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William (Bill) Varty (1881–1955)

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This entry is from People Australia

William (‘Old Bill’) Varty (1881-1955) coal miner, trade union official, shire president and Communist

Birth: 1881 at Telling, County Durham, England, son of William Varty (b.1851), coal miner, and his wife Ellen, née Cockburn (1858-1917). Marriage: 1909 at Telling, Durham, to Sibbell Harbin (1888-1984). They had two daughters and one son. Death: 10 June 1955 in hospital at Kurri Kurri, New South Wales; usual residence Government Rd, Weston (NSW). Religion: Anglican.

  • Worked as a coal miner at Usworth, Durham, in 1901 and 1911.
  • Emigrated to Hunter Valley in 1913 where he worked as a coal miner at Hebburn No 1 Colliery until his retirement.
  • Active in Miners’ Federation in the Hunter and was a committeeman at Hebburn.
  • As president of Kearsley Shire Council, 1945-1947, he was the first Communist shire councillor to be elected in Australia. Active in shaping so-called ‘Red Kearsley’ period.
  • Prior to standing on Communist ticket, he had served four yearly terms as shire president and two as deputy president from 1930 to 1943, when he was active in ameliorating conditions of unemployed through relief work in the district.
  • Prominent in establishing Weston Workers’ club (NSW). Trustee of Weston School of Arts, 1935-1955. Director of Kurri Cooperative Society and was Kurri representative on NSW Cooperative Wholesale Society.
  • ‘Experienced and popular’, Varty ‘always took a strong socialist stand’. ‘Whenever he rose to speak at a meeting during industrial trouble there was always absolute silence because he spoke words of wisdom, common sense and logic’.
  • Cause of death: carcinoma of stomach.
  • Park in Weston (NSW) named after him.

Common Cause
, 25 June, 2 July 1955;Martin Mowbray, ‘The Red Shire of Kearsley, 1944-1947: Communists in Local Government’ Labour History, 51 (November 1986, pp 83-94.

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Citation details

'Varty, William (Bill) (1881–1955)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Telling, Durham, England


10 June, 1955 (aged ~ 74)
Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (stomach)

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.

Key Organisations
Political Activism