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George William (Pongo) Grant (1905–1953)

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George William Sweeney (Pongo) Grant (1905-1953) coal miner and gaoled trade union official 

Birth: 14 January 1905 at Newcastle, New South Wales, son of Mary Sweeney (b. 1880 at Gunnedah). Marriage: 22 December 1945 at St John the Evangelist Church, Lambton, Newcastle, to native-born Esma Adele (Dell) Brown (1914-1957?), dancing teacher. They had no children. Death: 15 October 1953 at Sydney Hospital, usual residence Port Jackson Hotel, George Street, Sydney. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Active in Australasian Coal & Shale Employees' Federation all his working life; also a popular figure in sporting (rugby league) and entertainment circles as organiser and performer.
  • President Hebburn lodge. Member of Australian Labor Party.
  • Present at Rothbury demonstration in 1929 and claimed to be 30 yards from shot miner, Norman Brown.
  • Federation advocate before NSW Royal Commission on Safety and Health of Workers in Coal Mines 1938-1939.
  • General secretary Miners' Federation from December 1940 to September 1953, dying in office.
  • Employees' representative on Coal and Shale Mine-workers' Pensions Tribunal 1941.
  • From 1941 urged minimisation of stoppages to maximise war-time coal production. Although ALP supporter, accepted policy of Federation president H. Wells.
  • Sentenced, with Wells, Idris Williams and other officials, to 12 months' imprisonment for contempt of court in refusing to disclose whereabouts of union funds during 1949 coal strike. Defeated challenge to position by ex-secretary William Orr in 1950.
  • Though not an outstanding leader, he applied himself conscientiously to union work, giving close attention to members' problems and lobbying Labor politicians and others with tenacity. Possessed of "strong sense of mateship and innate class consciousness".
  • Australian Labor Party member, active in both Cessnock and North Sydney, where he resided after his appointment as general secretary.
  • Cause of death: cerebral haemorrhage (subdural).

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); Pete Thomas, The coalminers of Queensland: a narrative history of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union. Volume 1 Creating the traditions (Ipswich, 1986); Common Cause, 12 January 1946, 24 October 1953.

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Citation details

'Grant, George William (Pongo) (1905–1953)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 February 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

George Grant, 1949

George Grant, 1949

Westralian Worker (Perth), 15 July 1949, p 1

Life Summary [details]


14 January, 1905
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


15 October, 1953 (aged 48)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

brain hemorrhage

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.

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