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William Edward Brennan (1865–1937)

The funeral of Mr. W. E. [William Edward] Brennan, ex-M.L.A., for 20 years Secretary of the Colliery Employees' Federation, took place on Saturday afternoon from the home of his daughter, in Waratah. The interment was made in the Methodist portion of the Sandgate cemetery, in the presence of many of those who had been associated with him in the industrial life of the Northern district.

Mr. Brennan was 72. He was born at Wallsend, and on leaving school began work in the mines of that centre, then producing from the Wallsend and Cooperative collieries. The early managers under whom Mr. Brennan was employed were the late Mr. James Fletcher, afterwards a Minister for Mines, and Mr. J. Y. Nillson.

Taking a keen interest in the affairs of the industry, Mr. Brennan filled successively many positions of trust within his own area, and was finally elected Federation Secretary for the district. The organisation was then known as the Colliery Employees' Federation, the name being changed to that of the Northern District Branch of the Coal and Shale Workers' Federation later. Mr. Brennan carried on the duties until early in 1927, when he resigned owing to ill-health, being succeeded by Mr. David McNeill, now living in retirement.

Mr. Brennan also devoted a great deal of time to affairs outside the Miners' Federation. He was a delegate and official of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council in the years before the present building in Union-street was erected, having as a colleague the late Mr. Daniel Rees, M.L.C., on the board. Always an enthusiastic supporter of the Labour party, Mr. Brennan was afterwards privileged to serve first in the Legislative Council, and next in the Legislative Assembly, as the representative for Hamilton. On his retirement from public life three years ago, he moved to Sydney, and had since spent practically all his time there.

During the great coal strike of 25 years ago, Mr. Brennan, then Secretary of the Miners' Federation, was arrested with other prominent officials, including the then President (Mr. Peter Bowling), Messrs. A. Lewis, D. Rees, B. Rees, A. Burns, and D. Hutton. All suffered terms of imprisonment for having participated in the strike. Mr. Brennan, who was in poor health, invariably spoke well of the treatment that he received from the officials of the prison to which the authorities ordered him to be sent. Released before his sentence had expired, Mr. Brennan remarked to one of the attendants: "I do not wish to be your 'guest' again, but I hope some day you will be mine." After a holiday, he was soon back in his office at the miners' rooms, where he continued for many years a popular official, never sparing himself in the service of others.

Feeling reference to this was made by the former Leader of the Federal Labour Party (Mr. M. Charlton), and the present Deputy Leader of the party in the State Parliament (Mr. J. M. Baddeley, M.L.A.), at the funeral on Saturday. "The passing of Mr. Brennan," said Mr. Charlton, "removes from the industrial and political sphere one who had devoted his life to the effort to improve the conditions of his fellow men. He was very conscientious and dependable in all his undertakings, and had the appreciation and support of the industrial bodies throughout his life. I had been acquainted with him for a very long period, going back to the days of my contest for the Northumberland electorate. At that time there was practically no Labour organisation within the area, with the exception of West Wallsend. Mr. Brennan acted as my secretary, and I remember with gratitude, the manner in which he applied himself to assist in bringing about my success on that occasion.

A similar tribute was paid by Mr. Baddeley, who was District President and General President of the Miners' Federation prior to entering Parliament, and a fellow-official of Mr. Brennan. "My long association with him,' said Mr. Baddeley, ''gave me an opportunity of judging and appreciating his many fine qualities. He was ever loyal to his comrades, and always endeavoured to do the right thing. He will be remembered as one who did his utmost for the miners' organisation during many strenuous years as one whose name has been indelibly impressed on the minds of those who were closely connected with him in his work as an official and as a personal friend."

The pall-bearers were four sons-in-law, with whom, as the chief mourners, were the widow, Mr. Edward William Brennan (son), and the four daughters, Mesdames R. Pomfrett (Cook's Hill), E. Stevenson (Waratah), R. Mayo (Maitland), and W. Taylor (West Maitland), Mr. John Brennan (brother), Mesdames M. Minch and A. McDonald, and Miss E. Brennan (sisters).

Among others who attended were Messrs. R Cameron and F. H. Hawkins, M.L.A., A. Lewis, D. McNeill, I. Hoare, L. J. Halliday, and lodge officials (representing the Miners' Federation), AId. G. W.. Jenner (Hamilton Council), Mr. J. D. Reid (Messrs. Reid and Reid), Mr. T. A. Brave (Messrs. Braye, Cragg and Cohen). Mr. W. J. Cleaves (Messrs. Sparke and Helmore), the Superintendent Newcastle District Ambulance (Mr. E. L. McKay), Messrs. K. D. McDonald (Newcastle), F. Spinks (Printing Industry Employees' Union), E. Charlesworth (Federated Ironworkers' Association), G. Bass (Trades Hall Council). L. Wells (Electrical Trades Union), J. O'Toole (Federated Boilermakers' Society), D. Walker (Meat Industry Union), and C. A. Bass (Baking Trades).

Reference to the death of Mr. Brennan was made by the President of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council (Mr. A. Outteridge) at the opening of the conference of unions yesterday. Recalling the part taken by Mr. Brennan, the Chairman moved that an expression of sympathy be conveyed to the family. This was seconded by the Secretary (Mr. G. Bass) and was carried.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • photo, Sydney Mail, 3 October 1906, p 863

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Brennan, William Edward (1865–1937)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 September, 1865
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


8 October, 1937 (aged 72)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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.

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