A Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-1975: A Progress Report

Hummer last year announced the launch by its editor and three fellow historians from the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, of a challenging new project in the labour history field, namely a Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, and issued a personal invitation to all Hummer readers to contribute to the project. We are pleased to report that the project is now up and running, thanks in no small measure to the splendid response from your good selves, our esteemed readers. Research co-ordinator for the Register, John Shields, is in the process of replying to all those who offered suggestions and encouragement. How, exactly, is the project shaping up? It is being developed in the form of a computer data base and the end result will be the publication in 1992 of a two volume (A-K and L-Z) biographical register containing entries on approximately 2,000 individuals. The aim is to include, as far as is possible, entries on all individuals of note who at any time between 1788 and 1975 were active participants in The labour movement at a local, regional and/or national level in Australia, either as members of particular industrial or political organisations representative of working people or as publicists and intellectuals committed to furthering the interests of working people. For the great majority of inclusions, the primary selection criteria will be active involvement in a trade union or other work-place, community or political organisation, as either an official or a prominent rank-and-file member. Entries average around 300 words in length and are being cast in summary form (as opposed to full prose) in the following standard format:

  1. SURNAME, Given Names (year of birth – year of death).
  2. Personal and Family: Day, month, year and place of birth. Father’s farst name, main occupation, mother’s first name and maiden name. Wife’s/husband’s full name and home town, year of marriage. Number of sons and daughters. Day, month, year and place of death. Religion.
  3. Public Life:
  4. Chronology of education, occupations, union involvement, party political activity, public office, etc.
  5. Major publications (if any).
  6. Sources and acknowledgements.

Entries will later be cross-references by means of a detailed subject index. To assist in the attainment of its objectives, the Register is seeking the advice and support of Dr John Ritchie and his team at Australia’s premier biographical project, the Canberra-based Australian Dictionary of Biography. However, the Register needs your ongoing help too. Your suggestions as to individuals (women in particular) whom you consider worthy of inclusion in the Register remain most welcome. Remember, the project hopes to bring to light the careers of those individuals from all spheres of the labour movement who are not in any sense ‘household names’. So get your thinking caps on and keep the correspondence flooding in.

Even more helpful would be the supply of (or advice as to the location of) obituaries and other biographical information on such persons. Toward this end, the Register is undertaking its own selective survey of union and other labour movement newspapers and periodicals. However, the project’s limited research resources are being directed principally to a comprehensive survey of existing books, theses and other secondary sources. Your assistance and advice with respect to the location of relevant primary source information would therefore be most appreciated. Better still, if you have relevant information on particular individuals at hand, why not try your hand at producing a draft entry for the Register. Just follow the above format as best you can. Naturally, all contributions which you make to the development of profiles on particular personalities will receive formal acknowledgement in the list of sources for the relevant biographical entries.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of labour personalities identified thus far on whom the Register requires extra information:

Arter, Jack (1904-73) – Amalgamated Engineering Union, Victoria
Beitz, Jack ( -1968) – Waterside Workers’ Federation
Buckley, AH ( -1%3) – Boilermakers/Metal Trades Federation
Chapmen, Arthur ( -1935) “A.R.U.
Coull, Jim (1899-1972) – Liquor Trades Union, Victoria
Doig, Watty (1900-1987) – Coalminers’, Wonthaggi
Ewin, Albert (1878- ) – Bricklayers’IB.W.I.U., N.S.W.
Ferry, Frank ( -1954) – Waterside Workers’ Federation, Sydney Flanagan, Bert ( -1955) – Ironworkers’, Victoria
Glynn, Tom ( -1934) – I.W.W.
Graves, J J. ( – ) – Stovemakers’
Grenfell, Gordon (1915-82) – Boilermakers’ Metal Workers’
Grenville, Henrietta (1860-1%4) – White Workers’ Union
Hamilton, Jack ( -1939) – I.W.W.
Hanson, Ted/Jack ( -1967) – Painters’ Queensland
Hatfield, Harry (1911-88) – Sheet Metal Workers, N.S.W.
Howie, Jack ( -1953) – N.S.W. Labour Council
Keenan, Joe ( – ) – Seamen’s Union
Kenny, Jim (1907-67) – Glass Workers’, N.S.W.
Kilburn, Jack (1897- – – Bricklayers’
King, Bob ( – ) – N.S.W. Labour Council
Lewis, Sam ( -1976) – N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation

Write now if you think you can help in any way. You can contact the Register by writing to John Shields, School of Arts and General Studies, University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, PO Box 555, Campbelltown NSW 2560