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Bower, William (1852–1927)

The late Mr. William Bower, at one time a prominent citizen of Wallsend, and a mining identity of this and the Maitland districts, whose death occurred at Pelaw-Main, Kurri Kurri, last week, was born at Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland 75 years ago and was brought to this State about 65 year back by his parents. The family first went to Minmi, and later moved to the Lambton colliery where they lived in one of the colliery huts. William commenced underground work at the colliery, and subsequently was employed in the old Waratah collieries, the old Co-operative colliery Plattsburg, the Minmi collieries, the Wallsend colliery and the West Wallsend colliery. While residing at West Wallsend he sat for an examination in mining, and qualified himself for the position of an under-manager. About 23 years ago he went to the Pelaw-Main colliery as overman and assistant under manager, and was thus engaged up till his final illness. As the consequence of his long and varied experience in coal mining assisted by self-taught knowledge, he was considered to be among the most practical and experienced pitmen of the northern district. The conditions borne by the underground workers in his early days were deplorable, such arising particularly from bad air as the result of the primitive methods adopted for mine ventilation and he made it one of his objects in life to assist with others in bringing about a more congenial state of affairs for the benefit of the workers in mines. He was ever foremost with his advice and ability, towards that end, and had the satisfaction of living to see the consummation of desired improvements, such as improved ventilation, shorter hours, better travelling roads, agreed terms and conditions, wages rates, and other payments agreements, the sliding scale, etc. In nearly all colliery disputes which had to be settled by conference, conciliation, arbitration, the old referee court, and even the police court, his services were enlisted, his long and diversified experience of customs, conditions, and rates for the different classes of work in the different collieries making him a reliable witness for the men. He attained the office of chairman in the Wallsend Miners' Lodge, and later was elected the Lodge secretary. The duties incidental to both positions he fulfilled to the lodge's satisfaction, and with distinction to himself eventually he became president of the Northern District Colliery Employees' Federation, but retired from that important position towards the close of 1900 to contest the election for the new office of district check inspector to the federation. He was successful in the election, and during his several terms performed a great amount of good work justifying the creation of the new office by the federation. While he was serving as the check inspector, the Royal commission was appointed to inquire into the Mount Kembla Colliery disaster, and he was appointed as one of the representatives to give evidence on behalf of the Colliery Employees' Federation of the northern district. He played his part to the satisfaction of the body he represented and, with credit to himself. For the best part of two days sittings (February 18 and 19, 1903) he was in the witness box and answered over a thousand questions before the commission and the members of the legal profession engaged on behalf of the various interested parties. He was one of the stalwarts who assisted in successfully fighting the medical monopoly which existed in Wallsend and Plattsburg over 40 years ago. Such a victory gave the employees at the various local collieries the privilege of introducing into the township a second medical practice, and the people the right to subscribe to whatever doctor they desired. The principle soon extended to the surrounding townships, and thus a better and longstanding grievance was ended. Mr. Bower was also an old member of the Miners' Home Lodge, Grand United Order of Oddfellows, and had occupied the various chairs of such. He was among the first who formed the E Company of the old Fourth Infantry Regiment of volunteers, in which he attained the rank of sergeant. He took a leading part in the formation of the Wallsend and Plattsburg Co-operative Society Limited, the first premises of which were Metcalfe-street, and for a number of years he was a member of the management committee. He also took a lively interest in the foundation of the Wallsend Mining District Hospital and for several years occupied a seat in the committee of management of that institution. For many years he was an alderman in the Wallsend Council, first being elected under the old Municipalities Act as the representative for the Pittown ward, and in 1900 and another year he filled the the Mayoralty of Wallsend. He was among the first trustees appointed for pleasure reserves on the shores of Lake Macquarie. He had interested himself in the Wallsend School of Arts, and the old Plattsburg Mechanical Institute and took opportunity to educate himself from the literature available at the libraries of those Institutions. Reverting to his association with miners' affairs, it is worthy of note that he was a member of the first board in connection with the Miners Accident Fund. In his younger days he was a member of the old Lambton and also of the old Wallsend brass bands and at Kurri Kurri he was an enthusiastic member of the bowling club. In all charitable and patriotic movements he was ever ready to assist by practical and monetary help and in whatever station he was he gave of his best and thus endeavored to make things better for others. He married a daughter of the Late Mr. David Burt in Wallsend over 30 years ago. His father James Bower died in Wallsend 57 years ago. He is survived by six sons and four daughters in addition to the widow, the sons are James, David, Thomas, Harry, William and John. and the daughters Mrs Scott, Mrs. W. McDonald, Mrs A. Peters and Mrs B. Jones. Surviving sisters are Mrs E. Marshall and Mrs R. Cameron, senior of Wallsend and Mrs J. Bradley of Catherine Hill Bay. Mr. Thomas Bower who died in March of this year was a brother.

There was a large and representative gathering in the Kurri Kurri Cemetery yesterday week on the occasion of the funeral. In the corsage to the cemetery many colliery employees, representatives of all sections among the mine workers walked ahead of the hearse. The pall bearers were Mrs E. Peel and W. Gilpin representing the Colliery Staffs Association: Messrs J. Dryson and W. Kessell, the Deputies and Shotfirers Association; and Messers J. Harris and G. Claxton the Pelaw-Main Miners Lodge. The relatives were the recipients of numerous messages expressive of sympathy and floral tributes were placed upon the grave on behalf of mother and family, Jim, wife and family; Jack, wife and family; Dave, wife and Rene, Jane and family (Sydney), the Perrau family, Cessnock, Wheelers, Pela-Main Colliery; Kurri Kurri Bowling club; J. and A. Brown, Newcastle; head office staff J. and A Brown, Newcastle; Mr and Mrs Pickstock and family; "Bonn" Wheelers, Pelaw-Main Colliery; Deputies, Pelaw-Main Colliery; deputies Pelaw-Main United Colliery Staff Association; Staff; Minmi Colliery; Mr. and Mrs. Allen and family; Will and Gladys; Colliery Staff, Richmond main; Mr. and Mrs. Leitch and Fenn family.

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Citation details

'Bower, William (1852–1927)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bower-william-32544/text40396, accessed 13 August 2022.

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