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James Guy (1860–1921)

This article was published:

James Guy, by Whitelaw, 1910

James Guy, by Whitelaw, 1910

National Library of Australia, 23419398

James Guy (1860-1921) blacksmith, temperance advocate and Australian Senator 

Birth: 13 November 1860 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of Andrew Guy (1837-1920), a storeman, born at Winfrith, Knighton, Dorset, England, and Margaret, née Pollock (1842-1914), born at Drysdale, Ayrshire, Scotland. Marriage: 13 November 1884 at Launceston to Margaret McElwee. They had one daughter and four sons. Death: 23 August 1921 at Launceston. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • One of twin sons and twelve children; his twin brother Andrew had died days after their birth. James was educated at Launceston state school. Apprenticed as a blacksmith at the age of 15, he worked for W. Gurr and Son, Launceston, until 1909.
  • Co-founder in 1903 and executive-member of the Tasmanian Workers’ Political League (WPL). General secretary of the WPL in 1907 and from 1909-1921; in the annual conference in 1918 he had moved that the league’s name be changed to the Australian Labor Party.
  • Trustee of Chalmers Street Church. Active in work for friendly societies. Chairman Launceston United Friendly Societies Dispensary. A well-known temperance advocate, he was sometime secretary of the Independent Order of Rechabites. He was also director of the Permanent Building Society.
  • He contested election to the Australian Senate in 1906. In April 1909 he was elected member of the House of Assembly for Bass. He lost the seat in January 1913. Later that year he again stood unsuccessfully for the Senate.
  • Guy was elected to the Senate, at his third attempt — at the double-dissolution election of September 1914.
  • He was an opponent of conscription in 1916 and 1917. In February 1917 his absence from the Senate, due to illness, in a crucial vote to extend the life of parliament resulted in accusations of complicity in a political plot orchestrated by Prime Minister Hughes. He denied the allegations. In poor health, he was defeated in the Federal election in December 1919 and left the Senate at the expiration of his term on 30 June 1920.
  • Cause of death: carcinoma of prostate.
  • His son James Allan Guy (1890-1979) was also an Australian Senator.

Scott Bennett and Barbara Bennett, Biographical Register of the Tasmanian Parliament, 1851-1960, (Canberra, 1980); Joan Rydon (ed.), A biographical register of the Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1972 (ANU Press, 1975); D. J. Murphy (ed) , Labor in Politics: State Labor Parties in Australia, 1880-1920 (St Lucia, Qld, 1975); L. F. Fitzhardinge, The Little Digger 1914–1952: William Morris Hughes: A Political Biography, vol. 2, (Sydney, 1979) pp 257–258 Australian Worker (Sydney), 3 June 1915; Scott Bennett, ‘James Guy’, Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate:

Additional Resources

  • profile, Daily Post (Hobart), 4 May 1909, p 5
  • senate plot, Daily Post (Hobart), 5 March 1917, p 5

Citation details

'Guy, James (1860–1921)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

James Guy, by Whitelaw, 1910

James Guy, by Whitelaw, 1910

National Library of Australia, 23419398

Life Summary [details]


13 November, 1860
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


23 August, 1921 (aged 60)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (prostate)

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 Organisations
Political Activism