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Robert James (Bob) Stuart-Robertson (1866–1933)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Bob Stuart-Robertson, n.d.

Bob Stuart-Robertson, n.d.

Robert James (Bob) Stuart-Robertson (1866-1933) store-keeper, industrial advocate and politician

Birth: 16 September 1866 [though he claimed to have been born on 10 August 1874] at Booligal, New South Wales, ninth of ten children of Robert John Stuart Robertson, also known as Alfred Bell Robertson (1815-1899), born at Brussels, Belgium, who claimed to be a physician born at Fort William, Scotland, of at Camden, England, and Catherine Eleanor, née Joyce (c.1831-1893), born at Balinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland. Marriage: 17 June 1895 in St Ignatius Church, Bourke, NSW, to native-born Frances Alice Purtell (1874-1956). They had two daughters and eight sons.  Death: 2 June 1933 in his home at Stanmore, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Had a disturbed upbringing as his father was gaoled several times, deserted his family and bigamously remarried.
  • Young Robert was brought up at Bourke. Educated to primary level. Employed in office of Wright Heaton and Co., Bourke. Raised cattle with his brother in Bourke. Opened a softgoods store there and later extended the business to Nyngan, Byrock and Cobar.
  • After his business failed he moved to Cobar, carried on business there and edited local newspaper from 1898 to 1904. Managed a mixed business in Mount Boppy, Canbelego, in 1905. In Cobar he assisted in organising Miners' Union, became a delegate to Labor conference.
  • Moved to Sydney in 1906 and worked as a shop assistant. Helped to found Shop Assistants' Union. Established a Newcastle branch in 1907. Industrial advocate, secretary of Saturday Half Holiday League in 1906.
  • Helped to found United Labourers' Union. Was committee-member of the Citizens referendum of Six O'clock Association in 1916. A trustee of the Royal National Park.
  • Elected as the Australian Labor Party member for Camperdown in the Legislative Assembly on 10 September 1907, and held that seat until 1920, then Balmain from 1920 to 1927 and Annandale from 1927 until his death. The seat was declared vacant when he was bankrupted in 1930 but he won the subsequent by-election in April 1931.
  • He had been chairman of committees from September 1920 to February 1922 and minister for Public Health in the reconstructed Lang government from May to October 1927. According to the Labor Daily obituary “he was of a painstaking, studious and thorough-going type’, never seeking the limelight, and “a loyal, dependable party man”. He was the last surviving member of the first Labor government under James McGowen.
  • Cause of death: paralysis agitans and pyelonephritis.
  • His sisters Catherine and Moriea were prominent members of the ALP.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979);

Additional Resources

  • photo, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 9 December 1913, p 11
  • profile, Australian Worker (Sydney), 11 March 1920, p 11

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Stuart-Robertson, Robert James (Bob) (1866–1933)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Bob Stuart-Robertson, n.d.

Bob Stuart-Robertson, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


16 September, 1866
Booligal, New South Wales, Australia


2 June, 1933 (aged 66)
Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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