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Rees, Benjamin (Ben) (1875–1942)

by Chris Cunneen

Benjamin ‘Ben’ Rees (1875-1942) miner, gaoled trade union leader 

Birth: 24 April 1875 at Wallsend, Newcastle, New South Wales, fifth son and tenth child of Daniel Rees, miner, born in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, and Elizabeth, née Francis, born in England. Marriage: 1907 to Elizabeth ‘Bertha’ Gray (1862-1942). Death: 1 November 1942 at Wallsend hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales. Religion:? 

  • Brought up at Plattsburg, Newcastle, where he was active in local eisteddfod. Became a miner like his father and brother, working in the Borehole collieries from about 1896. In December 1908 was elected auditor of the Colliery Employees Federation
  • A Wallsend miners’ lodge delegate on the Northern District delegate board, he was convicted on 20 December 1909, with brother Dan and eleven other mining delegates, at the Industrial Court, Newcastle, by Justice Charles Heydon, of having instigated employees in an industry specified in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1908, ‘to do an act in the nature of a strike’. Fined £100, he refused to pay and served two months imprisonment in Maitland gaol. Was released from Maitland gaol on 4 April 1910, complaining bitterly of the food in prison, particularly the hominy. Had received no privileges but was allowed to talk to other gaolees in the exercise yard.
  • Returned to active participation in the Colliery Employees’ Federation and was acting secretary in 1910. Moved to Kurri Kurri district, worked in the Richmond Main colliery and was associated with Abermain No. 1 miners’ lodge.
  • Acting treasurer of the Northern Miners’ Federation when Amram Lewis appointed conciliation commissioner. Chairman of Richmond Main miners’ lodge which he represented on the delegate board.
  • Elected to the central council of the northern miners’ federation.
  • Retired under the miners’ pension scheme and was caretaker at the Wallsend Australian Comfort Fund servicemen’s hostel. He died after receiving fatal injuries when he fell down the stairs there.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Rees, Benjamin (Ben) (1875–1942)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/rees-benjamin-ben-32117/text39685, accessed 20 October 2021.

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