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William Clifford (Cliff) Melbourne (1864–1924)

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William Clifford (Cliff) Melbourne (1864-1924) printer and trade union official 

Birth: 16 February 1864 at Kincraig, Naracoorte, South Australia, son of Scottish-born parents Henry John Melbourne (1834-1913), a carrier from Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, and Barbara, née McLachlan, late Hutchins (1839-1897), from Morven, Argyll, Scotland. Marriage: 31 December 1886 at Norwood, SA, to native-born Elizabeth Agnes Braidwood (1862-1961). They had a daughter and two sons. Death: 16 November 1924 in his residence at Glenelg, Adelaide, SA.  Religion: Methodist. 

  • Apprenticed at an early age to the printing trade in the newspaper office at Naracoorte. Employed for twelve months in Melbourne then moved to Adelaide and worked in various jobbing offices until he joined the staff of the Advertiser, in 1885 as a compositor. Stayed for thirty-eight years and became father of the chapel.
  • In 1911 he was appointed general secretary to the South Australian Typographical Society [Printing Industry Employees’ Union of Australia, SA branch], a full-time post he held till his death.
  • Prepared Arbitration Court case for basic wage for printers. Consequently appointed member of board to determine SA basic wage.
  • Nominated representative from Adelaide Trades and Labor Council to Geneva, Switzerland, conference representing Australian labour, 1924. Held record for attendance at Interstate Printers Conference. Elected general president of the One Big Union [OBU] of Australian Printers in 1917-18.
  • An “ardent Labourite”, he was sometime vice president and president of the United Labor Party of South Australia. He was an enthusiast in education matters and the technical training of apprentices and a member of the executive, some-time president, of the Workers’ Educational Association. Also on the executive of the SA branch of the League of Nations Union and a member of the board of management of the Children’s Hospital.
  • In his early years he desired to become a minister of the Gospel and became an active worker in the Mosely Street Methodist church, Glenelg, and an ardent prohibitionist.
  • In his youth a noted athlete, he was a member of the Hotham Football Club, and played cricket. Also a member of the Glenelg Bowling Club and represented the Glenelg Croquet Club on the Glenelg Oval Association.
  • His elder son Alexander Clifford Vernon Melbourne (1888-1943), an historian, served in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I and was an associate-professor of history at the University of Queensland. His younger son Henry Eoin Sydney Melbourne (1893-1978) served in the AIF in World War I and the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II and was an engineer, surveyor and town clerk of Burnside City Council, SA.

Worker, 21 November 1924, p 11.

Additional Resources

  • profile, Chronicle (Adelaide), 2 October 1915, p 16
  • tribute, Australian Christian Commonwealth (SA), 12 June 1925, p 9

Citation details

'Melbourne, William Clifford (Cliff) (1864–1924)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Wiliiam Melbourne

Wiliiam Melbourne

Australian Christian Commonwealth, 12 December 1924, p 14

Life Summary [details]


16 February, 1864
Naracoorte, South Australia, Australia


16 November, 1924 (aged 60)
Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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