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Ernest Robert Peters (1872–1942)

Ald. E. R. J. [Ernest Robert James] Peter, Labour representative of West Ward in Greater Newcastle Council, died in Iluka Hospital yesterday morning after a short illness. He was 70 years old.

For nearly half a century Ald. Peters had been closely associated with the industrial and municipal life of the Newcastle and South Maitland districts. He had taken a prominent part in all the affairs of the Northern Miners' Federation, of which he was auditor for many years.

A few weeks before he died he announced his intention of nominating for a seat in the Legislative Council.

An alderman of the former Wallsend Municipal Council since 1934, he was elected to Greater Newcastle Council in 1938 and returned in the 1941 election. He was a member of the Health, Abattoir, and Electric Supply Committees. He was early associated with the mining industry in Jumbunna and Wonthaggi, and was attracted to New South Wales by the promising accounts of the coalfields, following the investigations of Professor David. He was one of a number of Victorians who resolved to try their fortunes here. A companion was the late Mr. Arthur Teece, who also became an executive officer of the Miners' Federation, and who was a brother-in-law of Mr. Peters.

Both made their homes at Weston, which, with its neighbour Kurri Kurri, was then an infant town. Mr. Peters and Mr. Teece were among the first employees of the Hebburn district mines; and in Peters' case, he filled every post that was available to the membership in the Hebburn lodge. In the troublous days through which the industry passed he did his share.

Few individual members in the Miners' Federation had occupied so many positions as Mr. Peters. On the vacancy arising through the election of the late Mr. D. Watson to the Senate, he was a candidate for the District Presidency of the Miners' Federation. There were other candidates, among them the present Minister for Mines (Mr. J. M. Baddeley), who was elected and held the position until his retirement on entering the State Parliament.

Mr. Peters was the representative of the federation on the Wages Board in 1908, and remained for its full term. He had acted as district president and secretary, in turn; and, in 1914 was appointed to represent the federation on the board set up under Mr. Justice Edmunds to deal with issues in the district. He was elected to the original board of management, and, subsequently to the Delegate Board, and represented the organisation on deputations over a long period.

At the election of district representatives of the federation in 1917, Mr. Peters was one of 23 candidates for the Coal and Shale Council. The late Mr. Daniel Rees, M.L.C., General President, topped the poll with 1379 votes. Mr. C. Pattinson (now of Canada); followed with 1305; and Mr. Peters next with 1225. The three were elected, and in other ballots Mr Peters maintained his place in the confidence of the miners.

Close associates on the industrial and political field were the late Mr. John Estell, M.L.A., Minister for Mines; Senator David Watson (a former District President of the federation); Mr. Alfred Edden, M.L.A., Minister for Mines; Mr. David Watkins, M.H.R., who entered the New South Wales Parliament originally in 1894 while a lodge official in Wallsend; Mr. W. Kearsley M.L.A.; the ex-President (Mr. Peter Bowling); and the ex-district secretary Mr. William Brennan, M.L.C). Colleagues still living are the ex-district treasurer (Mr. Amram Lewis) and the retired Leader of the Federal Labour Party (Mr. Matthew Charlton, M.H.R). 

In 1924, Mr. Peters left Weston and settled in Wallsend. There he continued his activities in the Labour movement in addition to his other interests.

Leaving the mining industry, Mr. Peters became a hotel keeper in Wallsend. At the time he entered the Greater City Council he had retired from business. Ald. Peters is the fourth of the original members of the Greater Newcastle Council to die. Others were Ald. R. H. Christie, Thomas Blackall, and E. E. Rowlands.

Mr. Peters was Treasurer of the Back-to-Wallsend Week Committee, and played a prominent part in the pioneering work for the Kurri Kurri District Hospital. He was President of the Hospital Board when, in 1910, the institution was opened free of debt. He had been a member of the Official Labour Party from its inception, and held many official positions in the organisation apart from that of conference delegate.

Regret at the death of Ald. Peters was expressed at a meeting of Carrington A.L.P, last night. Ald. Breen said that in his short association with Ald. Peters on the council he had found him ever ready to fight for Labour principles. He would be greatly missed by his colleagues.

Mr. L. Bromley sail Ald. Peters had been known for his sympathetic approach to cases of hardship that came before the council. The Labour movement in Newcastle would be the poorer for his death.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Newcastle Morning Herald (NSW),) 29 September 1942, p 4
  • tributes, Newcastle Sun (NSW), 28 September 1942, p 3

Citation details

'Peters, Ernest Robert (1872–1942)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

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