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Robert Booley (1804–1876)

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This entry is from People Australia

Robert Booley, also known as Robert Booly (1804-1876) coachbuilder, political candidate and non-nonconformist lay preacher 

Birth: 1804 at Ipswich, Suffolk, England, son of Francis Booley, sailor, and Mary Anne Griffith. Marriage: 1 June 1828 at Ipswich, Suffolk, England, to Mary Anne Eleanor Cross (1805-1883). They had six sons and two daughters. Death: 11 June 1876 at Lake Bolac, Victoria. 

  • Worked as a coachsmith in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, in 1830 and 1840s.
  • In 1838-1839 was a leading figure in Chartist agitation in Suffolk, England. Pioneer of trade union and Chartist movements in East Anglia. Part of the ‘moral force’ faction who appealed to ‘the intelligent and morally influential section of the working class to campaign for an extension of the suffrage’ by non-violent means. Influential in establishing Ipswich Working Men’s Association — the first formal Chartist organisation in Suffolk.  Active in collection of signatures for a great National Charter.
  • Migrated with family to Victoria on 3 October 1848, arriving in Geelong aboard the Berkshire under a scheme launched by Reverend John Dunmore Lang.
  • From its inception in 1851, he an active member of the radical group, Geelong People’s Association. In 1853 he stood for election to the Victorian Legislative Council as member for the city of Geelong on the understanding that his supporters would provide him with a regular wage, parliamentarians then being unpaid. He might be regarded as ‘the first working class candidate for the Victorian parliament’, six years before Charles Jardine Don. His candidature was unsuccessful.
  • Remained active in Geelong People’s Association. Was perhaps complicit in successfully hiding Eureka leader, Peter Lalor, in Geelong for six months following 1854 uprising.
  • In 1857 he called first meeting in Geelong to form an ‘8 Hours Day Committee’. Later conducted first campaign for an eight-hour day in Geelong.
  • Prominent speaker on phrenology and Rechabitism.
  • Cause of death: constipation and exhaustion.

Brian J. McKinlay, ‘The Geelong People's Association and Robert Booley, a Chartist Pioneer’; Labour History, No. 15, November 1968, pp 70-71.

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Citation details

'Booley, Robert (1804–1876)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Booly, Robert

Ipswich, Suffolk, England


11 June, 1876 (aged ~ 72)
Lake Bolac, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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