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Lewis, Amram (1856–1953)

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Colliery Employees' Federation, committee of management, 1906 [Lewis is centre, front row]

Colliery Employees' Federation, committee of management, 1906 [Lewis is centre, front row]

Sydney Mail, 3 October 1906, p 863

Amram Lewis (1856–1953) coal miner and trade union leader 

Birth: 29 December 1856 in Aberdare, Glamorganshire, Wales, 3rd son of four children of William Lewis, coal miner, and his wife Hannah, née Jones. Married: 1885 in Wallsend, NSW, Welsh-born Rachael Gregory (1865-1924). They had two sons and five daughters. Death: 15 April 1953 in Wallsend Hospital, New South Wales. Religion: Anglican.

  • After his mother died in 1862 his father married Hannah George and had 9 more children.
  • The family arrived in Moreton Bay, Queensland, in February 1866, moved to Minmi in 1868 and 18 months later to Wallsend, where Amram lived for the rest of his life. Starting work as a trapper boy in the Cooperative Colliery, Wallsend, he worked as miner at Bellbird and Bulli, NSW.
  • Continuously treasurer of the Northern District Colliery Employees' Federation [CEF] from 1905 to 1926, he was a member of the Miners’ Delegate Board and CEF advocate, with Albert Burns, on 1908 special tribunal on miners' rates. He was prominent in activities on northern NSW coalfields leading to the establishment of Federated Coal & Shale Workers' Association in 1909.
  • A follower of Henry George, and of an intellectual bent, he gained a reputation as a skilful advocate, efficient administrator and conciliator.
  • Lewis was arrested, with Burns, Peter Bowling, William Brennan and Andrew Gray, during the 1909-10 coal strike and charged with three counts of conspiracy. On 10 February 1910 at the Central Criminal Court, Sydney, Mr Justice Pring sentenced him to 18 months' imprisonment with hard labour. He served 8 months and was released from Goulburn Gaol with Burns on 9 August. Gray and Brennan were released from Bathurst Gaol at the same time. Bowling was not released until the McGowen government did so on 24 October 1910.
  • Lewis returned to work as a leading miners’ union official. He represented the CEF at the formation of the Australasian Coal & Shale Employees' Federation in 1915, becoming provisional treasurer, then treasurer.
  • He resigned his union offices when he was appointed a Conciliation Commissioner in 1926, he retained this position until his retirement in 1931.
  • 'Dusted' in mines, Lewis suffered lung complaints for most of his life.

Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); Susy Baldwin (ed), Unsung Heroes & Heroines of Australia, (Victoria 1988), p.165; Newcastle Morning Herald (NSW), 6 Oct. 1949 p.1; Common Cause, 25 April 1953 p.8; Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 11 February 1910, p.9

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'Lewis, Amram (1856–1953)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 January 2023.

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