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McMahon, James (Jimmy) (1838–1914)

A remarkable and widely-respected citizen passed away on the 17th instant in the person of Mr. James McMahon, the well-known carrier-contractor, who died on that date at his residence in Redfern at the age of 76 years.

Though of the age mentioned, Mr. McMahon looked nearer 5o, and certainly at the time of his unexpected death, was hale and hearty and equal in energy of mind and body to most men of forty. He leaves a widow and a family of one daughter and six sons.

The deceased was one of nature's gentlemen, straight as a die and rugged of purpose, but with a disposition of such manifest firmness that he succeeded with men as no other large employer of labor in this country ever did, and that he had phenomenal tact is proved by the fact that he successfully pulled his business through the most troublesome epochs of industrial strife, many hundreds of workers, while consumed by strike bitterness, yielding to his advice.

Had James McMahon not been a sturdy champion of right and fairness, especially towards the army of workers employed by him, directly and indirectly, he could never have wielded this immense influence, seeing that in these disturbed times the entire traffic of Sydney was held up and the most serious developments threatened. Himself a yeoman worker, 4.30 a.m. being his usual hour of personal starting, he demanded genuine service and no nonsense from his big band of workers, whom he trusted and treated well, continuously paying overtime for work on the word only of the men themselves. The result was an organization between employer and employed rarely indeed found anywhere, and which worked year in year out like a gigantic piece of mechanism.

Practically it was this able man who, with surprising energy and steady head, bridged the distance between the great railway goods terminus and the deep waters of the ships' side in Port Jackson. Marvellous to relate, what our Government railways conveyed to Sydney, James McMahon carried to the warehouses and the ships' side; and so perfect was his business, there were less complaints over his work than there often were in regard to the railway's. And another significant thing has to be added, namely, that dishonest handling of goods in transit was ever conspicuous by its absence from James McMahon's enormous business, the hundreds of employees loyally serving their employer's anxiety in this regard.

The Government, as well as the railway officials, from the time of Mr. Eddy till now, always regarded Mr. McMahon as the biggest Government official; in other words, as "the man" who would always pull them through any trouble in the industrial transit trade. And here it might be mentioned that, in addition to his own transport army, Mr. McMahon gave years of constant work to hundreds of small carriers on their own, regularly paying this independent section on the Friday, to help them all along.

With true instinct Mr. McMahon kept to his own business, and steadfastly shut his face against proposals to invest in different enterprises that might have occasioned him both distraction and loss. He, however, invested his money wisely in city property being one of the first investors in the famous Albion Estate, on part of which Toohey's Brewery now stands. He also invested in station property, mainly to allow four of his sons engaging in pastoral pursuits. In this new department he showed good judgment, the station properties in the Orange and Cowra-Grenfell districts proving first-class. It is quite likely the financial result of this remarkable man's energy and foresight will pan out at three-quarters of a million sterling — honestly earned money from fifty years of diligent exertion.

Mr. McMahon left, besides widow and daughter, six sons who have already shown methods of energy, tact and integrity, all of them genuine workers. The manager of the Sydney business is Mr. James McMahon, who has been a noted footballer and is now a major in the Defence Force. Another son is Mr. W. D. McMahon, solicitor, in extensive practice in Sydney. The remaining four are engaged in pastoral pursuits on their stations in the districts just mentioned. They have all been noted footballers and popular among all the clubs. Like their father, the sons are men of liberal notions, and at all times ready to establish and maintain genuine friendships with all classes.

The funeral, which took place at Redfern on the 18th, was a fine testimony to the esteem in which the deceased was held, mercantile Sydney, as well as the Government, the Municipal Bodies Master Carriers' Association, etc., being represented, while all classes of the general community attended in large numbers. After a service at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Redfern, the funeral proceeded, and the interment took place at the Necropolis.

This closing ceremony was a splendid spontaneous tribute to the man's character for uprightness and public and private worth.

Original publication

  • Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People (Sydney), 28 November 1914, p 4 (view original)

Additional Resources

  • probate, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 December 1914, p 6

Citation details

'McMahon, James (Jimmy) (1838–1914)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mcmahon-james-jimmy-13071/text35476, accessed 17 November 2019.

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