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Fred Lowden (1889–1958)

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Fred Lowden (1889-1958) coalminer, gaoled trade union leader, Coal Board welfare officer

Birth: 21 August 1889 at Craika Dearham, Maryport, Cumberland, England, son of John Lowden (1867-1947), coalminer, and his first wife Martha, née Cameron (1863-1898). Marriage: 1918 at St Stephen’s Church, Sydney, New South Wales, to Susan Laverick, born in Northumberland, England. They had one daughter. Death: 12 October 1958 in hospital at Wollongong. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Gained work in coal mining in England.
  • Moved to New Zealand in 1911. Worked in west coast mines 1911-1913.
  • Arrived in Australia in 1913. Became a coalminer at South Clifton colliery on South Coast NSW.
  • Active in newly-formed Australasian Coal & Shale Employees' Federation during World War I; member of the delegate board.
  • Supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World and fought against attempts to introduce conscription.
  • Arrested in September 1917 during general strike, charged with attempted murder of "loyalist" railway fireman who had been shot and wounded while working on train at Scarborough. Was held in gaol for a month, during which time his house was raided, his library seized and bullets allegedly found. He denied any association with shooting. Was discharged in October 1917 after Crown failed to offer evidence. Although another individual was subsequently convicted and gaoled for making false accusations against him (in collusion with police), Lowden was refused compensation and was blackballed from the industry. He eventually found work in Coaldale and later Corrimal collieries.
  • President of the Southern District Miners' Federation for twenty-four years, from 1923 to 1947, remaining a dominant figure in the district labour movement throughout this period and in community affairs, including being president of the Fairy Meadow Italian Bowling Club.
  • Was prominent in supporting miners’ campaign for compensation for injury through dust on the lungs.
  • Held a leading position in organising and participating in May Day celebrations, riding a white horse at the head of the procession on the day.
  • Appointed to Board of Directors of the Labor Daily in 1938 after the removal of control from J. T. Lang's 'Inner Group'.
  • Represented Miners' Federation on the NSW Royal Commission on the Safety and Health of Workers in Coal Mines 1938-39. First mineworkers' representative on pensions tribunal 1941.
  • Appointed adviser to Joint Coal Board on welfare and working conditions in 1947, retaining position until death.
  • Cause of death: lung cancer.

Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); information from E. Ross, 1990 & 1991; Common Cause, 19 April 1947 p 6; 18 October 1958 p 4, 4 April 1959 p 5, 18 August 1962 p 6; Illawarra Mercury, 28 April 1984; Illawarra Historical Society, December 1991 pp 230-237.

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Citation details

'Lowden, Fred (1889–1958)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012