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Walter Henry Hurrell (1867–1945)

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Walter Henry Hurrell (1867-1945) storeman and trade union official

Birth: 21 June 1867 at Mount Duneed, Geelong, Victoria, son of English parents Benjamin Samuel Hurrell (1822-1886), shoemaker, later farmer, born in London, and Margaret, née Dalton (1835-1888), born at Hull, Yorkshire. Marriage: 19 June 1895 at St John’s Church, Creswick, Victoria, to native-born Amelia White Dunn (1872-1940). They had three sons and four daughters, one of whom died in infancy. Death: 23 July 1945 in hospital at Sydney, New South Wales. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Much of the biographical information about him comes from the work of Humphrey McQueen, who described him as “an effective and energetic organiser” though deemed by employers to be too “bombastic and peremptory”.
  • In Victoria, Hurrell was reportedly secretary of the Domestic Servants’ Association in 1890. His most notable association, however, was with millers, whom he represented on the Melbourne Trades Hall Council for twelve years.
  • On 31 March 1888 he became secretary of the United Millers, Engine Drivers and Mill Employees’ Society of Victoria. In his role representing millers, he organised in support of the eight-hour day and, controversially within the union, for the right of the union to impose fines on members who joined only when forced to do so by their employers under compulsory unionism so as to pay for the conditions won by the union. The union also established a board of examination of twelve practical members to issue certificates of competence for millers.
  • In 1889 Hurrell extended the union’s activities into NSW because he found that “some Victorian millers, who had mills in New South Wales and who championed the eight-hours’ system in Victoria, were working twelve hours in New South Wales. In these mills it was said that the English language was never spoken”.
  • He assisted in initiating and took part in the Australian Millers Union, which met with indifferent success. He is described as secretary of the United Amalgamated Millers’ Association, 1890, and of the Amalgamated Millers’ Society, 1898.
  • In April 1896 he was declared insolvent due to “pressure of creditors, adverse judgment in County Court, and losses in connection with various companies in which he was a shareholder”.
  • By 1902, he had moved with his family to Sydney where he was reported that year to be a member of the United Millers and Mill Employees’ Union of NSW. He then became a storeman, and joined the United Storemen’s Union, of which he was an executive member in 1910. Continued to work as a storeman until he retired.
  • During World War I he actively supported conscription. Sydney Morning Herald carried his pro-conscription letter in 1916. In the 1920s he was appointed a justice of the peace. Appears to have been an active supporter of the Nationalists.
  • Cause of death: bronchopneumonia.
  • Published Unionism, Capital and Labour as Exemplified in the Milling and Baking Industries (Melbourne, 1892) pp 1-135; Unionism, Capital and Labour, History of Operative Millers Society, 1893; and Australasian Millers and Bakers’ Handbook and Trade Directory (1895).

Merrifield Card Index, State Library of Victoria; Humphrey McQueen, ‘A Neglected History: Walter Hurrell and the Victorian Flour Millers’, Journal of Industrial Relations, volume 14 (2) June 1972, pp 184-194:

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Hurrell, Walter Henry (1867–1945)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


21 June, 1867
Geelong, Victoria, Australia


23 July, 1945 (aged 78)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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