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Arthur Allan (Dalry) Wilson (1869–1948)

by Peter D. Gardner

This article was published:

Arthur Wilson, n.d.

Arthur Wilson, n.d.

Arthur Allan (‘Dalry’) Wilson (1864-1948) coalminer, trade union official and politician

Birth: 3 April 1869 at Drakemire, Dalry, Ayreshire, Scotland, son of Joseph Wilson, iron miner and Elizabeth, née McGookin. Marriage: 14 April 1894 at Coalville, Victoria, to Mary Jane Lamb. (-1953). They had two daughters and one son. Death: 19 August 1948 at Inglewood, Western Australia. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Started work in Scottish coalmines at age of 12. Migrated to Australia, commencing mining at Coalville, Victoria, c.1890. Associated with group of radical miners who moved from Coalville to Outtrim in 1896.
  • Immediately became active in affairs of Victorian Coal Miners' Association (VCMA), sitting on various committees and holding several positions, including those of auditor and check weighman.
  • Elected secretary of VCMA in 1897, holding position through to union's defeat and disbandment in 1904. Driving force behind union's bid for closed shop and leading figure in 1903-1904 lock-out and strike.
  • Tireless worker and indefatigable letter writer. Co-defendant in George Gregory case before courts at time of 1903-04 strike. With other militants, he became increasingly isolated from rank-and-file as the strike continued. Contested House of Representatives seat of Flinders (Victoria) at the Federal elections in December 1903.
  • In contrast to moderates like John Connolly, Wilson maintained his optimism, informing a Yarra bank crowd just days before the strike was called off that the miners would win.
  • Following failure of strike, he was banned and blacklisted. Moved to Collie, Western Australia.
  • Unable to get a job in mines he became secretary of Collie Miners' Union, retaining position until 1909.
  • Active in Political Labor League, then Australian Labor Party. Elected Labor member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for seat of Collie on 11 September 1908. Parliamentary Labor Whip for twenty years. Presented with gold medal by NSW Northern District miners for services during 1909-1910 strike.
  • Enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 March 1917. Transferred from 3rd Tunnellers Company’s reinforcements to the 11th Field Company Engineers. Served in France from November 1917 to December 1918. Discharged in Perth on 31 May 1919.
  • Son-in-law Harry May became member for Collie on his retirement on 11 February 1947. Grandson Donald May was Minister for Mines in Tonkin Labor government.
  • Appointed OBE in 1948.
  • Author of Lays and Tales of the Mines, 1916. Also wrote several volumes of poetry in the Robbie Burns style.

Great Southern Advocate
; Outtrim News; Korumburra Times; Collie Miners' Union MSS, Battye Lib., Perth; G. Bolton and D. Black, eds, Biographical Register of the parliament of Western Australia (Perth, 2001); Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney],1970); information from E. Ross, 1991; P. D. Gardner, Too old to rat: the radical miners of South Gippsland 1893-1904 (Ensay, Victoria, 1994).

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Citation details

Peter D. Gardner, 'Wilson, Arthur Allan (Dalry) (1869–1948)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Arthur Wilson, n.d.

Arthur Wilson, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


3 April, 1869
Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland


19 August, 1948 (aged 79)
Inglewood, Perth, Western Australia, 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.

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