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Hamilton, Walter Alfred (1863–1955)

by Frank Bongiorno

This article was published:

Walter Hamilton, n.d.

Walter Hamilton, n.d.

Walter Alfred Hamilton (1863-1955) coachbuilder, accountant, trade union leader, Fabian socialist, member of parliament

Birth: 10 March 1863 at Ewell Estate, near Glenelg, South Australia, son of Henry Hamilton (1826-1907), farmer, born in Dover, Kent, England, and his first wife, London-born Elizabeth Mary, née Bell (1833-1870). Marriage: 11 December 1888 in St George’s church, Royal Park, Melbourne, Victoria, to Caroline Hamilton. They had one son and three daughters. Death: 1 September 1955 at Tusmore, South Australia. Religion: Anglican, Theosophist in mid-1890s. 

  • Educated at Brighton State School and Glenelg Grammar School, South Australia. Left to work on his father's farm, 1879. Coachbuilder apprentice 1881 or 1882. Worked in his trade in Adelaide and from 1885 in Melbourne, and Traralgon, Victoria.
  • Briefly joined the Teetulpa (SA) gold rush in 1886. Mined gold at Maryborough, Victoria. Employed at Bendigo Rolling Stock Company, in 1889. Established and managed Bendigo Co-operative Bakery in 1890. Organised Bendigo fruitgrowers in co-operatives. Established Bendigo Jam Factory. President, Bendigo School of Mines. Became public accountant and town valuer. Returned to SA about 1910-1911.
  • Secretary and vice-president of the Journeymen Coachmakers' Society of Victoria in Adelaide at various times from the mid-1880s. Established a Bendigo branch of the society. Sometime secretary of the Bendigo Trades and Labour Council and Eight Hours Demonstration Committee.
  • Member of the Progressive Political League of Victoria (Victorian Labor Party) in 1891-93; stood unsuccessfully as the league's candidate for one of the two Sandhurst seats in 1892 and 1893 (by-election). Helped establish Bendigo People's Party, 1893-94.
  • Elected to Legislative Assembly as a People's Party candidate in 1894. Labor member for Sandhurst 1894 to 1900. Clashed with his Melbourne Labor Party colleagues over tariff protection, as he was less sanguine than them about the advantages of high tariff stowage-earners. Staunch advocate of a tax on unimproved land values and the abolition of revenue duties.
  • Helped bring the baking trade under the wages board system in 1896.
  • Member of the Melbourne Fabian Society in mid-1890s. Opposed sending Victorian contingent to Boer War. Broke with the Labor Party when he voted against the Turner ministry in 1899. Re-entered the Assembly as a Liberal in 1902. Unsuccessfully contested Bendigo West in 1904 and Bendigo East in 1908.
  • Returned to Adelaide in 1910. Appointed secretary, organiser and general manager of the Fruitgrowers' Co-operative Society in 1911. Unsuccessfully contested Federal seat of Adelaide in 1914. Entered SA House of Assembly as a Liberal Union candidate for East Torrens in May 1917 and held seat until February, 1924. Again held seat from November 1925 to February 1930 and from April 1933 to February 1938. Unsuccessfully contested East Torrens in 1924 and 1930, and Norwood in 1938. Vice-president of Liberal Federation. Permanent member of Liberal Country League executive.
  • Ran farm and vineyard near Marion, SA, from 1917.

Sources
Race Matthews, 'Victoria's First Fabians, 1890-1910', unpublished MA thesis, University of Melbourne, 1989; Merrifield Collection, State Library of Victoria; Kathleen Thomson and Geoffrey Serle, A Biographical Register of the Victorian legislature, 1859-1900 (Canberra, 1972); Howard Coxon, John Playford and Robert Reid, Howard Coxon, John Playford and Robert Reid, Biographical Register of the South Australian Parliament 1857-1957 (Adelaide, 1985); Bendigo Advertiser, 17 March, 1892, p.3; Table Talk, 28 December, 1894, p.4; Adelaide Advertiser, 29 March 1921, p.6; 2 September, 1955, p.3; Australian Coachbuilder, 15 October 1894, p.108; 15 June 1895, p.48; 15 July 1895, p.55; XPD, XCII, pp. 1736-9; Adelaide Advertiser, 2 Sept. 1955

Citation details

Frank Bongiorno, 'Hamilton, Walter Alfred (1863–1955)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/hamilton-walter-alfred-32420/text40209, accessed 8 December 2022.

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