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John Charles (Charlie) Coupe (1876–1965)

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John Charles (Charlie) Coupe (1876-1965) butcher, trade union leader and Communist activist 

Birth: 27 December 1876 at Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, eldest child of John Charles Coupe (1843-1913), colliery agent, and Sarah Alethea, née Russell (1847-1939). Marriage: 25 April 1914 at Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, to Elizabeth Marguerite Huxtable (1888-1973). They had one son. Death: 21 August 1965 at Footscray, Melbourne.

  • Arrived in Victoria with his parents in the mid 1880s.
  • Member Social Democratic Party, Melbourne, 1900s. To Bendigo where he was active in the labour movement. Member of Victoria-Riverina executive of Australian Workers’ Union.
  • Returned to Melbourne. In 1907 he organised Ham and Bacon Curers’ Association, encouraging amalgamation of meat industry unions prior to 1914, becoming assistant secretary and later vigilance officer of Victorian Amalgamated Butchers’ Union; 1914 became State secretary.
  • Believer in closer organisation of unions, encouraged Ice and Cold Storage Union to combine with meat industry re annual picnics etc, also in 1910s. In 1917 played active part in first shop committees in Victorian meat works.
  • Prominent anti-conscriptionist orator in Melbourne 1916-17. Avid reader and ‘fervent believer in, and loquacious exponent of, Socialism and Marxian economics’. Treasurer, Melbourne One Big Union in 1910-20s.
  • In 1933 resigned from union to take over butchering business in Loch, Victoria, returning to Melbourne later to work at Angliss’s Imperial Works, Footscray, and became Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union delegate.
  • From 1920 to 1965 was a member of Communist Party of Australia, joining CPA (Marxist-Leninist) after split.
  • Admirer of Harry Scott Bennett.

Merrifield papers; Meat Employees’ Journal, Nov 1965; Worker, 19 July 1906, p 3: https://trovexxxD%201906; A.E. Davis, 1974.

Citation details

'Coupe, John Charles (Charlie) (1876–1965)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


27 December, 1876
Doncaster, Yorkshire, England


21 August, 1965 (aged 88)
Footscray, Melbourne, Victoria, 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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism