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Charles Edmund James (1868–1944)

by Peter D. Gardner

This article was published:

Charles James, n.d.

Charles James, n.d.

Charles Edmund James (1868-1944) coalminer and trade union leader

Birth: 24 June 1868 at Bryncelin (or Pennygraig), Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan, Wales, eldest child of William P. James (1843-1924), innkeeper and collier, and Margaret, née Edmunds (1839-1877). Marriage: 30 March 1891 at Primitive Methodist Church, Torbanlea, Queensland, to Ada Rosetta Wright (1869-1939), born at Battersea, London, England. They had seven daughters and one son. Death: 22 June 1944 in hospital at Kurri Kurri, New South Wales. Religion: Congregational, buried in Baptist Cemetery, Kurri Kurri, NSW. 

  • His mother signed his birth registration with a mark.
  • The 1871 Wales census lists Charles, aged 2, living at Ebb Vale, Aberystwith, with his father, an innkeeper and collier, mother, two younger siblings, a servant and John Anley, a 40-year old lodger described as a blind harpist.
  • In the 1881 Wales census, Charles was described as a coal miner, aged 12, living with his widower father, a sister, a brother, a widowed aunt and a cousin at Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan, Wales. His mother and three of his siblings had died.
  • By March 1891 the surviving James family had arrived in Queensland.
  • Charles and his wife moved to Greta coalfield, NSW, in 1891. In 1893 he became involved in an industrial dispute which saw the defeat of the Greta miners' lodge & victimisation of unionists.
  • Returned with his family to Torbanlea, Queensland. Further industrial trouble led the family to move to Outtrim, South Gippsland, Victoria in 1897. The James’s daughter Elizabeth and son Charles were born there in 1897 and 1901.
  • Regarded as a radical, he was treasurer of the Outtrim lodge at the time of the Victorian coal strike of 1903. Was George Gregory's mate underground and a defendant in the Gregory case. In December 1903 he was convicted for assaulting a scab labourer and was fined 20 shillings or 3 days imprisonment.
  • Friendly with fellow South Gippsland militants Robert Semple & Arthur Teece and was probably also associated with Tom Mann during the 1903 strike. After being victimised again in South Gippsland he left for Hunter Valley, NSW, in May 1905. The couple’s youngest children were born there in 1907 and 1913.
  • Secretary of Abermain lodge 1913, holding position for five years. Member of lodge for over 40 years.
  • Founding member of the Abermain branch of the Australian Labor Party & Kurri Kurri Co-operative store.
  • Cause of death: cerebral haemorrhage and arteriosclerosis.

Great Southern Advocate
; Korumburra Times; information from Mrs. E. Thompson and from Peter Williams, Kurri Kurri; P. D. Gardner, Too old to rat: the radical miners of South Gippsland 1893-1904 (Ensay, Victoria, 1994).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter D. Gardner, 'James, Charles Edmund (1868–1944)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Charles James, n.d.

Charles James, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


24 June, 1868
Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan, Wales


22 June, 1944 (aged 75)
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

brain hemorrhage

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 Events
Key Organisations
Political Activism