John BarnesPrint Page Print this page

Photographs supplied by David Brighton

The marble vault, erected at gravesite, commemorates the Trade Union Official and politician John Barnes (1868 - 1938). 

John Barnes was president of the Australian Workers Union from 1924 until his death. In the Scullin government he was assistant minister for works in 1929 - 31, and vice-president of the Executive Council in 1931 - 32; his policies were moderate, and he faithfully supported the prime minister. He was party leader in the Senate from 1932 until defeated in the 1935 election.

He was re-elected in 1937 but, after a long illness, died of cancer in the Mercy Hospital, East Melbourne.

In his days at Ballarat, he, A. N. McKissock and J. McNeill were known as the `Three Musketeers of the Trades Hall`. They made a pact that when one of them died, the survivors would plant a Cootamundra wattle on the grave, and the union would do the same for the last of the trio. In July 1938 McNeill planted a wattle by Barnes`s grave, where another memorial was erected by the A.W.U. in 1943.

In a letter to Mr. John McNeill, secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, Mr. J. K. Moir, of Melbourne, has offered to take part in the proposal to plant a wattle tree on the grave of Mr. John Barnes, senator-elect, whose death occurred this week. Mr. Moir said that he would like to offer a small wattle tree grown from seed from the tree growing on the grave of Adam Lindsay Gordon,the poet. The pact to plant wattle trees was made by Mr. McNeill, John Barnes, and the late Andrew McKissock in the early days in Ballarat. Above Andrew McKissock's grave in the Ballarat Cemetery today is growing the wattle planted by his two comrades, the survivors promising each other a similar memorial. 
Argus (Melbourne), 4 February 1938.

At the Melbourne General Cemetery yesterday afternoon a monument to the memory of the late Mr. John Barnes, who was senator-elect when he died was unveiled by the president of the Australian Workers' Union (Mr. J. McNeill). More than 150 members of the Australian Labor party were present, including representatives from other States. Many tributes were paid to the life and the work of the late Mr. Barnes both as a senator and a citizen. The memorial, a marble vault, was subscribed by members of the A.W.U. throughout Australia. Mr. Barnes was their president for many years, and was secretary of the New South Wales branch of the union. In addition to Mr. McNeill the speakers were the Minister of Customs (Senator Keane) and Mr. Albert Blakeley, a former colleague. Mrs. Barnes and members of her family were present.
Age (Melbourne), 15 February 1943.


Address:College Crescent, Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, 3054
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.791811
Long: 144.961975
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Government - Federal


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 14th February, 1943
Front Inscription

Erected by members of the Australian Workers` Union

To the memory of John Barnes
President 1923 - 1938

Beloved husband of Ellen Barnes

Died 31st January 1938

Aged 69 years.

In grateful remembrance.

Source: MA,ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au