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Josiah (Joe) Cocking (1867–1960)

by Tony Laffan

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Josiah Cocking, n.d.

Josiah Cocking, n.d.

University of Newcastle Library

Josiah (Joe) Cocking (1867-1960) copper ore picker, coal miner, Socialist activist, poet 

Birth: 11 May 1867 at Kadina, South Australia, son of immigrant Cornish copper miner, Thomas Cocking (1838-1899), and Elizabeth, née Rowe, later Giles (1831-1910). Marriage: 22 May 1897 at Wallsend, New South Wales, to native-born Mary Jane ‘Jinny’ Anderson (1867-1962). They had seven sons and one daughter. Death: 27 July 1960, at Mayfield, Newcastle, NSW. Religion: Salvation Army for part of life. 

  • Began working life as a copper ore picker aged seven. Raised by a deserted mother and supported by two older brothers. Mother married Charles Elijah Giles in 1875. Family moved to Wallsend, NSW, in the late 1880s where Joe worked as a coal miner.
  • A socialist autodidact and writer, he was an active member of Australian Socialist League (ASL) at Wallsend from 1893. Became secretary of the Wallsend ASL branch on its re-formation in 1895; during this period became a life-long friend of Harry Holland and wrote a treatise on labour.
  • Influenced by the Social Gospel movement and its condemnation on competitive capitalism. Also a temperance advocate and opponent of gambling.
  • Active member of the Salvation Army for several decades although his relationship with the Army was somewhat stormy. For 14 years as an early adult he was also a spiritualist trance medium.
  • Identified with a militant group within the miners’ union, participated in a strike at the Co-operative Colliery in 1896, was victimised for his role in the strike in 1897. After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a photography business, he returned briefly to Kadina for work, then to Newcastle about 1899, subsequently returning to coalmining.
  • Did not resume his public activism until 1907, when he again took up the pen, writing numerous letters to the editor of the Newcastle Morning Herald. Letters advocated the adoption of the Industrial Workers of the World Preamble by the miners’ union.
  • He was a member of group that published the International Socialist Review in Sydney from 1907, becoming a frequent contributor of articles and poetry, and was the coalfields correspondent covering the Peter Bowling strike 1909-10.
  • Also a frequent contributor of essays and poetry to many other trade union and socialist newspapers, including the ASL’s People.
  • Suffered serious eye injury in a mining accident in 1911, ending his work as a miner and his time as a lodge activist. Later resumed work as a shovel hand at Newcastle steelworks, working on a casual basis and continuing to write poetry.
  • Rarely wrote under his own name, with his most frequent pseudonym being ‘Dandelion’ (Daniel De Leon); other pen names included: ‘Edward Kelly’, ‘Billy Khan’, ‘Daisy’, ‘Violet’, ‘K.N.Pepper”, ‘Taraxacum’, and ‘Capsicum’.
  • In the early years of World War I he had several pieces included in a pamphlet edited by R.W. Winspear for the Australasian Socialist Party. Continued to write anti-war poetry for the International Socialist until 1917. Then wrote for the Newcastle Argus, published by the Newcastle Labour Council. After Council split in 1917 and with the formation of the Newcastle Industrial Council (NIC), he was a frequent contributor to the NIC newspaper known first as The Toiler, then as The Industrialist, which survived until 1922. Used various new pen names, including ‘Soshialistic Kove’ (in the style of C. J. Dennis). His poetry spoke of the need for workers to organise into One Big Union. In early post-war years, he submitted pieces to Revolutionary Socialist (published by the Socialist Labor Party), and the Melbourne-based OBU Herald, published by the WIIU. With the formation of the Communist Party of Australia, he also wrote for the Workers Weekly. Contributed to the Miners’ Federation’s Common Cause in the early 1920s and, following its revival, in the mid-1930s.
  • Retained his commitment to socialism and hatred of militarism and war in advancing years. Published well into the 1950s, with pacifist and other poetry appearing in Common Cause, the War Cry (Salvation Army), and Tribune. Throughout his life, Cocking was also a keen diarist. Hard Manual Labour: Its Causes and Cure, 1894.

R. Sharpe MA thesis, 2003; J. Cocking Papers, University of Newcastle Archives.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Tony Laffan, 'Cocking, Josiah (Joe) (1867–1960)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Josiah Cocking, n.d.

Josiah Cocking, n.d.

University of Newcastle Library

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Dandelion
  • K.N.Pepper
  • Taraxacum
  • Capsicum
  • Soshialistic Kove

11 May, 1867
Kadina, South Australia, Australia


27 July, 1960 (aged 93)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Political Activism