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Ernest Josiah (Ernie) Polkinghorne (1869–1928)

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Ernest Polkinghorne, 1892

Ernest Polkinghorne, 1892

gaol entrance record, NSW State Archives

Polkinghorne, Ernest Josiah (Ernie) (1869-1928) council employee, miner, gaoled trade union official, alderman, fruit farmer. 

Birth: 16 November 1869, at Hummocks, near Moonta, South Australia, son of native-born parents Isaac Polkinghorne (1842-1912), farmer, later mine owner, and Jane, née Coad (1851-1903). Marriage: 25 February 1899 at the Primitive Methodist manse, Broken Hill, New South Wales, to Lilla Ada Elspeth King (1868-1951), a tailoress, born in South Australia. They had three sons. Death: 8 December 1928 in hospital at Leeton, NSW. Religion: Methodist. 

  • Road foreman, City President Barrier branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association.
  • During the strike at Broken Hill in September 1892 he was assistant secretary of the Miners’ Defence Fund. With other committee members he was charged with seditious conspiracy. On 29 October 1892 at Deniliquin he was sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for eighteen months. The sentence was later reduced to twelve months. Reputedly, in the course of transfer to Maitland gaol he was “treated with indignity by the police, and paraded at Newcastle railway station with leg-irons on, to the great indignation of residents”.
  • With other “Labor martyrs”, was released on 7 July 1893 by the Reid government — exercising the prerogative of mercy on the occasion of the royal wedding of Prince George and Princess Mary of Teck [later King George V and Queen Mary].
  • Appointed health officer (sanitary inspector) to the Broken Hill council on 4th May 1900, then was manager and secretary of the Barrier Co-operative store, which was established by strikers.
  • Defeated as Labor candidate for Broken Hill City Council in 1906 he became the second Labor alderman to enter the council when he was elected to replace a deceased alderman in July 1907. Was defeated in the council elections in January 1908, but re-elected as alderman in January 1911.
  • Resigned from council and the co-operative society in December 1913 to move with other Broken Hill settlers to Leeton, where he became a fruit farmer.
  • Secretary of the Leeton Fruitgrowers Association for a number of years and settlers’ representative on the lease-holders committee. Was fruit-growers’ representative on the Civilian Classification Committee.
  • A member and sometime chairman of the SWDFL (South Western District Football League – Australian Rules) judiciary committee.
  • Cause of death: chronic lead poisoning, myocarditis and failing heart.

Barrier Daily Truth
(Broken Hill), 18 December 1930, p 3; H. J. Gibbney and Ann G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987) p 183; Australian Worker, 2 January 1929 p 1; George Dale, The industrial history of Broken Hill, (Melbourne, 1918) pp 48, 55.

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'Polkinghorne, Ernest Josiah (Ernie) (1869–1928)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Ernest Polkinghorne, 1892

Ernest Polkinghorne, 1892

gaol entrance record, NSW State Archives

Life Summary [details]


16 November, 1869
Moonta, South Australia, Australia


8 December, 1928 (aged 59)
Leeton, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

lead poisoning

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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