Andrew (Andy) Campbell – people profile

His life as a gold miner and union leader
on the goldfields of Western Australia
1860 to 1930

Andrew (Andy) Campbell JP

Andrew (Andy) Campbell JP

Following is an abstract from a book titled: A Challenging Life – The Life of Andrew (‘Andy’) Campbell J.P. (1860-1930), written in 2017 by his grandson, Ian Campbell, and available online at the following link – Andrew ‘Andy’ Campbell J.P. (1860-1930).

The cornerstone of the story about his life in W.A. is this 3rd December 1926 article and photo in the Westralian Worker newspaper, which although quite brief, reveals quite a lot about his life just four years before his death. The article, which has been used as a road map in the development of Andrew’s story, is reproduced in full, as follows:


Andrew Campbell as an old man

Andrew Campbell as an old man

President of the Miners’ Union at Bendigo in the ‘nineties, a Coolgardie founder in ’96, promoter of the first Labor conference held in Western Australia in 1898, and now 67 years of age, summarises the life of Andrew Campbell, who came to Perth last week on a sad mission. The 1898 conference was presided over by Mr. H. de Largie, who for 22 years was a Senator and is now farming somewhere near Kondinin. Andrew Campbell has lived ever since on the Eastern Goldfields, and for the past 14 years at Marvel Loch. Alfred Campbell, his son, aged 46, was buried on Thursday, having died at the Wooroloo Sanatorium from tuberculosis. He leaves a wife and seven children. Alf will be remembered as a prominent Kalgoorlie footballer, having played with the Railways team for some years. Despite the mournful cause of the father’s trip to Perth he found opportunity to visit Tom Butler in the Fremantle Hospital, renew old times, and express the hope that Tom would soon be well again. There are not too many men about now who took the prominent part like Andrew Campbell did for the workers 30 years ago. It is men like him who laid the foundation of the Labor Movement, and the present generation owes them more than we fear will ever be repaid.’

The Westralian Worker newspaper was established in Kalgoorlie in 1900 as the official organ of the W.A. Labor Party, with the subtitle: ‘A journal devoted to the interests of trade unionism, co-operation and labour in politics.’

Exactly where Andrew lived during his first 10 years on the goldfields is unknown, likely to have been in Coolgardie where he was reported to have been working initially as a trade union secretary, but once he started prospecting for gold, there were probably many places as he tried his hand at his craft in different locations.

He was reported as ‘a Coolgardie founder in 1896’ (above) and ‘one who a decade or two ago was one of the prominent movers in union circles at Boulder’ (Western Argus, 22nd March 1927), these references placing him in Coolgardie and Boulder confirm that ‘Eastern Goldfields’ (as stated in the article above) is probably the most accurate way to describe his whereabouts in those early years.

In March 1897, Andrew was reported to have assisted Jabez Edward Dodd establish the Coolgardie Branch of the Amalgamated Workers’ Association (A.W.A.) of W.A. Alfred Arthur Greenwood Hales (1860-1936) was its first president. In May 1897, Andrew was reported as secretary of the Coolgardie Workers’ Association, just six months after arriving in the colony, his first known official role in the W.A. labour movement.

The story of the founding of the W.A. labour movement is the story of the formation of the A.W.A. of W.A. in 1897, a peak body of unions and the forerunner of the Australian Workers’ Union (A.W.U.) in W.A. Hugh de Largie was the foundation president of the A.W.A. Andrew was its vice-president and secretary, and was pictured in the 10th February 1898 issue of the Kalgoorlie Western Argus, along with other officials, as a delegate to a union conference at around that time (picture is included in the book).

The Trades Union and Labor Congress called by the A.W.A. and held in Coolgardie in April 1899 is considered to be the first W.A. Labor conference and is recognised as the meeting at which the W.A. Labor Party was established. Andrew was a promoter of this conference.

Kalgoorlie Western Argus 10 February 1898

Kalgoorlie Western Argus 10 February 1898 (Andrew Campbell, middle row, second from right

Andrew seems to have been quite enthusiastic for unionism at this time of his life and follows eight years of involvement in the labour movement in Victoria. The fact that he was secretary of the Coolgardie Workers Association, and vice-president and secretary of the A.W.A. of W.A., both in 1897-98, and the above newspaper report that he was a promoter of the 1898 (sic) conference (this was found to be the 1899 congress), indicates that he played quite a significant role in the labour movement in the lead up to the 1899 congress. These roles therefore qualify him for recognition as a founder of the Labor Party of W.A., collectively with the many other Labor pioneers, some of whom have been mentioned above.

For a period of some 5½ years, between his last reported appearance in public in September 1898 at an electoral reform meeting in Kalgoorlie, and March 1904 at a public meeting to discuss mining on Sundays in Boulder, there is a noticeable absence of publicity about Andrew in all regional, statewide and union newspapers.

It is highly likely that around 1899 he gave up his full-time union position as secretary of the Coolgardie Workers’ Association, and his vice-president and secretary positions with the A.W.A. of W.A., to go prospecting for gold. After all, this is what his original intention was in moving to the Eastern Goldfields.

It is also known that the unions were in turmoil during this period, with the miners becoming disgruntled with the all-inclusive nature of the A.W.A., perceived to be overlooking the specific needs of miners, which led to the emergence of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association (A.M.A.). 1903 was a year of outright hostility between the established A.W.A. and the burgeoning A.M.A. Andrew may have become disillusioned with the unions and unionism in general during this time of upheaval.

But then, as though the sleeping giant was awakened, he attends a public meeting in 1904 as a member of the public rather than a union representative and makes some noise about miners working on Sundays. In 1905, he makes what appears to be a comeback to the union movement when he accepts a nomination for vice-president of the W.A. Federated Miners’ Association, a newly-formed organisation arising from the amalgamation of the A.W.A. and the A.M.A., and in 1906, he attends the annual conference of the union in Menzies, where he ascends the stage as acting-president, making an apology for the absence of the president, Mr. John Carr.

He then went on to make a very significant contribution to the W.A. labour movement in a voluntary capacity with the Federated Miners’ Association during the next 10 years. His union work during this period is fully detailed in the book.

The 1906 electoral roll gives Andrew’s address as 3 Moran Street, Boulder, the first recorded address that was found for him in W.A. His address was the same in the 1909 roll, and in 1910, his address was given as 52 Davis Street, Boulder.

Andrew was the sixth child of James and Mary Campbell, who emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1855. He was born in Lethbridge, Victoria, on 19th August 1860, located just 15km south-west of the gold mining town of Steiglitz, where the family first settled following their arrival in Victoria. Steiglitz is now a ghost town. He went to Tasmania as a young gold miner and married Esther Jessica Lillian Geale in 1879 in Lisle, where a gold rush had just commenced. Lisle also no longer exists with the last resident departing the town in 1963. Andrew and Esther had four children together, two in Tasmania and two in Victoria. James (‘Alf’) was born in George Town in 1880 and Amanda (‘Nellie’) was born in Beaconsfield in 1882. The family returned to Victoria around 1884 where Esther (‘Ada’) was born in 1885 and Jacob (‘Jack’) in 1887, both in the Victorian goldfields town of Daylesford.

When Andrew departed Victoria for W.A. in 1896, he left his wife, Esther, aged 38, and children, Alf 16, Nellie 14, Ada 11 and Jack 9, in desperate financial circumstances and failed to provide for them at this difficult time. His younger brother, Jacob, and three of his children – Alf, Ada, and Jack – followed him to the west at different times during the early 1900’s, probably in search of better opportunities to improve their lifestyles.

Alf, who arrived on the WA goldfields from Victoria around 1900, married Mary (‘Minnie’) Morrisey from Gympie, Queensland, in Kalgoorlie in 1902. They stayed on in W.A. and never returned permanently to Victoria. They had seven children, four in the goldfields, John in 1902, Alice in 1904, Mary in 1908 and Alfred in 1909, and three in Fremantle, Edgar in 1913, Andrew in 1916 and Cedric in 1919. (There is a photograph in the book of these grandchildren of Andrew’s taken in Perth in 1960 at eldest son, John’s, funeral). Ada married James Morrison in Fremantle in 1906 and they had their first child, Moira, in Boulder in 1910. They had returned to Victoria by 1914 where their second child, Stanley, was born in Ascot Vale. Jack arrived in Kalgoorlie in 1905 as an 18-year-old and worked as a stoker at the Kalgoorlie Powerhouse.  He married Ethel Maud Smith in Boulder in 1908. They returned to Victoria around 1909 where their first child, Jack, was born that year, and second child, Iris, was born in 1910, both in South Yarra.

Andrew’s eldest, Alf, was injured in an underground mining accident in June 1910 at the Hannans Consols lease in Kalgoorlie, in which his workmate, Douglas William Gray, was killed. Alf, who received only minor injuries, was using his father’s first name of Andrew and Andy at the time of the accident, departed from the goldfields soon afterwards and moved to the Fremantle area.

In the 1912 and 1913 electoral rolls, Andrew’s (Snr) address was recorded as 99 Burt Street, Boulder. In 1913 he moved from the Eastern Goldfields to Marvel Loch in W.A.’s Eastern Wheatbelt, probably with renewed hope of finding gold in a new location.

At this time, he acquired a part ownership interest in the Bohemia Gold Mine, also referred to as the Bohemian, 4-5 kms south-east of Marvel Loch, together with John Kernick (who established the mine in 1905) and George Knowles, collectively known as the Bohemian Syndicate, and they worked their gold mining lease/s there until the mine’s closure in 1926, following which, in early 1927, Andrew moved to Narembeen with his family.

He was reported as President of the Marvel Loch Miners’ Union in 1914-15 and served on the Federated Miners’ Association executive committee during the period 1912-15. He was involved in the recovery effort for the Marvel Loch Mine disaster in November 1914, in which three men were trapped by a rockfall. James Gorey died in the accident and Mick O’Brien and Frank Mazza were rescued.

Andrew’s time in the trade union movement ceased around 1916. Following the 1915 Federated Miners’ Union seventh conference held in Boulder in September, there are no further newspaper reports about his involvement in the union movement. He commenced his involvement in unionism in Bendigo, Victoria, in 1891, when he was first elected to the committee of the Bendigo Miners’ Association, and unionism played a significant part in his life up to this point, a period of around 24 years. He held various roles within several unions – president, vice-president, secretary and executive committee member.

There is evidence that Andrew was now turning his attention to family matters, his work and community issues. He was married to Catherine Moran from Kalgoorlie, but originally from Melrose in South Australia, in Melbourne in 1914, he was 54 and she was 45, and together they adopted a son, Raymond Arthur (the author’s father), soon thereafter. Andrew was appointed a J. P. for the Yilgarn Magisterial District in 1915. He was involved in 1916 in the Marvel Loch Progress Committee and presided over a public meeting to discuss setting up a Wounded Soldiers’ Fund (World War 1 was in full swing), confirming this change of direction. From here on, he concentrates on his family, his gold mining activities and the welfare of his local community and the district.

Production statistics for the Bohemia Gold Mine during the period of time Andrew was there, taken from the W.A. Department of Mines Annual Reports for the years 1913-25, show that he, his partners and employees produced 4,305 fine ozs. of gold from 4,002 tons of ore, a gold yield of 1.07 fine ozs. per ton of ore. Using the Gold Weight Calculator, this converts to a total of 122 kg of gold.

The year 1927 sees the end of Andrew’s time at Marvel Loch and the end of his gold mining days. He probably started gold mining as a young man in his mid-teens with great expectations, and now, some 50 years later, he finally decides it’s time to give the game away and embrace something with more security and a regular income. Starting out in the mid to late 1870’s as a young miner in the Victorian Goldfields, probably under the guidance of his father and his brothers, he finished up half a century later as part owner of a small gold mine on the Yilgarn Goldfield of W.A. The mine had to be closed towards the end of 1926 because the rock had become too hard to mine by hand methods and the machinery required to carry out the task was not affordable.

The move to Narembeen sees Andrew apparently working for the Public Works Department (P.W.D.) of W.A. The addressee of a letter from the Premier’s Department, Perth, dated 20th May 1927, transferring his appointment as a J.P. from the Yilgarn to the York Magisterial District, was ‘A. Campbell, Esq., J.P., P.W.D., Narembeen’, strongly suggesting that he was working for the P.W.D. at that time. It would be unusual to have mail addressed to a person at a government department unless that person worked there. He was 66 at this time. Evidence of his employment at Narembeen can be taken from a Western Argus 22nd March 1927 article stating that ‘he secured a good position where the certainty of a weekly wage will replace the uncertainty of battling for gold’.

Since there are no further references to his time at the P.W.D., it is not known what he did there, but the job was short-lived as he is recorded in 1928 as being on workers’ compensation for miners’ phthisis, a disease affecting the respiratory system, similar to silicosis, and rampant in miners at the time. He died two years later, on 21st September 1930 of tuberculosis and was buried at the Narembeen Cemetery on 23rd September 1930.

Andrew was highly regarded in the communities in which he lived and worked, and in union circles, initially in the Victorian Goldfields, and later in the W.A. Eastern Goldfields, in Marvel Loch and then in Narembeen.

He was quite successful in his union endeavours, but unfortunately, this did not translate into success on the goldfields. He failed to make more than a subsistence level of income throughout his working life. This doesn’t seem to be as a result of lack of effort or hard work. He seems to have been quite industrious in his gold mining work, more evident following his move to Marvel Loch in 1913 when he acquired an interest in the Bohemia Gold Mine. He was obviously down on luck in ‘not landing the big one’, and it seems gold mining on small leases, as it was in Andrew’s case at Marvel Loch, has a lot to do with luck.

And finally, Andrew was a staunch Labor man. He was on the workers’ side throughout his entire life and dedicated a great deal of it – almost a quarter of a century – to the union movements in two states. He was part of the labour movement in Victoria before migrating to W.A. and is recognised as a founder of the labour movement in W.A. and of the W.A. Labor Party for his work in the Coolgardie Workers’ Association initially, the Amalgamated Workers’ Association of W.A. and later the Federated Miners’ Association. He left his mark on the labour movement and has gone down in history as a founder of the labour movement in W.A.
References for all the information included in the above abstract can be found in the book.

About the Author – Ian Campbell

Ian Campbell was born in Kojonup, W.A., in July 1947, and has a professional qualification in civil engineering and a master’s qualification in business administration. His working life was spent primarily in local government engineering in W.A. and N.S.W. He has three children, and in 2017, three grandchildren. He retired in July 2015 to Hallidays Point on the mid-north coast of N.S.W.

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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