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Ogden, Anthony (1866–1943)

by Brian F. Stevenson

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Anthony Ogden (1866-1943), unionist, politician and mayor, was born on 18 March 1866 at Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, England, son of Anthony Ogden, charcoal-burner, and his wife Ann, née Housley. Educated at Sheffield, he left school at 11 and was apprenticed to an iron-moulder. He arrived at Cooktown, Queensland, as a bounty passenger on 20 January 1884 and worked at the Cleveland foundry at Townsville, then as a meatworker and wharf-labourer. On 19 November 1888 at Townsville Ogden married Mary Ann Gillott (d.1920).

In April 1891, as president of the Townsville district council of the Australian Labor Federation, Ogden contested the seat of Townsville, thus becoming the first political candidate in Queensland to run on an official Labor platform. He polled impressively, but was defeated. He served on the Townsville council as an alderman in 1891-94, 1911-18 and 1930 and as mayor from 1924 until defeated in 1927.

The central executive of the Queensland Labor Party withdrew Ogden's endorsement for the 1893 election when he refused the A.L.F. demand to give unconditional priority to electoral reform, saying he would support either North Queensland separation or electoral reform, whichever was first on the agenda. Unsuccessful as an independent Labor candidate, he later won a by-election on a platform of separation, land and income tax and revision of the tariff. At the start of the 1894 pastoral strike he supported conciliation to settle the dispute. Ogden voted with the Nelson government to introduce the peace preservation bill but opposed the draconian form which the legislation finally took. Defeated at the 1896 election, he failed to regain Townsville in 1899 and 1902.

In 1912 Ogden became secretary of the northern district section of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union. An industrial moderate, he wanted the militant elements of the A.M.I.E.U. removed and the union brought into the arbitration system. On 31 January 1919, after a strike, Justice T. McCawley abolished preference for unionists from all meatworks in the northern division. On 22 June, as work tapered off towards the end of the slaughtering season, the northern district council asked for guarantees that no unionist would be dismissed. The request was refused. Uncharacteristically, Ogden at first recommended direct action, but he swiftly changed his stance and urged that the dispute be settled by arbitration.

After some cattle-fences were destroyed, two strike leaders were arrested. Ogden pleaded for calm, but on the night of 29 June, 'Bloody Sunday', the Townsville lock-up was stormed and shots were exchanged between police and strikers. Nine persons were wounded before the crowd dispersed. Ogden unsuccessfully asked Premier T. J. Ryan on 13 August to convene a round-table conference. The strike collapsed in September, with the power of the militants broken, and the A.M.I.E.U. came within the arbitration system.

From 1926 Ogden was secretary of the Townsville branch of the Waterside Workers' Federation. He edited the Townsville Labor newspaper, Clarion, in 1937-41. Shortly after he retired from municipal politics, Townsville's second largest thoroughfare, Flinders Lane, was renamed Ogden Street, although at his insistence the change was not made until the area had been purged of its brothels.

Ogden was a studious man of abstemious habits who in parliament objected to the financial vote for refreshment rooms, holding that the money would be better spent on the parliamentary library. He argued against gambling in all forms, including horse-racing. Involved in temperance movements from boyhood, he was a candidate for the Methodist ministry but withdrew; however, he held many offices in the local church as a lay preacher. In appearance he was 'a fine type physically, tall, well proportioned and strong'. Survived by four daughters and two sons, Ogden died at Townsville on 15 May 1943, and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Hedges, The Methodist Church in Townsville (Townsville, 1976)
  • C. Doran, Separatism in Townsville, 1884-1894 (Townsville, 1981)
  • Townsville Herald, 6 May 1891
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 17 May 1943
  • Worker (Brisbane), 24 May 1943.

Citation details

Brian F. Stevenson, 'Ogden, Anthony (1866–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/ogden-anthony-7885/text13709, accessed 26 September 2017.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012