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Bryan, Robert Watson (Bob) (1865–1935)

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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.

Sources
Printing Trades Journal
, 11 June 1929, 8 January 1935; Labor Call (Melbourne), 10 January 1935, p 3: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/249969127.

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Citation details

'Bryan, Robert Watson (Bob) (1865–1935)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/bryan-robert-watson-bob-32831/text40849, accessed 4 February 2023.

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