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Daniel Michael (Dan) Clyne (1879–1965)

by Stephanie Coleman

Daniel Michael Clyne (1879-1965), NSW Labor politician and unionist, was born in Wyagdon NSW on 28 December 1879, the sixth child of Daniel Clyne Snr and Eliza Lynch. Daniel and Eliza had both emigrated separately to Australia from Ireland in the 1860s and eventually settled in Wyagdon, where they farmed wheat and corn.[1]

Ben Chifley, future Australian prime minister, lived on a farm close to the Clynes with his grandfather Patrick Chifley. The Chifleys and Clynes were great friends, and the children went to school together.[2]

The families gathered to have 'friendly debates' on politics on Sunday afternoons, and this may be where Dan and Ben both developed their interest in politics.[3] They supported each other throughout their political careers, Clyne even campaigning on Chifley’s behalf during a period of illness.[4]

In 1899, after the death of his father, Dan joined the NSW railways as a cart driver and labourer, then as a fettler and ganger.[5]

Dan took a small break from railway work in 1906 to try an auction business in Penrith with John Franklin, father of writer Miles Franklin. He lived with the Franklin family at this time and Miles and Dan became friends.[6]Their friendship continued throughout their lives, and they faithfully corresponded about labour and arts related matters, and met regularly.[7]

Under the pseudonym Brent of Bin Bin, Franklin made a dedication to 'DC who can keep a secret' in her 1932 book Back to Bool Bool. This DC is believed to be Dan Clyne.[8]

The auction business ended the same year it began, so Dan went back to work on the railways. His interest in the Labor movement was established by this time as he is noted as attending early meetings of the Political Labor League in Auburn in 1906.[9]

Working his way up in the union movement, Dan was elected as vice president of The Railways and Tramways Superannuation Board by 1916.[10]

The 'orator of Medlow Bath'[11] was strongly anti conscription for World War I and spoke on behalf of the union movement at rallies against the idea, in both 1916 and 1917.[12]

In 1917 'popular'[13] Dan Clyne was actively involved in The Great Strike, which began in the NSW rail yards. He was a member of the NSW Strike Defence Committee and was sent to Brisbane to 'place the position before the kindred unions there and to appeal for funds'.[14] He was named as a co-conspirator in the court case against strike organisers Kavanagh, Willis, Thompson and Buckley[15], which was eventually abandoned by the Crown.[16]

On 14 August 1917 Clyne was sacked by the railways for his role in the strike. His railways employee card recording that he was 'Dismissed by Proclamation – Left work on strike'.[17]

After his dismissal from the railways Clyne worked his way up in the union movement, eventually heading up the Storemen and Packers Union for 30 years, from 1927 to 1957.[18]

In 1927 he was elected to the NSW Parliament for the Labor Party in the seat of King[19], an electorate which included many poor areas, such as Millers Point, Waterloo, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. He won the next ten consecutive elections and held the seat until his retirement in 1956.[20]

According to the Australian Worker Newspaper, during his elected years Dan took a 'leading part in the fight for the industrial, economic and social betterment of the working masses' and was 'very popular' and his sincerity was 'appreciated by friend and foe alike'.[21]

As a representative of his electorate Clyne was on the Executive Committee for the Opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.[22] He attended the opening event as a member of the official party, and gave a speech praising the 'engineering wonder of the age'.[23]

An avid supporter of controversial NSW Labor figure, Jack Lang, throughout the 1930s, he spoke publicly in support of The Lang Plan in 1931 in NSW and interstate.[24] He also campaigned for Lang’s re-election in 1932, after he had been dismissed by Governor Sir Philip Game.[25] Clyne continued his support for Lang for many years until eventually Lang tendered his resignation to him in 1941 to pursue federal politics.[26]

In 1941, under Premier William McKell, Dan was elected Speaker of the House of the NSW Parliament and continued in the role for six years, which included four years during World War II.  Clyne was considered to be 'impartial in his rulings and he developed a reputation for treating members with great fairness'.[27]

A lover of animals, Dan was on the board of Taronga Park Zoo from 1932-1946, and developed a strong friendship with Sir Edward Hallstrom then trustee of the zoo. In 1949 he travelled to New Guinea with Hallstrom, William Dobell and Colin Simpson, among others, to Hallstrom’s experimental sheep station and bird of paradise sanctuary.[28]

In 1952 a children’s playground in Millers Point was named Clyne Reserve in honour of Dan Clyne.[29] According to his grandchildren, Dan felt strongly that the local children should have somewhere other than the streets to play, so he worked hard to find some land for a park. Clyne Reserve is now part of the Barangaroo Development on Sydney Harbour.

Daniel Clyne was awarded a Coronation Medal in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II [30], and an OBE (Order of the British Empire) on 1 January 1957.[31]

Personal Life
Daniel Clyne married Mary Bradley in Penrith in 1907 and they had two children, Daniel Jnr and Daphne. In 1914, on her 34th birthday, Mary died of enteric fever. Mary’s sister, Margaret Bradley, stepped in to help Dan raise the children and Dan and Margaret lived together in the same house in Farleigh St Ashfield until Dan’s death on 28 August 1965.

Dedicated to his Roman Catholic faith throughout his life, his funeral service was held at Francis Xavier Church in Ashbury and he is buried beside his wife Mary in Penrith Cemetery.

Original Publication

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Citation details

Stephanie Coleman, 'Clyne, Daniel Michael (Dan) (1879–1965)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Daniel Clyne, 1942

Daniel Clyne, 1942

State Library of New South Wales, 1 - 23597

Life Summary [details]


28 December, 1879
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia


28 August, 1965 (aged 85)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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