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Gledson, David Alexander (1877–1949)

by Margaret Bridson Cribb

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

David Alexander Gledson (1877-1949), trade union leader and politician, was born in 1877 at Saintfield, Down, Ireland, son of William Gledson, miner, and his wife Mary, née Magill. Migrating to Queensland in 1885, the family settled at Bundamba where David was educated at the local state school. Going to work early in the Bundamba mine, he was inspired with union ideals by Gilbert Casey. Blacklisted and dismissed from Bundamba, he followed his father into the Tivoli pit. After a strike in 1905, he helped to found the Queensland Colliery Employees' Union.

Active in union and Labor politics, he qualified as an accountant in night classes at the Ipswich Technical College, won a certificate of competency as a mine-manager, and in 1908 was appointed first full-time secretary of his union at £150 a year. Under his lead the union embarked on a period of expansion and consolidation and, after he became a district check-inspector in 1910, on a programme to improve conditions in Queensland mines. A strong supporter of the federation of State mining unions, Gledson represented Queensland at the 1915 meeting in Sydney which brought the Australasian Coal and Shale Employees' Federation into being. Shortly afterwards, he resigned as Q.C.E.U. secretary but remained on the executive for some time as treasurer.

Unsuccessfully contesting the State seat of Bundamba for the Labor Party in 1908 and 1909, Gledson won Ipswich in 1915 and became a back-bencher in T. J. Ryan's victorious party. Representing small unions on the Queensland central executive in 1916-20 and as an elected convention delegate in 1920-32, he was also a member of the A.L.P.'s inner executive in 1926-28. Elected to the cabinet on 21 October 1925, he was minister without portfolio till 6 September 1926, then secretary for labour and industry. When the government was defeated in May 1929 Gledson also lost Ipswich but both he and the A.L.P. were returned at the general election of June 1932. In the Forgan Smith ministry of 1932-42 he was additional member of the Executive Council and assistant secretary for agriculture and stock in February-July 1939, secretary for mines in 1939-41 and attorney-general from 8 December 1941. He retained this portfolio in the Cooper and Hanlon ministries, dying in office of cerebro-vascular disease at Ipswich on 14 May 1949. He was buried in Ipswich cemetery with Methodist forms. A son and four daughters were issue of his marriage at Bundamba on 24 February 1904 to Susannah Jane Bird.

Like so many Ipswich workers and their families at that period, Gledson was a staunch and active Methodist. While his tenure as a parliamentarian and minister was long, he was best remembered for his service to the trade union movement. As the champion of their cause, 'Davie' Gledson won the abiding loyalty and allegiance of the miners of the West Moreton field.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Ross, A History of the Miners' Federation of Australia (Syd, 1970)
  • D. J. Murphy et al (eds), Labor in Power: The Labor Party and Governments in Queensland, 1915-57 (Brisb, 1980)
  • Daily Standard (Brisbane), 18 May 1915.

Citation details

Margaret Bridson Cribb, 'Gledson, David Alexander (1877–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/gledson-david-alexander-6401/text10941, accessed 27 September 2017.

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