James Michael Sheehan was born at Clinkers Hill, Castlemaine, in central Victoria, on 24 July 1885, son of Michael Sheehan, blacksmith, a native of Limerick, Ireland, and Ellen, née Firminger. Jim, as he was called, attended St Mary’s Catholic school until, at the age of thirteen, he was employed on the Victorian railways. Under the influence of local railway unionist, Tom Hendra, Sheehan became
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John Joseph Devlin, farmer, was born on 6 June 1898 at Violet Town, in north‑eastern Victoria, son of John Devlin, an Irish Catholic farmer and pioneer of the Benalla district, and Bidelia, née Fitzgerald. Young Jack attended Tamleugh and Tamleugh North state schools, and was introduced to farming at a young age. He was a keen sportsman, participating in, and later officiating for, many