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George Callanan (1883–1923)

by Bobbie Oliver

This article was published:

George Callanan (1883-1923) miner, trade union leader

Birth: 1883 in Ross, near Hokitika, Westland, South Island, New Zealand, son of John Callanan (1855-1910), a miner, of Irish parentage, born at sea off South Australia, and New-Zealand-born Mary, née Morgan (1864-1944). Marriage: 1907 at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia to Freida Elizabeth Wulff. They had four sons and three daughters. Death: 17 December 1923 at Kalgoorlie, WA. Religion: Catholic or Anglican? 

  • Family left New Zealand when George was 2 years old and moved to Broken Hill, New South Wales, for 11 years. Educated in Broken Hill and at the Convent School in Boulder, Western Australia. Gifted musically and was prominent athlete in Broken Hill.
  • Moved with family to Boulder, WA, in late 1890s. Started work as office boy on Horseshoe Gold Mine. Underground miner at Lake View Mine.
  • Committee member and conference delegate with Federated Miners' Union (FMU), 1912; secretary, c.1917.
  • Delegate, Eastern Goldfields District Council of Australian Labor Federation (ALF) WA when the FMU and AWU amalgamated; secretary, president and (at time of death) trustee. Represented Eastern Goldfields District Council at three ALF State Conferences.
  • President, AWU mining branch 1918-22. Secretary Kalgoorlie/Boulder branch AWU at his death. Represented AWU at Australian Trades Union Congress in Melbourne 1921 and at conferences in Sydney and Brisbane.
  • Selected as Labor's representative for Southern Province, WA Legislative Council shortly before his death.
  • Opposed conscription during WWI and was an outspoken advocate of workers' rights. Endured unemployment and imprisonment due to union activities.
  • Stood trial in Perth Supreme Court in March 1920 on charges of inciting riot at Fimiston Mine, with 15 other AWU members. All were acquitted.
  • Presented with medal by WA branch of Amalgamated Workers' Association for appreciation of solid work done as president. Deteriorating health lead to an early death. His wife had pre-deceased him by 18 months.
  • Cause of death: renal calculi, operation and shock.

Minutes of State Executive of ALF of WA, and Minutes of Eastern Goldfields District Council ALF, lodged at Public Records Office WA; Westralian Worker, A. Gill, 'Provisional Family Tree for Callanan Family in WA'; Westralian Worker, 21 December 1923 p 14 [], 28 December 1923 p 11.

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Citation details

Bobbie Oliver, 'Callanan, George (1883–1923)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 3 March 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Ross, New Zealand


17 December, 1923 (aged ~ 40)
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

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