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Harry Marples Leighton (1877–1957)

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Harry Leighton, n.d.

Harry Leighton, n.d.

Harry Marples Leighton (1877-1957) optician, clerk, gaoled trade union official, Socialist and Theosophist

Birth: 5 August 1877 at Islington, London, England, son of Edward Leighton (1836-1897), master mariner, and his first wife Margaret Ann, née Marples (1837-1888). Marriage: (1) 21 September 1904 in the Wesley Church at South Fremantle, Western Australia, to Jessie Ellen Margaret (Ellen) Rowe (1886-1924). They had a son and daughter who both died as infants. (2) 22 December 1927 at the District Registrar’s Office, Perth, to native-born Alma Doreen Landauer (1905-1935). They had a son and daughter. Death: 8 July 1957 at Shenton Park, Perth, WA. Religion: self-described Liberal Catholic. 

  • His father was assistant lighthouse keeper at Jarman Island, near Cossack, Western Australia.
  • Harry arrived in Western Australia about 1897. Worked as an optician in WA from 1898 to 1911 at least. Then became a clerk in Register Generals Department in Western Australia. Suspended with W. Siebenhaar in 1916 on being charged with contravening War Precaution Act.
  • President of the Clerks’ Union which was anti-conscriptionist. Under his leadership the union remained anti-conscriptionist despite several determined conscriptionist attempts at takeover.
  • Was a Socialist and a Theosophist. He was president of the Perth lodge of the Theosophical Society from 1912 to 1915.
  • Member of the Australian Labor Party. An office-holder in Anti-Conscription League, an articulate and prolific spokesperson for the league.
  • With Joe Swebleses, participated in and was chairman of the WA Coastal Clerks’ Union in 1915-1916 and obtained award for temporary clerical government workers who were previously exempt from Public Service Act.
  • Spearheaded unsuccessful attempts move begin transforming Civil Service Association into a registered union with Siebenhaar’s support in 1914.
  • Second wife was president of Clerical Association for many years.
  • Returned to being optician on goldfields in the 1930s. Was a member of the West Australian Optical Association.
  • Was possibly a member of the Communist Party of Australia. He was leader of anti-fascist movements during 1940s. Chairman of the Hands Off Indonesia Committee in 1946.
  • Was a competitive chess player.
  • Cause of death: “chronic failing heart, hypertension, age”.

N. Segal, Who and what was Siebenhaar, [Perth, 1988]; Westralian Worker (Perth), 28 March 1924, p 11.

Citation details

'Leighton, Harry Marples (1877–1957)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Harry Leighton, n.d.

Harry Leighton, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


5 August, 1877
London, Middlesex, England


8 July, 1957 (aged 79)
Shenton Park, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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