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William (Bill) Casey (1889–1949)

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William ‘Bill’ Casey (1889-1949) seaman, socialist and trade union leader 

Birth: in 1889 in Manchester, England, of Irish parents. Unmarried. Death: 19 October 1949 in Brisbane Hospital. Religion: none. 

  • In his youth he sailed before the mast between Europe and America.
  • Arrived in Australia in 1916. Active in Industrial Workers of the World and was ‘a real hobo type’. Was in Melbourne during the conscription controversy.
  • Visited Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1921. Activist in the One Big Union (OBU). Wrote words to International Workers of the World songs including ‘Bump me into Parliament’. Like his ally, Jacob Johnson, he was a member of the Australian branch of the rigidly marxist British Socialist Party. Known as ‘the philosopher of the proletariat’.
  • Acting secretary of the Sydney branch of the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia (Seamen’s Union of Australia) in 1924. Secretary of the Queensland branch, of the FSUA in 1935-36, becoming involved in internecine turf war with Eliot V. Elliott after 1935 seamen’s strike. In 1937 he refused to vacate office having lost ballot.
  • After further disputation he became secretary of Queensland branch of the SUA from 1943 to his death. He was described as ‘An intelligent, unkempt man without personal ambition, dedicated to working-class theoretical considerations’.
  • Cause of death: lung cancer with metastases.
  • Elliott read the eulogy at his non-religious funeral.

H. J. Gibbney and A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987); Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia (Melbourne, 1995); Brian Fitzpatrick and Rowan J. Cahill, The Seamen’s Union of Australia: a history, (Sydney, 1981). L. J. Louis, ‘Recovery from the Depression and the Seamen’s Strike 1935-6’, in Labour History, November 1981, No. 1, p 74-86; Donald Sinclair Fraser, Articles of agreement: The Seamen’s Union of Australia, 1904-1943 a study of antagonised labour, PhD thesis (University of Wollongong, 1998).

Additional Resources

  • profile, Daily Standard (Brisbane), 6 January 1936, p 4
  • tribute, Sun (Sydney), 26 October 1949, p 19

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Casey, William (Bill) (1889–1949)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Manchester, England


19 October, 1949 (aged ~ 60)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (lung)

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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism