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David John Bowes (1867–1956)

by Martin Sullivan

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

David Bowes, 1900 [second from left]

David Bowes, 1900 [second from left]

from Worker (Brisbane), 22 December 1900

David John Bowes (1867-1956) shearer, gaoled trade union leader 

Birth: 25 August 1867 in Rockhampton, Queensland, son of Irish-born parents Charles Bowes, labourer, later publican, and Agnes, née Neary, late Fox. Marriage: (1) 26 April 1893 in St Paul’s Cathedral, Rockhampton, to Edith Wilhelmina Jagerndorff (1871-1904). They had two sons and a daughter. (2) 22 January 1906 in Mount Morgan, to Gertrude Evelyn Tynan (1887-1935). They had two daughters and three sons. Death: 17 December 1956 at Eventide Home, Rockhampton. Religion: Catholic.

  • Shearer in central western Queensland.
  • In 1891 was charged with unlawful assembly and molesting hired servants. March 1891 discharged on latter charge at Peak Downs, near Clermont. May 1891 at Rockhampton convicted on former charge and sentenced by Justice George Harding to 18 months hard labour in St. Helena Island prison, Moreton Bay.
  • According to prison records he could read and write, was slight in build, 5 ft 3 inches (160 cm) tall, with brown hair and grey eyes.
  • In August 1892 released after remission for good conduct, despite being cautioned for insolence to a warder in May 1892. Granted £40 by the union Prisoners' Defence Fund on release.
  • Returned to 'the west' & became organiser for Charleville branch of the Amalgamated Workers Union Queensland. In 1894 Bowes was among John Amor’s group of striking shearers near Winton when Ayrshire Downs woolshed was burnt down. Two years later, on 14 March 1896 he was arrested and with three other men charged with the Ayrshire Downs arson. Convicted on dubious evidence, on 6 June, Bowes was sentenced by Judge Granville George Miller to ten years penal servitude.
  • During his second term in gaol he put on weight — from 8 stone 7 lb (53.98 kg) on admission to 9 stone 12 lb (62.60 kg) when discharged on 14 December 1900. According to his fellow inmate Martin, Bowes learnt the saddling trade in gaol and had “become a real expert at it”.
  • During his incarceration, Bowes’s wife received regular payments from AWU funds, and on release the four men received from the Union Prisoners’ Defence fund a total of £103 13 shillings, which was divided among them.
  • Bowes worked as a shopkeeper in Mount Usher in 1903. In 1925 he was an industrial inspector in Emerald.
  • In 1946 he contributed to a AWU levy and wrote a letter from Rockhampton to Brisbane Worker - the last survivor of the shearers sent to St Helena prison in 1891.
  • He and James Martin were 1891 strikers who served two terms of imprisonment.

Stuart Svensen, The Shearers' War: the story of the 1891 shearers' strike (Brisbane, 1989).

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Martin Sullivan, 'Bowes, David John (1867–1956)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

David Bowes, 1900 [second from left]

David Bowes, 1900 [second from left]

from Worker (Brisbane), 22 December 1900

Life Summary [details]


25 August, 1867
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia


17 December, 1956 (aged 89)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

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