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George Wilson Hall (1836–1916)

by R. T. Fitzgerald

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

George Wilson Hall (1836-1916), trade unionist, journalist and politician, was born at Brighton, England, where his father was an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society. He arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and later became a compositor. In 1873 he was secretary of the Melbourne Typographical Society and editor of its Australasian Typographical Journal. Unable to win worthwhile support and continually involved in petty disputes with employers, the society tried to improve its bargaining power through collective action with other workers. In July 1874 Hall called an inaugural meeting of the Trades and Labor Council. Though it failed to win major objectives and by 1875 was almost defunct, Hall as its secretary gained some prominence in October by organizing a public meeting to protest against the gaoling of two tanners at Castlemaine. He also seconded a motion by Thomas Bent which called for a system of arbitration. The government seemed prepared to discuss proposals for courts of conciliation but nothing was achieved.

In 1878 Hall left his union post to become editor-proprietor of the Mansfield Guardian. A few months later when the Kelly gang shot three police from Mansfield, Hall published a pamphlet, The Kelly Gang or The Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges (Mansfield, 1879). Next year he moved to Benalla and covered the capture of the Kellys at Glenrowan for the Melbourne Argus and his own Benalla Standard. Police handling of the Kellys led Hall to agitate for an inquiry into the police force which in 1881 was set up with Hall as a commissioner.

Hall was elected for the Moira seat in the Legislative Assembly in July 1880. He had long been concerned at the prevalence of sweating in the printing industry and gave influential support to the printers' public campaign for factory reform. In May 1883, at the request of William Smith, Hall joined the enlarged royal commission on shop employees and with officials of the Typographical Society lobbied for new legislation. Although active in parliament Hall held no portfolio but was a whip for the Service-Berry, Munro and Shiels ministries. He was also a staunch advocate for temperance.

From about 1886 Hall was a leader of the country section of the Liberal-protectionists in the Deakin-Gillies coalition. In 1887-88 Hall held that more was to be gained by staying with the government than by opposition but at the 1889 election he announced his breakaway and, backed by the Victorian Farmers' Protection Association, won the new seat of Shepparton and Euroa. Although he did not always maintain an independent position he was prominent in exacting budgetary concessions from the government in 1889 on behalf of farmers. He lost his seat in 1891 and went on an official lecture tour of England to attract migrants to Victoria. After attempting in vain to re-enter parliament in 1894 and 1897 he retired from public life. He was married first to Marian Burton, second to Mary Juliet Worthington and third to Mary Hughes. He died in Melbourne on 21 September 1916 aged 80, survived by his widow and by three sons of the first marriage; two children of the second marriage predeceased him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. T. Fitzgerald, The Printers of Melbourne: The History of a Union (Melb, 1967)
  • Benalla Standard, 29 Sept 1916
  • Mansfield Courier, 30 Sept 1916
  • M. G. Finlayson, Groups in Victorian Politics, 1889-1894 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964).

Citation details

R. T. Fitzgerald, 'Hall, George Wilson (1836–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Brighton, Sussex, England


21 September, 1916 (aged ~ 80)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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