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Thomas McLellan (Tom) Millar (1904–1980)

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Thomas McLellan (‘Tom’ 'Tommy'/ or 'Bluey') Millar (1904-1980) coalminer, Communist and trade union leader

Birth: 21 October 1904 at Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland, son of Thomas Stewart Millar (1874-1925), coalminer, and Isabella, née Ramage (1882-1950). Marriage: 21 November 1929 at Collinsville, Queensland, to Helen ‘Nell’ Shirlaw. They had two daughters and one son. Death: 15 July 1980 at Ipswich, Queensland. Religion: Presbyterian.

  • Sixth generation coalminer. Arrived in Brisbane with his family aboard the Ormonde on 3 June 1921. On passenger list his occupation was given as wireworker. With family, he went briefly into dairy farming, then returned with family to mining, working at Blackheath, Queensland, as a clipper boy aged 16, then moving again with his to the the newly opened State mine at Collinsville, North Queensland, in 1922.
  • Became active in Collinsville community as soccer representative, cornet player in brass band and member of local co-operative and hospital boards. Joined Australian Labor Party.
  • Active in Militant Minority Movement in early 1930s. Left ALP for Communist Party of Australia in 1935. Ran twice as CPA candidate for Senate.
  • Instrumental in making Collinsville one of the most militant mining centres in Australia. As active unionist, became scrutineer, Collinsville branch of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation (AC&SEF) and branch treasurer. Was branch president for 11 years.
  • In 1941 was elected Queensland District president of AC&SEF, taking office in 1942. He supported Federation's campaign for maximisation of war-time coal production; gave evidence before 1945 Cilento inquiry into mineworkers' health.
  • Elected federation national vice-president in 1946, and served briefly as federation acting-president 1947. Led Queensland miners through 1948 Queensland rail strike and 1949 national coal strike.
  • As a Communist, he was targeted by employers, Industrial Groups and Queensland Labor premier V. C. Gair and was defeated narrowly for Queensland presidency in 1952. Blacklisted by employers, it took him over five months to obtain employment in mines. In 1953 he was re-elected to Queensland presidency, retaining position until his retirement in 1964.
  • Prominent in Queensland staydown strikes of 1958-61 and in campaign of opposition to the closure of Collinsville State Mine in 1961. Executive member of Queensland Labor Council.
  • CPA candidate at 1954 Federal elections. Transferred allegiance from CPA to Socialist Party of Australia in 1971.
  • Cause of death: cerebral thrombosis, cerebral atherosclerosis and hypertension.
  • Millar’s cousin Peter Millar was one of seven men killed in the 1954 Collinsville gas outburst.

Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney]1970); Pete Thomas, Miners in the 1970s: a narrative history of the Miners’ Federation (Sydney 1983); Pete Thomas, The coalminers of Queensland: a narrative history of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union. Volume 1 Creating the traditions (Ipswich, 1986); information from E. Ross, 1990 & 1991; obituary Tribune (Sydney), 30 July 1980, p 14 []; Common Cause, 24 October 1964, 5 April 1970, 16 & 23 July 1980; 'A fatal outburst - Seven men dead. was it an explosion waiting to happen?', Australasian Mining Review, 19 September 2016 [ ].

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Citation details

'Millar, Thomas McLellan (Tom) (1904–1980)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


21 October, 1904
Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland


15 July, 1980 (aged 75)
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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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.

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