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Hoffmeister was born on 20 Aug. 1862 in Germany, baptised in the Lutheran parish church of St Elizabeth, Brandenburg, Berlin. He migrated to Australia many years later.
The first train-load of non-union (‘scab’) shearers (200) was sent from Sydney to Queensland, and the Unionists held protests at the Pastoralists Association Offices, where the non-union shearers met to sign their contracts and get their railway tickets. Hoffmeister may have been there in 1890 for the Maritime Strike, considering that Sydney was the centre of the action, in this, the largest Union rally ever held in Australia.
There is not much known about Hoffmeister, apart from his baptism records, death certificate, which records that Hoffmeister died, aged 32, in 1894, and was German, and the police reports at Dagworth that stated that he was known by the nickname, “Frenchy” and was known to be an inciter.
Some Germans under Bismarck, particularly Catholics or Socialists, are known to have emigrated to South Africa to escape persecution, so this could explain the contradiction between his stated nationality below and the supposition that Hoffmeister was of German birth, or more likely it was ignorance on the part of those who were interviewed. Doubtless the appellative “Frenchy” is explained by the fact that foreigners were lumped together in one category, and Australian men were more familiar with the idea of French nationality than German.
The tragedy at Dagworth station happened in the early hours of 2nd September 1894. The inquest into Hoffmeister’s death was held on the 27th September, and it was found to be suicide.
BRISBANE Tues. A Barcaldine telegram states that shearing work in that district is proceeding satisfactorily. Hoffmeister, the unionist supposed to have been shot in the affray in Dagworth, was well known here. He is the son of an old South African Boer, who pursued the vocation of a carrier in the Springsure district. He is about 30 years of age. Upon the death of his father a few years ago the son took to shearing, and sheared at Leichhart Downs and other stations. In 1891 Hoffmeister, it is stated, took a very prominent part in fomenting strife and advocating violence, but succeeded in keeping out of the clutches of the law. He invariably carried firearms. (Sydney Morning Herald on Sept 5 1894)
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Waltzing Matilda the musical Copyright © 1993,1996,2006,2007 Submarine Media Pty Ltd, Waltzing Matilda the musical Pty Ltd, Edward Holding & Andrew Partington