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Leonard Garfield Haigh (1887–1953)

by Barbara Webster

This article was published:

Leonard Haig, n.d.

Leonard Haig, n.d.

Leonard Garfield Haigh (1887-1953) freezer hand, trade union official and alderman

Birth: 14 October 1887 at Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, son of John Haigh (1852-1931), engineer, and Elizabeth Ann, née Pogson (1854-1938). Marriage: 27 December 1916 at Gladstone, Queensland, to Queensland-born Rosetta McCray (1889-1975), school teacher. They had three daughters and three sons. Death: 16 February 1953 in hospital at Rockhampton, Queensland. Religion: raised as Wesleyan Methodist but converted to Catholicism upon marriage. 

  • Spent his early years in Huddersfield where he was an avid cyclist, champion billiard player, ballroom dancer and roller-skater. Managed a skating rink before emigrating to Australia.
  • Arrived in Brisbane aboard the Cassel in October 1911 and worked for a short time as a ring-barker. In 1912 became a freezer hand at the Gladstone Meatworks during the kill season, picking up local wharf labouring or cutting cane in Mackay and Bundaberg during the slack.
  • Freezer delegate on Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union (AMIEU) Gladstone Board of Control in early 1920s. Elected Central District Secretary of AMIEU in 1924 whereupon he moved to the district office in Rockhampton Trades Hall.
  • Remained District Secretary and Federal Council representative until his death in 1953. During this time, he was re-elected to both positions with large majorities or was unopposed which, despite some allegations of ballot-rigging, was testimony to his authority and respect among the rank and file and his skills as an effective negotiator with management and as a union advocate in the Industrial Court.
  • Advocate of arbitration where prior direct negotiation failed; he believed in striking only as a last resort and where success was certain. Maintained firm and centralised control of the union and its oligarchic committee with no District Organiser or Works' Board of Control appointed for Rockhampton's Lakes Creek Meatworks until the early 1940s.
  • Suffered a stroke in 1952 which left him partly paralysed and unable to speak but continued his union duties from hospital for almost a year before his death.
  • Staunch member of the Australian Labor Party and anti-communist who stood on ALP Industrial Group Tickets in union elections. Alderman on Gladstone City Council in early 1920s. Alderman on Rockhampton City Council from 1930 to 1949 including several terms as deputy mayor.
  • Government representative on Rockhampton Hospital Board 1932 and chairman 1933-1953. Rockhampton City Council representative and chairman of Capricornia Regional Electricity Board. Chairman on Rockhampton Cripple Children's Society. Member of Athelstane Bowls Club, Rockhampton Jockey Club, Benevolent Society, Cricket Association and Cycling Association.
  • Cause of death: bronchopneumonia and cerebral thrombosis.
  • His funeral cortege from St Joseph's Cathedral to the North Rockhampton Cemetery was one of the largest held in Rockhampton with hundreds of unionists and many civic dignitaries participating.

Sources
Morning Bulletin
(Rockhampton), 17 & 18 February 1953; AMEU (Qld) Central District Minutes, 1924-1953; Taped interview with Ursula Barry, daughter, 1996; B. Webster, PhD thesis, 1999.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Barbara Webster, 'Haigh, Leonard Garfield (1887–1953)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/haigh-leonard-garfield-33950/text42545, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Leonard Haig, n.d.

Leonard Haig, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Birth

14 October, 1887
Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England

Death

16 February, 1953 (aged 65)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

stroke

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.

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