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Henry Percival (Harry) Hurrell (1923–1988)

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Henry Percival (Harry) Hurrell (1923-1988) shunter, trade union official and political activist 

Birth: 1923 at Port Pirie, South Australia, son of Percival Charles Hurrell [also known as Percy Coote Cavendish Hurrell] (1870-1945), mariner and Spencer Gulf pilot, born in New Zealand, and native-born Florence, née MacAuliffe (1890-1948?). Marriage: 1955 in Victoria to Irene Mary Corrigan. They had five daughters. Death: 25 October 1988 in a hospital at St Leonard's, Sydney, New South Wales. Usual residence Horning Parade, Manly Vale, Sydney. Religion: Catholic funeral 

  • Shunter on South Australian Railways in Adelaide, where he was active in the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Railways Union. He moved to Newcastle, NSW, in 1945 after the death of his father. Worked at Commonwealth Steel Co Ltd, Waratah, and joined the Federated Ironworkers’ Association (FIA).
  • Left Comsteel to work at Electric Lamp Manufacturers (ELMA); ELMA’s sub-branch secretary, FIA, in 1949. Was known as ‘lanky, restless and intense’ and recruited by Frank Rooney to quickly became full-time organiser, FIA.
  • Came to prominence in the union running on the Australian Labor Party’s Industrial Group ticket with Laurie Short. They were among the ‘Groupers’ who pursued Communist Party members in union leadership positions, in the early 1950s.
  • Organised successfully against Communist incumbent in 1951 in Queensland. Group led by Short won control of the union in 1952. Hurrell was an organiser of the Newcastle branch of the ALP when he defeated Jack McPhillips to become assistant national secretary of the FIA 1952.
  • He became national secretary of the FIA when Short retired in 1982.
  • Member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive. Active in the 1960s and 1970s in international metal union circles.
  • Was an arbitration advocate and had reputation as one of the better advocates. Earned nickname of ‘steamroller’. His court advocacy was backed by an efficient research team. He prepared and argued in the Industrial Relations Commission the major 1956-58 steel award case which elevated ironworkers’ marginal pay rates to levels equal to those of tradesmen in Broken Hill Pty Ltd.
  • Suffered many years from emphysema. Cause of death: carcinoma of lung (13 years), pulmonary embolus, metastatic carcinoma of lung and deep vein thrombosis.

Robert Murray and Kate White, The ironworkers: a history of the Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia (Sydney, c1982); Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1988 p.6; Newcastle Morning Herald, 26 October 1988.

Additional Resources

  • photo, Newcastle Morning Herald (NSW), 10 March 1952, p 1
  • photo, Tribune (Sydney), 17 September 1980, p 5

Citation details

'Hurrell, Henry Percival (Harry) (1923–1988)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Port Pirie, South Australia, Australia


25 October, 1988 (aged ~ 65)
St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (lung)

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