People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Thomas Dix (1860–1893)

This article was published:

Thomas Dix (1860-1893) coal miner, trade union leader who died following mine accident 

Birth: 10 August 1860 at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England, son of William Dix (1818-1883), shoemaker, later greengrocer and Mary, née Cornwell (1816-1861). Marriage: 24 August 1879 at the Independent Methodist chapel, Stubshaw Cross, Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, England, to Elizabeth Simm (1861-1892). They had two daughters and four sons one of whom died in infancy. Death: 30 October 1893 in hospital at Newcastle. Religion: Wesleyan Methodist. 

  • Worked as a coalminer from early 1871. Migrated to the Wigan district in Lancashire, England, and became a check weighman. Reported in 1889 as having been “one of the founders of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miner Federation.”
  • Arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, possibly aboard the SS Arabic on 25 December 1886, then sponsored the migration of his wife who reached Sydney with their eldest four children aboard the Orizaba in May 1888.
  • Was a coalminer at the Greta colliery and represented that lodge on the delegate board.
  • Elected to the salaried position of general secretary of the Hunter River Coal Miners' Mutual Protective Association in December 1889. Took a prominent part in organising Northern miners to withhold coal in support of the striking maritime unions during the 1890 strike. Member of Labour Defence Committee during strike.
  • Was preselected by the Labor and Protectionist Parliamentary League to contest the seat of Newcastle in June 1891, but withdrew late in the campaign as James Thomson, the union president, was contesting Northumberland. He then supported J. L. Fegan who won the seat.
  • Defeated for the position of union secretary by James Curley in February 1892, Dix returned to work as a miner in Newcastle. That year his wife died from uterine cancer.
  • On the morning of 30 October 1893 he was half buried under a fall of coal at Wickham and Bullock Island colliery in Newcastle. When lifted out he told his rescuer “I think I am done for”. Taken to hospital, he died four hours later. A coronial inquest returned a verdict of accidental death. His life was insured for £100.
  • Dix was a member of the Victoria Lodge, No. 2, Newcastle, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
  • Arrangements were made for his surviving five orphaned children to be placed in a government institution, but instead, all were quickly fostered by neighbours. His eldest son William (1882-1945) became an international Rugby Union footballer, and his other two surviving sons, Thomas (1887-1917) and Maurice [also known as Jimmy Wilson] (1889-1918), were killed in action in World War I.

Robin Gollan, The coalminers of New South Wales: a history of the Union (Melbourne, 1963); Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970).

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Dix, Thomas (1860–1893)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


10 August, 1860
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England


30 October, 1893 (aged 33)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

mining accident

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.

Key Events
Key Organisations