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William Bower (1852–1927)

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William Bower (1852-1927) coalminer, mayor and trade union leader

Birth: 22 August 1852 in Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, eldest child of James Erskine Bower (1827-1876) and Isabella, née Drummond. Marriage: 17 February 1877 at the Registrar’s office, Newcastle, New South Wales, to Catherine Burt (1860-1933), born in Newcastle, NSW, of Scottish parents. They had five daughters and eight sons. Death: 23 July 1927 at Pelaw-Main, Kurri Kurri, NSW. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Arrived Australia (aged 12 years) in 1863 aboard the Severn with his parents and went to Minmi, NSW, then to a colliery hut at Lambton colliery, where William commenced underground work.
  • Later worked at Waratah collieries, the old Co-operative colliery, Plattsburg, Minmi, Wallsend and West Wallsend collieries. Chairman, delegate, check inspector and lodge secretary, Wallsend Union. Qualified by examinations for position of under-manager.
  • Member, district revision committee of the Colliery Employees' Federation (CEF). Succeeded John Estell as president, Northern District CEF, from January 1900 to December 1901, when he became check-weighman at a salary of £200 per year. His cousin John Bower, was elected president in his stead.
  • He was for many years alderman in Wallsend Council, and was twice mayor of Wallsend. Was “one of the stalwarts who assisted in successfully fighting the medical monopoly in Wallsend and Plattsburg, giving employees of local collieries the privilege of introducing … a second medical practice, and … the right to subscribe to whatever doctor they desired.”
  • Member, management committee, Wallsend hospital; instrumental in hospital's establishment. A leader among those who formed the Wallsend and Plattsburg Co-operative Society Ltd, and was a long-time committee member.
  • About 1904 moved to Pelaw-Main colliery, Kurri Kurri, as overman and assistant under-manager. “As consequence of his long and varied experience in coal mining, assisted by self-taught knowledge, he was considered to be among the most practical and experienced pitmen of the northern district” and worked to improve mine ventilation, shorten hours worked, better travelling roads, agreed terms and conditions, wages rates, the sliding scale, etc. A member of the first board in connection with the Miners’ Accident Fund.
  • Appointed as representative of the northern district CEF to give evidence to the Royal Commission inquiring into the Mount Kembla Colliery disaster (1903).
  • Past district master, Miners’ Home branch, NO. 1175, H.R.D., Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Sometime vice-president, Newcastle School of Arts. Was among those who formed E Company of the Fourth Infantry Regiment of volunteers, in which he became sergeant.
  • In his youth he was a member of the Lambton and also of the Wallsend brass bands, and at Kurri Kurri was a member of the bowling club.

Frost, 1900; Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners’ Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Bower, William (1852–1927)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


22 August, 1852
Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland


23 July, 1927 (aged 74)
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, Australia

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