People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Edward (Ted) Benyon (1868–1947)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Edward Benyon (1868-1947) shearers’ cook, trade unionist

Birth: 1868 in Sydney, New South Wales, son of native-born parents Stephen Benyon, butcher, and his wife Mary Ann, née Bradley. Marriage: 1 October 1898 in Muttaburra, Queensland, to Jane Lucy Lonergan (1881-1967). They had three daughters and two sons. Death: 26 May 1947 in Townsville, Queensland. 

  • Claimed he had never been to a school or church in his life.
  • As a child in Sydney Ted sold papers telling of the sinking of the Austria in Sydney Harbour and the burning of the Palace Exhibition in the Botanical Gardens. He was a “barefooted boy” working in Bodel Bros.’ sweets factory when Sir Henry Parkes introduced compulsory education. ”They hunted me off to the ragged school at Glebe, but I never went, because the school failed,” he later reminisced. “When Cooper and Barclay’s Circus went to Sydney with the first steam organ to reach Australia it occupied the whole of Moore Park” and Benyon, “then working in a flour mill in Goulburn Street, often found excuses to visit the circus.”
  • In 1886 he “took to the bush” to go cooking for shearers and remained a cook for the rest of his working life. Arrived in Queensland the following year.
  • Joined the Australian Workers’ Union at St George, Queensland on 21 July 1889, three years after its formation. He kept his membership tickets, taken out every year, as well as all his levies and loyalty tickets, and his shearers’ cook certificate issued by the Cobar branch of the Amalgamated Shearers’ Union, NSW, in December 1890. He also retained a letter dated 16 June 1891 from the secretary of the strike committee at Barcaldine stating that he had worked at the St George camp gratis for 250 men whilst they were on strike, “to their satisfaction”.
  • At the AWU diamond jubilee celebrations in Sydney in February 1946 Benyon, then living in Townsville, was presented with a gold watch inscribed with the legend “Oldest living continuous member of the A.W.U., 1899-1946” although Charles William Sullivan had a ticket issued earlier. “I saw the soldiers go away to the Sudan, the Boer War, the German War, and this last war”, he recalled.
  • Lived in various Queensland country towns, including Winton, Longreach, Hughenden and Cloncurry. In 1946 he was cooking for pineapple growers on Magnetic Island.
  • Cause of death pulmonary oedema, senility and disseminated sclerosis.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Benyon, Edward (Ted) (1868–1947)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 4 December 2023.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


26 May, 1947 (aged ~ 79)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


Key Events
Key Organisations