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John Frederick (Jack) Chapple (1883–1953)

This article was published:

Jack Chapple, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Jack Chapple, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Labor Call (Melbourne), 14 February 1924, p 11

John Frederick (Jack) Chapple (1883-1953) railway employee and trade union official 

Birth: 7 August 1883 at Bealiba, Victoria, son of English-born parents John Morphett Chapple (1832-1917), agent, from Exeter, Devonshire, and Annie, née Kidston (1842-1901), from Hertfordshire. Marriages: (1) 21 March 1910 at Bealiba, to native-born Myrtle Elizabeth Rice (1889-1949). They had one daughter and three sons. (2) 1950 at Kogarah, in Sydney, to native-born Ida Zealandia Watt (1898-1970), secretary. Death: 25 July 1953 in hospital at Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales; usual residence Sylvania. Religion: Seventh Day Adventist. 

  • Educated at a State School.
  • Joined Victorian Railways Department in 1900 as a lad porter; clerk 1904, later assistant station-master, serving railways for over 20 years.
  • Member of Victorian Socialist Party from 1909 to 1927. In 1911 assisted in formation of Victorian Railways Union. He was State president in 1916, general president 1924 to 1929. General secretary of Australian Railways Union (ARU) from 1934 to 1952, acting secretary NSW branch, ARU, 1934-35. Advocate in State and Federal Arbitration Courts.
  • Editor of journal Railroad. Instrumental in using mass action in campaign for 40-hour week.
  • Director of labour newspaper Labor Call. Founder of radio station 3KZ. Vice-president of the Australian Labor Party’s Victorian branch in 1931-1932.
  • Chairman of Australia-Soviet Friendship League in Victoria early 1940s.
  • Active in promoting workers’ education in the workplace, establishing highly successful Educational and Organisational Scheme within ARU using a percentage of membership contributions. Also involved with Left Book Club, Australia China Cooperation Movement, World Peace Movement. Established ARU Brass Band and Women’s Auxiliary.
  • Retired from union in 1951, delivering an erudite speech about the need for socialism and peace.
  • Cause of death: uraemia (months), hypertensive cardio vascular disease (years).

Eddie Butler-Bowden, In the service? A history of Victorian railway workers and their union, ed. Jenny Lee (South Yarra, 1991); H. J. Gibbney and Ann G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987) ; Recorder, April 1976; ARU General Secretary’s Biennial Report, May 1950: ARU, 24th Meeting of Australian Council, April 1952; Railroad, 21 August 1953; The Railways Union Gazette, 20 July 1916, August 1953; Westralian Worker, 27 April 1928; Labor Year Book 1934/5.

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Citation details

'Chapple, John Frederick (Jack) (1883–1953)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Jack Chapple, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Jack Chapple, caricature by Dick Ovenden, 1924

Labor Call (Melbourne), 14 February 1924, p 11

Life Summary [details]


7 August, 1883
Bealiba, Victoria, Australia


25 July, 1953 (aged 69)
Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

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