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Alexander Mcdonald Burt (1881–1961)

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Alexander McDonald Burt (1881- 1961) painter and trade union leader

Birth: 1881 at Walker-on-Tyne, England, son of Thomas Burt, miner, and Agnes, née McKim. Marriages: (1) in England, details unknown. (2) 1931 at Mittagong, New South Wales, to Victorian-born Ane Madeleine Michelsen (1867-1941). (3) 1943 in Chatswood, New South Wales to New Zealand-born Florence Gertrude, née Calver, late Berry (1892-1975). Death: 4 August 1961 at Chatswood, NSW. Religion: Church of Christ. 

  • Claimed in a later letter to have “Highland blood”.
  • Began work at Newcastle-on-Tyne Shipyards, aged 13 years. Granted full journeyman’s wages on completion of five-year apprenticeship, unusual given his youth. Applied for admission to Painters’ Society; admitted to membership when turned 20 years; elected secretary of local branch shortly afterwards. Served 17 years as district committeeman, wages board and conciliation committeeman of National Amalgamated Painters and Decorators’ Association (England). Member of the Independent Labour Party.
  • Came to Australia c. 1917 where he became secretary of the Amalgamated Federated Painters’ Union, later the Operative Painters’ Union. Prominent in amalgamation of painters’ unions, Building Trades Federation, of which he was also secretary. Took leading part on district committees of union, wages boards, conciliation boards and management committees.
  • Staunch anti-conscriptionist in 1917. Prepared effective cartoons for the Worker during the campaign.
  • In World War II he prepared signwriting for camouflaged hoax town west of the Blue Mountains.
  • His craftsmanship was greatly admired. Designed and painted emblem for Scottish Association and illuminated music for American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Painted signs for Paris Exhibition 1900 and Glasgow Exhibition 1901.

Australian Worker
(Sydney), 14 March 1918, p 10:; The Painter, February 1962.

Citation details

'Burt, Alexander Mcdonald (1881–1961)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England


4 August, 1961 (aged ~ 80)
Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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