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William Hamilton (Billy) McBlane (1880–1954)

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William Hamilton (Billy) McBlane (1880-1954) coalminer, trade union official and political activist. 

Birth: 1880 at Minmi, Newcastle, New South Wales, son of Robert McBlain, also known as McBlane (1838-1900), a miner, born at Colmonell, Ayrshire, Scotland, and Margaret, née Burke (1852-1891), born at Doon, County Limerick, Ireland. Marriage; 1909 at Wallsend, NSW, to Alice Maclaughlan (1885-1950), born at Rutherglen, Scotland. They had one daughter and three sons. Death: 28 May 1954 at Kurri Kurri, NSW. Religion: Anglican. 

  • His father was prominent member of the Primitive Methodist Church at Minmi. Billy first worked as a trapper in the old Minmi Colliery in September 1894.
  • He joined the Australian Labor Party about 1900. Became chairman of Minmi miners’ lodge.
  • Active in 1909-1910 strike, becoming a substitute member of the Delegate Board of Federated Coal and Shale Workers' Association in the absence of members touring in search of funds.
  • After transferring to Richmond Main in 1917 he became check weighman in 1920, lodge president, and secretary in 1920. Became an accepted authority on mine working conditions, producing a 'Blue Book' regarded as a text-book on seniority rules in 1937.
  • Board member, Kurri District Hospital. Prominent in Citizens' Relief Committee. Also actively involved in local Co-operative Society (later president), School of Arts (later president of trustees), and soccer club.
  • During 1929 Northern lock-out, opposed 'confinement' policy advanced by federation's central executive. With Communist Party of Australia militants, he advocated general coal strike.
  • Prominent in local ALP affairs but resisted proposals that he should enter parliament. In 1936-1937 he took a prominent part in coalfields movement to oust J. T. Lang's inner group from control of the NSW Labor Party.
  • Became vice-president of Northern District of Miners' Federation in 1941, continuing dedicated commitment to Miners' Federation until his retirement in 1944, by which time he had been a member for fifty years.
  • During 1949 coal strike, he re-emerged from retirement to conduct vigorous campaign in support of strike. Resigned ALP membership in 1949 in protest at Chifley government's strike-breaking policy. “One of the most able industrial advocates” of the Miners’ Federation over a long period.
  • In retirement, became president of Kurri Kurri Retired Mineworkers’ Association and agitated for the establishment of a workers’ club in Kurri. Honorary secretary in 1952 of committee set up, after the British Medical Association disbanded contract medical schemes, to collect contributions from miners to provide them with adequate medical protection when needed.
  • A keen soccer supporter who had played with the Minmi team and was later a referee, he was a foundation member of the Kurri State League Soccer Club until it was disbanded, then was associated with the code through the Weston Club.

Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); A. Metcalfe, 1988; information supplied by E. Ross, 1990; Common Cause, 5 June 1954.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'McBlane, William Hamilton (Billy) (1880–1954)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


26 May, 1954 (aged ~ 74)
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, Australia

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