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Adam Cook (1851–1920)

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Adam Cook (1851-1920) coalminer, trade union leader, town clerk 

Birth: 14 June 1851 in Lockgelly [Auchterderran], Fifeshire, Scotland, son of Henry Cook (1830-1880), coal miner and secretary of the local mining union, and Agnes, née Lindsay (1834-1900). Marriage: 1874 in Fife, Scotland, to Christiana ‘Christina’ Marshall (1855-1938), born in Dunfermline. Survived by three sons and three daughters. Death: 27 October 1920 at Wallsend, Newcastle, New South Wales. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Described himself as a labourer when he arrived in Sydney with wife and two children aboard the La Hogue on 16 September 1879. Began working at the shale mines at Joadja Creek, near Mittagong. His prominence in improving working conditions there led to his discharge from the company and his moving to Hartley Vale, where similar conditions prevailed. With Laurie Anderson he initiated a checkweighman’s fund, of which Cook was secretary. Again, his activities forced him to leave and in 1883 he arrived with his family at Plattsburg, Newcastle.
  • He worked at the Co-Operative Colliery, where he became a member of the miners’ lodge committee and lodge chairman and sometime secretary but was cavilled out. Obtained employment at Heaton colliery and then Wallsend colliery. Was secretary of the Wallsend and Plattsburg Liberal Association in 1884-1885.
  • Active in the Northern District Miners' Association/Colliery Employees’ Federation, he was an elected member of the committee of management from December 1889 and (unsalaried) president from December 1891 to 1897. In 1892 he successfully proposed the establishment of joint employer-union committee to negotiate fixed hewing rate. Also favoured principle of "co-operation and profit sharing". He was secretary of the local family relief fund.
  • In 1895 he opposed call by Northern District secretary James Curley for strike action to restore 1888 agreement, claiming that such action would be 'suicidal'. Was ill with typhoid fever in 1896. Resigned presidency in September 1897 after failure of 1896 strike. He was replaced by John Estell.
  • He had been first elected alderman on Plattsburg borough council in February 1887, was re-elected in February 1889 and February 1894 and was mayor in 1895 and 1896. In 1896 he was appointed trustee of the Wallsend (Plattsburg) general cemetery and Lake Macquarie Park.
  • When the municipalities of Wallsend and Plattsburg were amalgamated, on 27 August 1897 he was appointed the first town clerk of the municipal Council of Wallsend.
  • Among numerous public activities he was a pioneer and long-time supporter of the local hospital and sometime chairman of its committee, main mover in formation of the local co-operative society and secretary of the Wallsend Workman’s Club.

Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970.

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Citation details

'Cook, Adam (1851–1920)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


14 June, 1851
Auchterderran, Fife, Scotland


27 October, 1920 (aged 69)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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