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William (Bill) Fletcher (1892–1953)

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This entry is from People Australia

William (Bill) Fletcher, (1892-1953) railway ganger and trade union official 

Birth: 11 February 1892 at Cootamundra, New South Wales, son of native-born parents George Fletcher (1862-1935), farmer, and Elizabeth, née Eldridge (1868-1927). Marriages: (1) 1913 at Temora, NSW, to Elsie May Harris (1893-1982). They had two daughters and two sons. (2) 1982 at Bankstown to native-born Beatrice Matilda Annie, née Jones, late Harrington (1884-1960), a widow with one son. Death: 21 August 1953 in his residence at Gladesville. Religion: Anglican.

  • As a railway ganger based at Wondabyne, on annual leave and at his own expense he played a part in the formation of ‘loyalist’/scab union, NSW Government Permanent Way Association (after 1938 known as the National Union of Railwaymen) during the 1917 strike. The union was strongly representative of perwaymen gangers.
  • On the death of Charles Paynter in 1926 Fletcher became secretary of the union. In 1929 he organised affiliation with the conservative Railway Service Agency of W. P. J. Skelton. Without the resources of the Australian Railway Union and faced with the threat of deregistration Fletcher led the union into a conservative alliance with the Who’s for Australia League.
  • In 1931 he attended the General Council of the right-wing New Guard and told the organisation his men would ‘stand behind the New Guard.’ Its Leader Eric Campbell claimed “A union connected to the railways was strongly represented in the New Guard and its secretary was ‘a great help’”.
  • Union membership increased significantly during the Depression. Organised federal registration in 1938 spreading union into Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
  • Fletcher was an energetic, highly conservative and knowledgeable advocate. Resigned due to ill health in 1946.
  • Cause of death: myasthenia gravis.

State Records NSW, Premier’s Department file on New Guard, B37/174; Eric Campbell, The Rallying Point (Melbourne, 1965); The Railway Advocate, 15 September 1934, 15 January 1938; 20 May 1946, 20 March 1947, 20 September 1953; Labour History, 43, November 1982. 

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Citation details

'Fletcher, William (Bill) (1892–1953)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


11 February, 1892
Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia


21 August, 1953 (aged 61)
Gladesville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

myasthenia gravis

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.

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