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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Glasheen, John Patrick (Jack) (1901–1954)

by Ross Curnow

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

John Patrick (Jack) Glasheen (1901-1954), schoolteacher, public servant and football administrator, was born on 19 January 1901 at Condobolin, New South Wales, son of native-born parents John Patrick Glasheen, baker, and his wife Marcella, née Hennessy. Educated at the Christian Brothers' High School, Lewisham, Jack trained (1918-19) at Hereford House and was sent in July 1919 to Mount Fairy Public School. On 2 January 1926 at the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Goulburn, he married with Catholic rites Mary Alena Carney, a saleswoman. He gained a diploma in economics and commerce from the University of Sydney (1927) and became an associate-member (1938) of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

In the 1920s Glasheen emerged as one of the leading pro-Labor figures in the Assistant Teachers' Association, 'all afire with a great zeal to set the affairs of the world in order'. He was treasurer (1929-32) of the New South Wales Public School Teachers' Federation and secretary (1937-41) of the Teachers' Building Ltd. His passion for reform found a vocational outlet with his appointment in 1931 as teacher-in-charge of the day commercial school, established as part of Sydney Technical College to assist unemployed school-leavers. The change was a shrewd one in terms of his career: five years later he was made lecturer-in-charge of the technical education branch's new commercial studies department, which grew to an enrolment of over 5700 students by 1949 when he was promoted assistant-director of technical education (buildings and plant).

Assisted by L. T. Latter, Glasheen had written a textbook, Whitcombe's Practical Book-Keeping with Exercises (1933), and he was E. B. Smyth's junior co-author of Intermediate Accountancy (1936); both works ran to numerous editions. Glasheen was a member (from 1947) of the development council which planned the New South Wales University of Technology and was appointed to the university's council on its inauguration in 1949. From the early 1940s he had served on the State's Aborigines Welfare Board and also advised C. R. Evatt, minister for education (1941-44). From 1947 until his death 'Glash' was president and a selector of South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club, 'the pride of the League'. In these years Souths won four premierships (1950, 1951, 1953 and 1954) and were twice runners-up (1949 and 1952). His wife owned and ran a hotel in the South Sydney area.

Five months before the elections which he was expected to lose, Premier James McGirr secured Glasheen's appointment in January 1950 as a member of the Public Service Board. Glasheen's Labor leanings gave rise to mutterings about political patronage, despite his undoubted administrative abilities. The government was returned in June and further controversy surrounded the selection of Glasheen in December as a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales. There were suggestions that a knowledge of book-keeping and the Rugby back line sat ill with an appreciation of Bruegel or Buvelot.

Glasheen was seen as one of the State's more principled and forthright public servants. Regarded as an 'ambitious, tough boss', and a 'strong leader' who spoke his mind, he was considered to be fair and was respected for his determined pursuit of policies. Contradicting his physical appearance, his administrative style owed more to the drive of the front row than the nimble sidestep of the half-back, and his knack of selecting sound subordinates was evident in both the public service and sporting arenas. His major contribution lay in the development of commercial education in New South Wales, but many older members of the accountancy profession remembered him with ambivalent feelings. Illness cut short his role in educational policy and administration on the Public Service Board, although he did pave the way for an amendment (1955) to the Public Service Act (1902) which allowed for the appointment of an 'educationist' as the fourth member of the board.

Survived by his wife and daughter, Glasheen died of cancer on Christmas Eve 1954 at his Bronte home and was buried in Waverley cemetery. Senior members of the government, public service and labour movement attended his funeral.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Missingham, They Kill You in the End (Syd, 1973)
  • B. A. Mitchell, Teachers, Education, and Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • I. Heads and T. Brock, South Sydney (Syd, 1995)
  • New South Wales Public Service Board, Annual Report, 1950-54
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1, 2, 4, 6 Feb 1951, 28 Dec 1954.

Citation details

Ross Curnow, 'Glasheen, John Patrick (Jack) (1901–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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