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Henry Alfred (Harry) Mitchell (1865–1925)

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Henry Alfred (Harry) Mitchell (1865-1925), engine-driver, trade union official and industrial advocate 

Birth: 1865 at London, Middlesex, England, son of Alexander Mitchell, clerk, and Mary Ann, née Green. Marriage: 25 May 1889 at the Wesleyan parsonage, Brisbane, Queensland, to Minnie Grace Foster (b.1869), born at Norfolk, England. They had five sons. Death: 10 June 1925 at Carlyon’s Hotel, Spencer Street, Melbourne, Victoria; usual residence Ingall Street, Mayfield, Newcastle, NSW. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Left school at age 13. Worked as an engine cleaner on the London and Great Western Railway.
  • Arrived in Melbourne in 1885. Worked as a coal trimmer on SS Wakitipu around Australian coast for five years. Became a member of the Seamen’s Union. Lived in Sydney from 1891.
  • Employed as an engine driver for two years. Was a greaser for the Port Jackson and Manly Ferry Company, in Sydney, from 1894 to about 1903. Committee member and delegate of Sydney and Manly Ferries Association in 1903.
  • Was paid secretary of the Engine-drivers and Ferry Employees Union (or Sydney and Manly Ferry Employees Union) in 1894.
  • Worked in laundry for 2 months. Had desire to organise laundry workers and enrolled them with for Shop Assistants’ Union so as to pursue an award in 1906. Conducted several cases in NSW Arbitration Court for Manly ferry employees, tug-boat employees, laundry employees and jam-making industry employees.
  • Gained paid work as secretary of the Shoredrivers and Fireman’s Union (later Coast District Branch) from 1906. In secretary position he placed before the Arbitration Court the process for awards, and in some cases successfully, for the brewing industry, electric lighting industry, Stockton Coal Company Ltd, Caledonian Coal Co. and in the refrigeration industry. Was instrumental in bringing about a federation of enginemen at the Barrier (Broken Hill) and Cobar, NSW, Port Pirie, South Australia, Melbourne and Sydney in 1907.
  • General secretary of the Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemans’ Association (FEDFA). In position of secretary he became involved in a strike in which he reproached the Broken Hill Amalgamated Miners’ Association for supporting a strike for a 44-hour week but soon after deserted his supporters in FEDFA against the AMA strikers by accepting employment with Broken Hill Pty Ltd to prepare the arbitration case for the company.
  • The Labor Advocate described him as a strong advocate for arbitration and against strikes.
  • An unsuccessful candidate in the ballot for selection as Political Labor League ticket for election to the Australian Senate in 1909.
  • In later years was industrial officer for BHP Pty Ltd.
  • Died while on a short visit to Melbourne. Cause of death: dilated heart and chronic nephritis.

, 26 November 1908 p 3; Safety Valve, FEDFA, 1 May 1916; G. Dale 1918 p.202-203; Rae Cooper BA (Hons) thesis, IROB UNSW 1994 p 64; Labor Advocate, n.d.

Additional Resources

  • profile, Worker (Wagga, NSW), 26 November 1908, p 23
  • photo, Co-operator (Sydney), 7 October 1912, p 3

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Mitchell, Henry Alfred (Harry) (1865–1925)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


10 June, 1925 (aged ~ 60)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

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