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Richard (Dick) Gully (1880–1968)

by Sarah Gregson

This article was published:

Gully, Richard (Dick) (1883-1969) railway worker, clerk and union opponent

Birth: 27 March 1880 at Mt Bryan, South Australia, son of Scottish-born James Gully (1858-1919) and Lucy, née Simpson (1856-1919), born in Ireland. Both parents had arrived in Port Adelaide aboard the Bencleuch on 17 September 1876. Marriage: (1) 1903 to Olive Watson. They had one son. The marriage ended in divorce in 1920. (2) 1921 to Annie Elizabeth. Death: 13 March 1968 in hospital at Daw Park, Adelaide; usual residence Lomond avenue, Kensington Park, SA. Religion: Methodist. 

  • Dick Gully was a conservative worker whose patriotism and racism were directed against trade union internationalism.
  • He served with the 6th Australian contingent in South Africa in 1900-1901. Afterwards he worked on railways and lived in the Yorke Peninsula area.
  • Was a railway guard when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 November 1915. He served with the 27th Battalion in France. Lance sergeant Gully was wounded in action on 25 April 1917 and repatriated to Australia in November and discharged on 6 December 1917.
  • Member, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Stood as Nationalist candidate for Port Adelaide in the South Australian state election of 1918, but was unsuccessful.
  • In 1920, his wife sued for divorce citing infidelity and exposure to venereal disease.
  • In 1924 South Australian State election, he stood as an independent for Wallaroo; received 109 votes. Advised businessmen to leave South Australia because of ALP’s electoral victory.
  • Arrived at Broken Hill, NSW, in 1924, in wake of Moonta mine closures. In 1927, some Broken Hill mines closed and unemployment rose dramatically. Gully led racist campaign to close union books and oust migrant workers from town, arguing that less migrants meant more jobs for Australians. Ironically, he had been peaceably working with an Italian miner until the mine closed.
  • Was assisted by fellow RSL member, A. A. Lawrence, who scabbed during the Broken Hill ‘Big Strike’ of 1919-20 and was a member of the Barrier Workers’ Association (or ‘Blue Whiskers’), a Nationalist union. Conservative Barrier Miner newspaper also supported Gully campaign.
  • Was opposed by anti-racist militants in main mining union in Broken Hill, the Workers Industrial Union of Australia (WIUA), most notably, Richard Quintrell and Ern Wetherell. Also by migrant activists who heckled him at public meetings.
  • Against WIUA internationalist policy, Federated Engine Drivers & Firemens Association of Australasia officials resolved not to work with ‘foreigners’. Wetherell challenged Gully to a public debate; more than 1,000 attended. Gully threatened to close mines over the migrant question and lost some support.
  • Failed in three attempts to gain WIUA presidency in 1926-1928. Seen as ‘agent provocateur’ for employer interests, particularly F. G. White, a prominent local businessman who organised Nationalist election campaigns.
  • In 1929 he led an unsuccessful campaign against a levy to support striking miners on northern coalfields. Gully claimed opposition to levy was inspired by concern for strikers’ families who suffered during industrial action but was exposed by labour movement leader, William Dickson, as a womaniser with scant regard for his own family. Did gain presidency of local Unemployed Movement for a short period but his ‘dictatorial methods’ drew criticism.
  • Led by Edgar Ross, a group of trade unionists physically ousted Gully from the unemployed movement leadership and he was forced to seek refuge in a local police station.
  • During the Depression, Gully was invited to resume anti-migrant campaign, but he declined the offer. He was placed last in 1931 municipal elections and remarked that he was ‘used to defeats’.
  • In 1930-1937 electoral rolls he was described as a labourer, later miner. Subsequent industrial activities are unknown.
  • Cause of death bronchopneumonia, pulmonary oedema, aortic stenosis, atheroma and extradural haematoma.

Barrier Daily Truth
(Broken Hill) and Barrier Miner (Broken Hill]), 19-29 September 1927; Kadina and Wallaroo Times, 2, 9 April 1924; transcript of interview with Edgar Ross, conducted by Barry York on 24 January 1997, reference no. TRC 3557, and transcript of interview with Paul Sultana, conducted by Barry York on 2 November 1984, reference no. TRC 3582/6, NLA, Canberra.

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Citation details

Sarah Gregson, 'Gully, Richard (Dick) (1880–1968)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


27 March, 1880
Mount Bryan, South Australia, Australia


13 March, 1968 (aged 87)
Daw Park, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


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