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Robert Howe (1862–1915)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Robert Howe, by Rossetti, n.d.

Robert Howe, by Rossetti, n.d.

National Library of Australia, 23449098

Robert Howe (1864-1915) patternmaker and engineer, trade unionist and politician

Birth: Baptised on 26 June at St John's parish church in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, son of Joseph Howe, brass founder, and Jane Margaret, née Dobson. Marriage: 16 December 1910 at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, to native-born Florence May Hedger. Death: 2 April 1915 in Balmain, Sydney. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Received primary education in England.
  • Reached Sydney with mother and siblings aboard the Blairgowrie on 28 April 1881, following his father who had arrived previously. Employed as a patternmaker at the Cockatoo Island dockyard.
  • For nine years was the general representative in NSW of the British executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE). He was secretary for the Sydney district of the ASE from 1899 to 1908 and district president 1908-1909.
  • Member of the Balmain Labor League [Australian Labor Party] and previously of the Lilyfield, Rozelle, Annandale and South Annandale Labor leagues.
  • In 1906 unsuccessfully contested the seat of Dalley for Labor in the Australian House of Representatives, described by a hostile journalist as “a straightforward socialist”. His oratory was “of the extravagant character . . . marked by theatrical gesture and flamboyant phraseology”. The following year he was defeated by John Storey in the preselection for the State seat of Balmain, but in April 1910 easily won the seat of Dalley in the Australian parliament and held it to his death.
  • First secretary of the General Labor Federation of Australia.
  • Cause of death: chronic alcoholism and cardiac failure.
  • “He was one of the best read men in the Labour movement in Australia” and “collected one of the finest libraries to be found in the home of any working man in the State”.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Howe, Robert (1862–1915)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Robert Howe, by Rossetti, n.d.

Robert Howe, by Rossetti, n.d.

National Library of Australia, 23449098

Life Summary [details]


Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England


2 April, 1915 (aged ~ 53)
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

alcoholism (chronic)

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