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Rudolph (Bob) Cheney (1874–1950)

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Cheney, Rudolph ‘Bob’ (1874-1950) driver and trade union leader 

Birth: 1874 in Stawell, Victoria, son of native-born parents William Cheney (1842-1918), printer, and Catherine, née Lyttleton. Marriage: 4 May 1898 at Bundaberg, Queensland, to Mary Louisa Hayden. (1878-1951), born in Gympie. They had one daughter and two sons. Death: 1 November 1950 in his home at Alphington, Melbourne, Victoria. 

  • Spent five years in Queensland in the 1890s. Was working as a driver and living in Richmond, Melbourne, by 1903.
  • Secretary Victorian Carters' and Drivers' union 19?-19?. Founding general sec. Federated Carters' and Drivers' Industrial Union/Amalgamated Road Transport Workers' Union (federal union) from 1912 to 1944 (temporarily position through illness in 1915-16).
  • Throughout last years of World War I and 1920 was a strong figure at the helm of the federal union, obtaining federal award in 1918 and emerging as outstanding union advocate before 1919 Commonwealth Royal Commission on basic wage. He ensured that federal union remained firmly Melbourne-based.
  • In the 1930s remained sole federal official, confining himself almost completely to Victoria and federal awards. Defeated 1936 attempt by NSW and Queensland branches to close federal office and appoint part-time federal secretary.
  • By late 1930s had become old, erratic and ill, with annual Federal Council meetings debating a series of motions calling for his retirement. Narrowly survived moves for forced retirement in 1941 and 1942.
  • Stood down only after being incapacitated by a stroke in 1944.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion and auricular fibrillation.

Mark Bray & Andrew Rimmer, Delivering the Goods; the Transport Workers’ Union in New South Wales 1888-1986 (Sydney, 1987).

Additional Resources

  • profile, Herald (Melbourne), 16 June 1934, p 38

Citation details

'Cheney, Rudolph (Bob) (1874–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

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