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Robert "Bob" James Heffron New Zealand Defence Force file extract | by Archives New Zealand
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Robert "Bob" James Heffron New Zealand Defence Force file extract

On July 27 1978, former New South Wales Premier Robert Heffron died aged 87.


Heffron was born on 10 September 1890 in Thames, New Zealand, the fifth child of Irish-born parents Michael Heffron, a blacksmith, and Ellen Heath. He was born as James Heffron but later added the name Robert to his name. After spending his early education at nearby Hikutaia, Heffron left school at 15 to work in a gold-treating plant while studying metallurgy at the Thames School of Mines. At 19, he went to California to work and to the Yukon in Canada to look for gold; when this proved unsuccessful he returned to New Zealand in 1912. Heffron joined the New Zealand Socialist Party in 1912 and, becoming a miners' union organiser, was involved in the Waihi miners' strike, an event significant to the development of the labour movement in New Zealand. Appointed an organiser for the Auckland General Labourers' Union, Heffron studied law part-time at Auckland University College. On 29 December 1917 he married Jessie Bjornstad, the daughter of a Norwegian engineer and they would have two daughters, Maylean Jessie and June.


The images shown here are from the New Zealand Defence Force Personnel file for Robert Heffron. He failed to serve in WW1 as he was deemed medically unfit. On page 7 of his Defence Force file it goes into detail of Heffron’s heart disease and unusual heartbeat. However, on page 8 (shown above) of the file, Heffron is accused of being a shirker, for allegedly smoking 12 packs of cigarettes prior to his medical. A shirker was a term used to describe men who allegedly evaded service in WW1. The full service file of Heffron can be seen here:


Heffron moved to Australia in 1917 and in 1919 he was appointed organizer for the Federated Clothing Trades of the Commonwealth of Australia and joined the Marxist-oriented Victorian Socialist Party. Heffron was a member of the New South Wales Parliament for Botany from 1930 to 1950. He represented Maroubra from 1950 to 1968. He was the Premier of New South Wales from October 1959 to April 1964. In retirement, Heffron lived in the North Shore suburb of Kirribilli. His wife Jessie died aged 84 on 7 July 1977 at Kirribilli Private Hospital while Heffon was also admitted there as a patient. He died aged 87 at the same hospital on 27 July 1978, survived by his two daughters. Heffron was granted a State Funeral with a service at St Stephen's Uniting Church, Sydney that was attended by over 200 people.


Roberts brother, William Thomas Heffron served in WW1 and his service file can be seen here -


Archives Reference for Robert Heffron New Zealand Defence Force file:


AABK 18805 W5539 107 0053135


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Uploaded on July 23, 2015