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George Augustine Kemp (1877–1956)

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George Augustine Kemp (1877-1956) pastoral worker, shunter on railways and trade union official

Birth: 9 July 1877 at Smeaton Plains, Glengower, Clunes, Victoria, son of John Kemp (1829-1887), farmer, born at Monquhitter, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Martha Ganges, née Boulger (1843-1890), born at sea near Perth, Western Australia. Marriage: 9 September 1900 at Barcaldine, Queensland, to Rosetta Emily Silvester (1882-1950), born at Mile End old town, London, England. They had three daughters and seven sons. Death: 3 March 1956 in hospital at Rockhampton, Queensland. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Educated at the State School at Clunes, and the Christian Brothers’ College Ballarat.
  • Family moved to Queensland in 1893. George was a stockrider, fencer, drover, horsebreaker on cattle and sheep stations in the Central District.
  • Engaged in sapphire mining for four years and was prominent in the formation of the Sapphire Miners’ Association, which attempted to obtain a reasonable price for the products of their labour, including an unsuccessful endeavour to sell directly to Germany, France and England.
  • Worked as a porter and later shunter, Traffic Branch, Railway Department in 1910.
  • Was a member of WPO (Workers’ Political Organization, later Australian Labor Party) branches. Member, Central Queensland Railway Employees’ Association, established in 1880s.
  • Played prominent part in ‘Badger’ General Strike of 1912, when unions throughout Queensland went on strike in support of the Brisbane Tramwaymen. Dismissed because of union activities but one-and-a-half years later, in 1913 (other sources says three years later) was re-employed by Railway Department.
  • Became one of the first members of the Queensland Railways Union on its formation in 1914 (QREA merged with QRU, which was re-formed as an all-grade union). In 6 weeks he enrolled ninety-two members in the Rockhampton branch of QRU. A year later, when the first Labor government was returned in the colony, the membership in Rockhampton had increased to 725.
  • In 1915 Kemp became the union’s first paid official in Queensland, as sub-branch secretary, and held that position and from 1920 — when the QRU federated and became part of the Australian Railways Union — was also appointed district secretary. He held both positions, with a 2-year period part time in 1932-1934 when the district office in Rockhampton closed – until 1938, when he retired due to ill-health. He was also union advocate on the Railway Appeal Board and employees’ representative at railway inquiries.
  • Became a pensioner. Continued his interest in the amateur cycling association — his son Ryan Charles Kemp (1919-1966), a railway porter, was a champion junior cyclist.
  • Cause of death: uraemia (2 days), arteriosclerosis (years) and coronary insufficiency (years).
  • His younger brother, sapper William Cowie Kemp (1882-1917), a mining timber cutter, married with one son, was killed in action in France when serving with the 3rd Australian Tunnelling Company in World War I after having been twice previously wounded.

, 15 December 1938, 15 March 1956 p 5, January-February 1969, p 6.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Kemp, George Augustine (1877–1956)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


9 July, 1877
Clunes, Victoria, Australia


3 March, 1956 (aged 78)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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