Friday, 11 December 2015

The 1917 Win-the-War campaign strikes trouble in Coburg

The 1917 election campaign rapidly became the Win-the-War Campaign and emotional calls to the people of Australia to support the campaign were soon in evidence, such as the one below printed in Punch.

Ladies Letter, Punch, 26 April 1917, p.32.

Not everyone supported the campaign, of course, as the candidate for Maribyrnong Edmund Jowett soon found out, especially when he spoke at Coburg Town Hall. 

The newspaper articles below tell the story.

Argus, 28 April 1917, p.19

Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter, 3 May 1917, p.6

The Age, 28 April 1917, p.14

And as I always like to throw out a mystery for you to try to solve ...

The Minutes of the Coburg Recruiting Committee, Wednesday 26 April 1917, show that the Committee resolved to send a letter to 'ex-Sergeant McGirvan, thanking him for speaking at the meeting on Friday evening and the committee expresses its regret that he was hampered in his discourse by a noisy element.' 

This is the meeting at Coburg Town Hall where Jowett was 'jeered by peace advocates'. 

I've searched for someone with the surname McGirvan or McGovan or McGavan who served in the AIF without success. There is no one with the surname McGirvan on the Victorian electoral rolls. I searched the Australians in the Boer War database without success. I searched TROVE - no luck.

So who was this ex-Sergeant McGirvan?


  1. Hi Cheryl, the rank may be an honorary one. He may be a "Recruiting Sergeant", but not in the AIF. Another politician of this type was "Sergeant Tom Ryan", who did eventually enlist as a private in 1918. It is possible McGirvan had served with the British Army years ago. Have another look at Trove but discount him being in the AIF.

    His name may come up (with an initial with a bit of luck) in the lists of speakers at recruiting meetings.

    1. That makes sense. Because there were so few McGirvan entries, I tried Girvan and found 10 enlistees with that surname, two of them from Victoria. One was from Brunswick and he was killed in action in OCtober 1917 but the other is a possibility. His name was Thomas William Girvan, who applied to enlist in 1918 as a 21 year old from Coburg. He was a gripman, so worked for the tramways. In 1922 he was living in Sydney Road, Coburg and electoral rolls reveal that he stayed in Coburg and later became a warder at Pentridge. I'm inclined to think that he might just be the mysterious 'Sergeant McGirvan' but there's no way of knowing for sure.

  2. Not sure if I included Tom Ryan's URL: