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David McNeill (1870–1945)

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David (‘Dad’) McNeill, also known as McNeil (1870-1945) trade union official 

Birth: 24 April 1870 at Tranent, East Lothian in Scotland, son of David McNeil (1842-1911), coal miner, and Jane, née Chalmers (1845-1937). Unmarried. Death: 18 February 1945 in Newcastle Hospital at Newcastle, New South Wales; usual residence Swansea, Lake Macquarie, NSW. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Arrived in Australia aged seven, after his family had spent five years in New Zealand.
  • First employed at Ferndale colliery, Tighe’s Hill, Newcastle, NSW, at age of 13 (c.1885). Worked subsequently at Seaham colliery, West Wallsend, for many years.
  • Joined Hunter River Miners Association about 1889. Prominent member of West Wallsend branch of the Socialist Labor Party, which he joined in 1903; branch secretary for two years.
  • Joined Industrial Workers of the World, but split in 1909 over issue of political action, which he supported.
  • Member of Delegate Board in about 1912 and for many years after, when union was known as the Hunter River Miners’ Association. Member of Central Council of Miners’ Federation from 1920 (retiring 1935).
  • Elected one of first Newcastle representatives on Federation’s Board of Management. Northern District secretary, 1927-30; district auditor for two terms; District president for 18 years. Close friend of Thomas (Bondy) Hoare.
  • On retirement, Federation leader Charles Nelson remarked that “he had David O’Neill to thank for making a student of socialism out of him”. Also claimed as a mentor in ‘revolutionary work’ by Bill Orr.
  • Cause of death: pneumonia and pyloric obstruction.

Common Cause
, 14 December 1935, 24 February 1945; Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 February 1945; information from Tony Laffin 2001.

Citation details

'McNeill, David (1870–1945)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McNeil, David

24 April, 1870
Tranent, East Lothian, Scotland


18 February, 1945 (aged 74)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

pyloric obstruction

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