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Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848–1928)

by Dean Jaensch

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848-1928), by unknown photographer, c1885

Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848-1928), by unknown photographer, c1885

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 38840/1

Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848-1928), printer and politician, was born on 4 January 1848 in London, son of Patrick Alexander Kirkpatrick, an Irish railway policeman, and his wife Mary Ann, formerly Giblin, née Stinton, a nurse who later accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimean War. His father died when he was 1, leaving thirteen children; the boy began work on a farm at 9. In 1860 he migrated with his mother to Adelaide and was apprenticed as a printer while attending night school. Later he worked on the Advertiser and at the Government Printing Office before forming his own printing firm. He was a foundation member (1874) and, in 1882, president of the Typographical Society of South Australia and in 1883 was president of the National Liberal Reform League of South Australia. He helped to form the United Trades and Labor Council (1884) and the Eight Hours' Celebration Union, of which he was chairman for several years from 1886.

When the unions endorsed and supported candidates for election in the late 1880s, Kirkpatrick was on the parliamentary committee of the U.T.L.C.; and when it formed the United Labor Party in 1891, he was one of three endorsed candidates that year at the first election the party fought, for the Legislative Council. In 1887 he had unsuccessfully contested the assembly seats of Port Adelaide and West Torrens with U.T.L.C. support. He represented the Southern council district, not a 'natural' Labor area, for his six-year term, but was defeated in 1897. His special interest was constitutional reform and the most radical private bill introduced by a U.L.P. member was his unsuccessful franchise extension bill of 1894. In 1899 he tried again to enter the House of Assembly but lost.

In 1900 he returned to the Legislative Council as representative for Central district and was re-elected in 1902 and 1905. In 1902 he battled for the establishment of wages boards. As a pioneer Labor parliamentarian Kirkpatrick set a high standard and provided a model for those who followed. He resigned in 1909 to be the State's first Labor agent-general in London. He returned to South Australia in 1914 and resumed political life as member for Newcastle in the House of Assembly in 1915-18, and as a member for Central No.1 in the Legislative Council from 1918 until his death. Quick-witted and holding strong views, he was always a cool and fluent debater.

He had been chief secretary and minister for industry in the Tom Price government of 1905-09 and leader of the government in the Upper House. He held the portfolios of mines, marine, immigration and local government in the Gunn ministry of 1924-26 and in the Hill ministry of 1926-27. Following the 1917 Labor split over conscription, he had been Opposition leader in the assembly in 1917-18.

A faithful and devoted Labor leader, 'Kirk' was 'a wonderful old man, honest, and as straight as a die'. In old age his thick snowy beard and hair gave him a venerable appearance. He was a Protestant. He had married Catherine Maria Cooper in Adelaide on 4 April 1878; they had four daughters and three sons. Unwell from 1925, he died on 19 August 1928 and, after a state funeral, was buried in Payneham cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • J. Churchett, One Hundred Years of the Printing Union in South Australia, 1874-1974 (Adel, 1974)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 4 Sept 1891
  • Printing Trades Journal, 9 Oct 1928
  • Observer (Adelaide), 6 June 1891, 25 Aug 1928
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 Aug 1928
  • J. Scarfe, The Labour Wedge: The First Six Labour Members of the South Australian Legislative Council (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1968).

Citation details

Dean Jaensch, 'Kirkpatrick, Andrew Alexander (1848–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848-1928), by unknown photographer, c1885

Andrew Alexander Kirkpatrick (1848-1928), by unknown photographer, c1885

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 38840/1

Life Summary [details]


4 January, 1848
London, Middlesex, England


19 August, 1928 (aged 80)
South Australia, Australia

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