HEALEY (Healy), DOMINICK, labour organizer, bricklayer, mason, fire-fighter, and parade organizer; b. between 1846 and 1854 in Halifax, son of Patrick Healey, a bricklayer and mason, and Annie Leonard; m. there 2 July 1872 Mary Anne Conway, and they had two surviving sons and two surviving daughters; d. there 26 May 1911.
Dominick Healey is an excellent example of a late-19th-century working-class Haligonian. Nothing is known of his early years. Like many others he followed his father’s trade and learned the skilled crafts of stonecutting, bricklaying, and masonry. The 1871 census shows Healey, a Roman Catholic, living in a working-class district with his widowed father, sharing accommodation with a Baptist African Nova Scotian family and two single African Nova Scotian women in their fifties. Co-residence across lines of race and religion in working-class households was not unusual in 1871 Halifax, but it became increasingly rare towards the end of the century.
Going away to work was another characteristic of Halifax labour exemplified by Healey. It appears he left the city around 1878 and returned sometime before June 1886. His departure probably reflected the realities of the bricklaying trade, since there were seldom enough large construction projects to allow permanent residence for more than a few bricklayers in the city.
Two changes in the Halifax labour movement during Healey’s absence had a great effect on his career. In 1881 the Amalgamated Trades Union had been formed by the city’s painters, carpenters, bricklayers, and bakers. This organization shared characteristics with the Knights of Labor and promoted education, political action, and cooperation among trades. Its establishment was followed by the creation of the Bricklayers’ and Masons’ Union of Nova Scotia, No.1, on 23 June 1882. Healey’s return to Halifax led to his immediate involvement in both bodies. As vice-president of the bricklayers and masons, he played a significant role in the move to affiliate the local union with the international union on 16 Jan. 1888, and he was president of the local union in 1899 and 1911. This involvement was complemented by service as ATU vice-president in 1890 and president in 1892 and 1893.
Healey’s associational life was not restricted to labour organizations, for he was an enthusiastic joiner and organizer. In November 1871 he was initiated into the Union Engine Company as a reel boy, and he re-established his connection with the volunteer fire companies upon his return to Halifax. In 1896 he was appointed first lieutenant of No.1 Company, and in 1906 he became South District chief, a position he held until his death. The Halifax Fire Department was unofficially associated with the Roman Catholic community, and Healey had more formal ties to this community as an original member of the Catholic Young Men’s Total Abstinence Society and its vice-president in 1874–75. He also belonged to the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association and was collector at St Mary’s Cathedral for 25 years. Healey was a “staunch Liberal,” an association he reinforced through his employer, Michael Edwin Keefe, a Catholic contractor and municipal politician who ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in the 1896 federal election. This connection resulted in his appointment as provincial inspector of stonework on bridges and in 1900 or 1901 as inspector of masonry for the federal government. Healey inspected a number of prominent buildings, such as the Halifax armoury, completed in 1899, and the Nova Scotia Technical College, finished in 1909.
Although Healey’s obituaries touched largely upon his occupational skills and his character, calling him “one of the finest mechanics in the city” and “an honest, upright, reliable and most worthy citizen,” he was best remembered for his ability to organize parades. Healey planned and acted as marshal of the first and largest labour processions in 19th-century Halifax; in July 1890, for example, he organized 1,500 men for the labour day celebration. Moreover, as marshal of the St Mary’s Young Men’s Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society in 1894–95, Healey assisted Major Arthur Percy Sherwood*, commissioner of the Dominion Police, in the ordering of Prime Minister Sir John Sparrow David Thompson*’s funeral procession in January 1895. He was also marshal of the procession of Catholic societies on the visit of the papal delegate to the city.
Recounting the 1902 Labour Day parade 25 years later, a veteran of the labour movement asked, “Who will forget the stentorian voice of the Grand Marshal Dominick Healy, in silk hat, Prince Albert coat, white kid gloves and the crimson baton of the Masons and Bricklayers, shouting in a voice that could be heard a mile his famous call to the workers, ‘Organized Labor, Attention. By the Right, Quick, March!’”
NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, 1891, 1901, Halifax. PANS, MG 20, 534. St Mary’s Roman Catholic Basilica (Halifax), RBMB (mfm. at PANS). Acadian Recorder, 24 July 1890, 20 July 1892, 19 July 1893, 4 Sept. 1899, 27 May 1911. Citizen (Halifax), 8 Jan. 1927. Halifax Herald, 3 Aug. 1888, 24 July 1890, 3 Jan. 1895, 27 May 1911. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 27 May 1911. Directory, Halifax. “History of the Halifax labor movement,” Halifax District Trades and Labor Council, Journal (Halifax), 1928 (copy at PANS). Ian MacKay, The craft transformed: an essay on the carpenters of Halifax, 1885–1985 (Halifax, 1985).