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Henry Nathaniel (Harry) Melrose (1885–1940)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Henry Nathaniel (Harry) Melrose (1885-1940) miner, IWW member and gaoled trade union official

Birth: 10 February 1885 at Adelong, New South Wales, son of John Melrose (1848-1917), labourer, later miner, born at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and Janet (Jessie), née Moon (1848-1902), born at Tumut, NSW. Marriage: 21 December 1910 at Waihi, Waikato, New Zealand, to Annie Elizabeth Cavanagh (1889-1956), a school teacher, born at Waihi. They had three daughters and four sons. Death: 18 December 1940 in St George cottage hospital, Kogarah, NSW; usual residence Rosebery Street at Penshurst, Sydney. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Harry had moved to New Zealand by 1908, when he was a miner at Waihi, Waikato. Executive-member in the Waiki Miners Union from 1910 to 1912. Victimised by employers in 1912. Sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with WE Parry, who was Labor member for Auckland Central at the time and W. McLennan. Released at the termination of the strike, he gained work on the Auckland waterfront and joined the Waterside Workers' Union.
  • Returned to NSW in 1916 when he was a candidate of the Locomotive Drivers Firemen, and Cleaners’ Association, the traffic Employees’ Association and the Officers’ Association for the Railway Superannuation Board. Worked as a miner in Newcastle and Broken Hill. In September that year he was in Broken Hill where he lectured in the IWW Hall on “Industrial Disturbances in New Zealand”.
  • Joined the Broken Hill branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association. As its delegate he spoke at meetings in Lithgow and Sydney in February 1917 calling for the release of imprisoned Industrial Workers of the World members.
  • Was arrested, and on 5 March 1917 charged, in the first case under the Commonwealth Unlawful Associations Act, with being a member of an unlawful association (the IWW) and advocating a strike which threatened to delay shipping. His conviction and sentence to six months imprisonment with hard labour was upheld on appeal on 24 April. He was released in September and addressed meetings of the Social Democratic League in Sydney and returned to Broken Hill and worked as a miner.
  • Lived in North Sydney in November 1924 when he wrote to the press “as representative of the miners on the Northern Suburbs outfall sewers” and was reported to be a member of the AWU. By June 1926 he was Western District organiser for the Australian Railways Union (ARU), from a base in Bathurst. Authorities attempted to remove him from the Eveleigh Railway Workshop. Toured the State electioneering on behalf of the ARU and the Australian Labor Party in September and October 1927, and was again active as Western representative of the ARU in 1928.
  • In the last years of his life, he was a clerk and employee of the Water Board, living at Peakhurst. Cause of death: chronic myocarditis (1 year), hypertensive arteriosclerosis.

Daily, 13 January 1927.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Melrose, Henry Nathaniel (Harry) (1885–1940)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Harry Melrose, 1927

Harry Melrose, 1927

Labor Daily (Sydney), 13 January 1927, p 7

Life Summary [details]


10 February, 1885
Adelong, New South Wales, Australia


18 December, 1940 (aged 55)
Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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