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William Dudley Flinn (1858–1917)

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William Dudley (known as Dudley) Flinn (1858-1917) clerk and political activist. 

Birth: 6 August 1858 in North Melbourne, son of Irish-born parents Michael Flinn (1830-1871), carrier, and Frances ‘Fanny’ née Dudley. Unmarried. Death: 19 May 1917 at St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne. Religion: Anglican. 

  • In 1883 visited United Kingdom and United States of America, where for three years was a ‘diligent student of political, economic and social conditions’.
  • Returned to Melbourne in 1888. In 1889 successfully inaugurated unemployment agitation on large scale in Victoria and same year one of founders and honorary secretary of Social Democratic League, Melbourne. A founder of Democratic Club. Pioneer member of Progressive Political League [Labor Party].
  • Later described as being, in 1891, ‘a blond-haired, blue-eyed, well-knit young man, a clarion-voiced, logical speaker, whose eloquence was ebullient”; Dudley Flinn and Max Hirsch, were ‘the then leading exponents here of collectivism and individualism’.
  • Wrote for Commonweal and Sydney Worker. Represented Melbourne socialists at socialist conventions in 1893 (Sydney), 1896, 1897 and 1899. Essay on world federation published by E.W. Cole.
  • Stood unsuccessfully for St George, New South Wales Legislative Assembly election in 1901 and for Melbourne, Victorian Legislative Assembly election 1907. By this year he was said to have spent seven years in States other than Victoria. He was best known, however, as a “Yarra-bank orator”.
  • In later years ceased activity in militancy but retained interest in industrial and political questions and acted as secretary to Dr Maloney’s Melbourne campaign. Continued to attend Socialist Party meetings and never missed a May Day gathering at the Yarra Bank’.
  • Cause of death: broncho pneumonia and toxaemia.
  • Friends William Maloney and George Pendergast, spoke at his graveside.

H. J. Gibbney & A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987); Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, (Sydney, 1985); The Socialist, 9 March 1907, p 6:

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Citation details

'Flinn, William Dudley (1858–1917)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


6 August, 1858
North Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


19 May, 1917 (aged 58)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

Political Activism