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.

Robert Watson (Bob) Bryan (1865–1935)

This article was published:

Robert Watson (Bob) Bryan (1865-1935) compositor and trade union leader 

Birth: 1865 in Sale, Victoria, son of English-born parents - who arrived in Melbourne aboard the Herald on 1 June 1859 - Robert Bryan (1834-1918), labourer later contractor, and Hannah, née Watson (c.1832-1883). Marriage: 24 July 1897 in parish church of St Paul, Manningham, Yorkshire, to Ann Elizabeth Kemp (1867-1954), who was born in Whitby, Yorkshire. They had four daughters and one son. Death: 2 January 1935 at his home in Northcote, Victoria. Religion: Congregationalist. 

  • Served apprenticeship a compositor on newspaper in hometown of Sale.
  • Worked for various metropolitan and country newspapers. 1893 left for San Francisco, United Sates of America. Worked as compositor in USA and England. First observed use of linotype in Chicago. Joined International Typographical Union in USA and lodged transfer application to Typographical Association, Manchester.
  • Worked for Bradford Observer in Yorkshire for several years, as well as many other newspapers; received tuition in operating linotype machine at Linotype School, Manchester. An active unionist, during seven years in Birmingham was father of the chapel on Express and on committee of management of printers’ union.
  • Joined Independent Labour Party in England. On 27 January 1906 returned to Melbourne after eleven years in England. Became foundation member of Jika Jika branch of the Political Labor League. Elected to board of management, Victorian Typographical Society, in 1918 elected to executive and in 1920 became president. Led twelve-week strike among Melbourne printers.
  • With union amalgamation elected to executive of Printing Industry Employees' Union of Australia (PIEUA). In 1924 elected vice-president and president, also serving as country organiser. President again in 1927. Member of the Melbourne Printers’ Wages Board.
  • Delegate to Melbourne Trades Hall Council and, later, executive member. Frequent union representative to Australian Labor Party annual conference. Enthusiastic member Northcote branch of the ALP, serving as president, secretary, treasurer and press correspondent at various times. In 1927-28 was editor of local ALP newspaper with print run of 10,000 copies.
  • Worked for Spectator in Melbourne and, for last fifteen years of working life, with Labor Call, where he was father of chapel.
  • Talented athlete and boxer in youth, once staying four rounds with British boxing champion, Jack Bourke, the ‘Irish Lad’, at Nhill, Victoria.
  • Cause of death: prostate cancer.

Printing Trades Journal
, 11 June 1929, 8 January 1935; Labor Call (Melbourne), 10 January 1935, p 3:

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Bryan, Robert Watson (Bob) (1865–1935)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Sale, Victoria, Australia


2 January, 1935 (aged ~ 70)
Northcote, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (prostate)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism