 1890s he continued to reflect his knowledge of industrial affairs and concluded that compulsory arbitration was needed. He proved an energetic education minister with a special interest in technical education. In 1896 Garrard joined the Salvation Army. In 1898 he narrowly lost his seat and in 1899-1912 was a member of the Water and Sewerage Board and its president in 1899-1904. He served on the Kuringai Chase Trust for nearly thirty years and was an active worker for the Methodist Church.

In 1870 at Balmain Garrard had married Rebecca Cavill. Survived by two daughters and two of his five sons he died on 5 November 1931 at Hornsby and was buried in the Methodist section of Gore Hill cemetery. His estate was valued at £3696.

Select Bibliography

  • K. D. Buckley, The Amalgamated Engineers in Australia, 1852-1920 (Canberra, 1970)
  • Town and Country Journal, 2 Apr 1887
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 17 July 1887
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Nov 1931
  • Trades and Labor Council minutes, 1871-86 (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bede Nairn, 'Garrard, Jacob (1846–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 22 May 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

Jacob Garrard (1846-1931), by unknown photographer

Jacob Garrard (1846-1931), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, PX*D 624

Life Summary [details]


Harwich, Essex, England


5 November, 1931 (aged ~ 85)
Hornsby, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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