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Robert Emmett (Bob) Savage (1895–1959)

by Peter Sheldon

This article was published:

Robert Emmett (or Emmet) (Bob) Savage (1895-1959) clerk, trade unionist and Labor politician

Birth: 16 March 1895 at Enmore, New South Wales, son of Irish-born William Henry Savage, seaman and Irish immigrant, and Mary, née McCarthy (1870-1932), who was born in Melbourne. Marriage: 29 April 1935 at Sacred Heart Church, Mosman, to Philomena Emily Meany, teacher (1903-1975). They had two daughters. Death: 2 July 1959 at Lane Cove, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Educated at Christian Brothers College, Balmain.
  • Clerk in the Metropolitan Water Board, Sydney. Member of the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage Employees' Association (MBWSSEA) from 1915 to 1928; picnic secretary 1922-32; organiser 1928-29; assistant secretary 1929-55. For much of this period administered quiescent union for secretary W. A. McPherson. Savage was general secretary MBWSSEA from 1955 to 1959.
  • Active in Catholic, inner-city Sydney Australian Labor Party circles. Important go-between between ALP State governments and municipal councils, Water Board and union. Habitue of NSW Parliamentary dining room.
  • Supporter of J. T. Lang. Member, NSW ALP Central Executive, 1931-43. Delegate to ALP federal conference. Labor Member of the Legislative Council of NSW from 1931 until 1934 (defeated).
  • At 1939 unity conference switched support to R. J. Heffron. Returned to Legislative Council NSW, nominated by the W. J. McKell government, in 1943 (casual vacancy). Held the position until his death in 1959.
  • For many years was returning officer for the NSW ALP, the NSW Labour Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions congresses in Sydney.
  • Prominent in Balmain and NSW Rugby League from about 1912. Honorary director of the NSW Leagues Club. Chair of NSW Rugby League management committee, 1937-38. Team manager Australian Rugby League team tour of New Zealand, England and France 1937-38. Trustee, Sydney Cricket Ground, 1958-59.
  • Cause of death: congestive heart failure, emphysema and bronchial asthma.

Labor Daily Year Book, 1933, 1934/35; Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Peter Sheldon, Maintaining control: a history of unionism among employees of the Sydney Water Board, PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 1989; interviews with C. Colbourne & J. Weir, 1984; Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board, Minutes, 4 April 1956; Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board, Annual Report, 1959/60; NSW Parliamentary Debates, 12 August 1959, pp.9-11.

Citation details

Peter Sheldon, 'Savage, Robert Emmett (Bob) (1895–1959)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


16 March, 1895
Enmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


2 July, 1959 (aged 64)
Lane Cove, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism