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Robert Pillans (1860–1941)

This article was published:

Robert Pillans, Fairfax Corporation, c.1930 [detail]

Robert Pillans, Fairfax Corporation, c.1930 [detail]

National Library of Australia, 52012063

Robert Pillans (1860-1941) coal miner, trade union official, mayor and parliamentarian 

Birth: 30 December 1860 at Rootpark, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of William Pillans (1837-1914), coalminer, and Janet, née Muir (1834-1909). Marriage: 7 January 1889 at Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, to Grace Blackley (1862-1951), born at Crossgates, Carluke, Scotland. They had three sons. Death: 31 August 1941 at Lidcombe, Sydney. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Worked with his father and younger brother William as a coalminer at Tashieburn, Lanarkshire.
  • Arrived in New South Wales with his parents and siblings as immigrants aboard the Florida on 6 December 1885.
  • Coalminer at Minmi, Newcastle. Employed in shale mines at Joadja Creek. His wife’s parents had been neighbours in Scotland. Robert had promised to send for his sweetheart as soon as he was in a position to do so. After their wedding the couple moved to Hartley Vale. Robert worked in coal mines and ironworks there and at Lithgow.
  • Active in the Miners’ union. President of Lithgow branch of the Iron & Steel Workers' Union. President Western Miners' Federation. Foundation councillor, Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation 1915. Miners' representative on the Coal Tribunal. President, Eight-Hour Day committee.
  • Member of the Australian Labor Party. Contested State Legislative Assembly seat of Hartley in 1901 and 190 and lost his employment as a result. Had various jobs then returned to mining in 1906.
  • Alderman on Lithgow Council from 1911 to 1934. Mayor of Lithgow from 1912-1918 and from 1923 to 1927.
  • Was one of twenty-five members appointed to the Legislative Council of NSW on 21 December 1925. Failed to be re-elected to the reconstituted council and left parliament on 22 April 1934.
  • Appointed Justice of the Peace in 1911. Member of Lithgow Land Board. Member of Repatriation Committee. Foundation member and chairman for three years of Lithgow Co-operative Society, Chieftain of the Caledonian Society.
  • His eldest son William (1890-1952) became headmaster at Gosford and Sydney Technical High School. The second son John (1892-1964), a compositor, was president of the NSW branch of the Printing Industry Employees’ union. The youngest son Robert junior (1900-1994), was shire clerk of Amaroo shire, Cumnock, for many years.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton (eds), Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Printing Trades Journal, September 1941 p 131.

Additional Resources

  • profile, Democrat (Lithgow, NSW), 5 June 1915, p 1

Citation details

'Pillans, Robert (1860–1941)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Robert Pillans, Fairfax Corporation, c.1930 [detail]

Robert Pillans, Fairfax Corporation, c.1930 [detail]

National Library of Australia, 52012063

Life Summary [details]


30 December, 1860
Rootpark, Lanarkshire, Scotland


31 August, 1941 (aged 80)
Lidcombe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.

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