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Birkinshaw, Alfred (1889–1971)

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Alfred Birkinshaw (1889-1971) packer and trade union leader 

Birth: 9 March 1889 in Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, son of Yorkshire-born Daniel Birkinshaw (1859-1914), carter, later builder, and Jennie, née Farrenden (1877-1914), who had been born in Victoria. Marriage: 17 November 1917 in Paddington, Sydney, to London-born Violet Cooper, a machinist. They had two daughters. Death: 12 February 1971 in Fairfield, Brisbane, Queensland. 

  • Educated in state public schools.
  • Unionist from c. 1909. First joined Storemen & Packers' Union, then Trolley & Draymen's Union c.1918.
  • Organiser, Commercial Section, NSW Trolley and Draymen's Union/Amalgamated Road Transport Workers' Union (ARTWU), NSW Branch, 1925. Advocate, with Frank Miller and others, of federal amalgamation. Provisional vice-president ARTWU 1925. President for four consecutive years. Unsuccessfully contested secretaryship of NSW union against Miller in 1925 and Herbert John Frost in 1931. Assistant secretary, 1934-37.
  • Elected secretary of the NSW branch of the ARTWU in 1937 following forced resignation of Sam Smith for misappropriation of union funds. Retained position until August 1942. A reliable administrator, he restored stability to union's affairs.
  • A Lang supporter, his political conservative and industrially passive approach came under increasing attack after 1939 from militants lead by A. G. Platt. In 1940 he accepted position on trade union advisory panel established by Menzies government, but was forced to resign.
  • In June 1942 he was appointed by Curtin government to full-time position on Emergency Transport Committee, but Platt forces used the appointment to force his dismissal from secretaryship.
  • In 1944-1947 he was a member of council of management, of the Road Safety Council of NSW.
  • Cause of death: myocardial infarction, coronary atheroma and congestive cardiac failure.
  • Recreations: fishing, swimming, reading.

Sources
Mark Bray and Andrew Rimmer, Delivering the Goods; the Transport Workers’ Union in New South Wales 1888-1986 (Sydney, 1987); Labor Daily, 13 Jan. 1927.

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Citation details

'Birkinshaw, Alfred (1889–1971)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/birkinshaw-alfred-32652/text40533, accessed 28 November 2022.

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