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David Watson (1870–1924)

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David Watson  (1870-1924) miner, union official, temperance advocate and Senator 

Birth: 14 February 1870, Shawfield, Rutherglen Scotland, son of John Watson, miner and Jane née Marshall. Died: 4 December 1924, Petersham, Sydney, NSW. Baptist. 

  • Primary school — needed to work at 12 years of age due to father’s collier’s asthma. Worked in mills of Glasgow.
  • Arrived in Australia at 15 years of age looking for a better life. Coal Miner South Maitland field. Active in Lambton coal strike 1885. Unsuccessfully opposed James Curley for secretaryship of Colliery Employees' Federation (CEF) in 1899. Supported W.M. Hughes’s opposition to militant stance of Peter Bowling during 1909-10 coal strike while working at Pelaw Mine Colliery.
  • Elected Northern District president Colliery Employees' Federation 1910-1914, defeating Peter Bowling. Fined with others due to strike activities (?) but fines not collected; defeated bid by Bowling to regain presidency 1911, overcoming allegations that he had collaborated with coal owners to thwart Bowling. Strong supporter of national miners' organisation based on CEF. In December 1911 elected president of conference to consider federal "affiliation" of mining unions.
  • Member of Wallsend branch of Political Labour League for 20 years. Unsuccessfully contested Senate as Labor candidate 1913. In 1913 (?) presided at conference of NSW unions which inaugurated new Australian Labor Federation; elected a vice-president of new ALF. Retired from CEF presidency to contest Senate 1914. Senator 1914-17 (defeated).
  • Temperance supporter all his life and appointed organiser of prohibition movement, including Chief of Field Staff of NSW Alliance in 1922 and moving from Newcastle to Sydney to take up position, and was prominent in movement for many years. In parliament he alleged attempts were made to corrupt labour leaders; opposed conscription;
  • unsuccessful candidate for Federal seat of Newcastle 1922.

Joan Rydon (ed), A biographical register of the Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1972 (Canberra, 1975); Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); Westralian Worker, 26 Dec. 1924 p.11; Newcastle Morning Herald (NSW), 5 Dec 1924, 6 Dec. 1924; Australian Worker, 12 April 1917 p.7; Cooperator, 7 Oct 1912; Geoffrey Hawker, ‘Watson, David’, in Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, accessed 12 July 2021.

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Citation details

'Watson, David (1870–1924)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


14 February, 1870
Shawfield, Lanarkshire, Scotland


4 December, 1924 (aged 54)
Petersham, 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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism