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Francis Henry (Harry) Cockerill (1899–1987)

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Harry Cockerill, n.d.

Harry Cockerill, n.d.

Francis Henry (Harry) Cockerill (1899-1987) miner, trade union leader and politician 

Birth: 5 July 1899 at Greta, New South Wales, son of Francis William Cockerill (1872-1899), breaker and miner born in Scagglethorpe, Yorkshire, England, and native-born Edith Maria, née Wheatley (1876-1919). Marriage: 14 July 1923 at Maitland East, NSW, to Dorothy Emily Maud Morley (1902-1975). They had three daughters and one son. Death: 8 August 1987 at Cardiff, NSW. Religion: Methodist.

  • Father killed at Greta colliery in December 1899. In 1909 his mother married John Alexander Cockerill, his deceased father’s younger brother.
  • Young Francis was educated at Kurri Kurri public school. His family moved to Greta in 1915 and later to Branxton where he began mining.
  • Secretary Rothbury Lodge. Secretary (?) Rothbury Greta Lock-out Committee from 1929 to 1930, playing leading role in campaign against use of non-union labour. After he left Rothbury he was unemployed for most of 1930s and became branch secretary of the Unemployed Workers' Movement.
  • Gained employment at Richmond Main Colliery from late 1930s and leaving in 1948. On basis of organising work around Rothbury he was appointed organiser for Combined Mining Unions Council. Was instrumental in strengthening union position in isolated Burragorang Valley.
  • Member of the Northern Miners’ Union from 1929. Elected to Northern Board of Management of Miners' Federation from early 1940s until 1949. Elected Northern Board vice-president 1949, defeating incumbent Communist candidate Henry Scanlon.
  • On 30 June 1942 Cockerill, a mine’s shiftman living at Greta, was mobilized for service in the Australian Military Forces. He was discharged on 17 January 1944 on the grounds of being unable to attend parades.
  • In latter stages of 1949 coal strike, with fellow moderate Bill Crook, withdrew support for strike, effectively splitting strike front and undermining position of Federation's Communist-aligned national leadership. Retained vice-presidency until his retirement in 1959.
  • Councillor of Kearsley shire 1947-1950. Chairman Cardiff Urban Area committee.
  • Had joined Branxton branch of Australian Labor Party in 1923. Later was a member of Cardiff branch of ALP and president of ALP Hunter federal electorate council. Member NSW ALP central executive 1950-1952 & 1955-1959. As Miners' Federation candidate he contested vice-presidency of NSW ALP in 1958 but was defeated through not being endorsed by party's Right Wing leadership.
  • Member of the Legislative Council of NSW from 10 September 1959 (casual vacancy) until he retired on 22 April 1973. Life member ALP NSW Branch in 1979, nominated by Cardiff branch.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); E. Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); Andrew William Metcalfe, For freedom and dignity: Historical agency and class structures in the coalfields of NSW (Sydney 1988); Common Cause, 1 March 1978 p 2.

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Citation details

'Cockerill, Francis Henry (Harry) (1899–1987)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Harry Cockerill, n.d.

Harry Cockerill, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


5 July, 1899
Greta, New South Wales, Australia


8 August, 1987 (aged 88)
Cardiff, New South Wales, Australia

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.

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