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Fothergill, William (c. 1859–1921)

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Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Fothergill is second from left, top row]

Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Fothergill is second from left, top row]

State Library of Qld, 64845

William Fothergill, also known as William Lewis Richards (1859/1860-1921) shearer, storekeeper, baker and gaoled trade union leader 

Birth: 24 October 1859 or 24 May 1860 at Milton, near Gravesend, Kent, England, son of John Lewis Richards (1839-1907), labourer and herbalist, and Mary Ann, née Fothergill (1842-1867). Marriage: 13 February 1899 in Brisbane, Queensland, to Clara Theresa Lyons. They had a son and a daughter. Death: 13 December 1921 in Barcaldine, Queensland. Religion: Freethinker, nominal Anglican. 

  • Registered at birth as William Lewis Richards.
  • May have been the William Richards who joined the Royal Navy on 30 December 1874, was an ordinary seaman in the Danae and was discharged in Sydney on 5 July 1879.
  • In 1880 arrived overland in Queensland, where he was known by his mother’s surname. Active in Queensland Shearers' Union. Secretary Barcoo/Central District Council (CDC), Australian Labour Federation in Strongly opposed to Chinese labour in pastoral industry.
  • Member CDC's first Barcaldine Strike Committee in February 1891. Arrested at Barcaldine with other committee members on 25 March 1891 and charged with conspiracy; tried, with others, before Judge George Harding at Rockhampton Supreme Court in April 1891. Convicted & sentenced to three years hard labour.
  • Prison records describe him as a native of England, aged 31, stout and 5 feet 0 ½ inches (154cm) tall, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. He sported a long dark beard.
  • After release on 17 November 1893 opened bakery at Barcaldine.
  • Stood unsuccessfully as Labor candidate for State seat of Barcoo 1907. In the pre-selection ballot for the same seat in 1909 he and his former fellow-prisoner Bob Prince were beaten by T. J. Ryan [later Labor premier of Queensland].
  • Elected chair of Barcaldine Shire Council 1919. 
  • Member of the Loyal Barcaldine Lodge of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Barcaldine branch of the Royal Society of St George.
  • Cause of death arteriosclerosis, nephritis and angina pectoris.

Stuart Svensen, The Shearers' War: the story of the 1891 shearers' strike (Brisbane, 1989). 

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'Fothergill, William (c. 1859–1921)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 January 2023.

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