Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taylor, George (1861–1935)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

George Taylor (1861-1935), shearer, prospector and politician, was born on 30 May 1861 at Balgownie, New South Wales, second son of Robert Taylor, farmer and carpenter, and his wife Margaret, née Burke, both native-born. George left school at Wollongong at the age of 12, joined a shearing team, drifted to Queensland and became part of the embryonic labour movement. Known as 'The Native', Taylor helped to form the Queensland Shearers' Union and to organize the Australian Labour Federation. During the 1891 shearers' strike, with J. A. Stuart and others, he was convicted for conspiracy by Judge Harding at Rockhampton and imprisoned for three years. Released early for good conduct, and sporting a black, bushy beard, Taylor went prospecting at Coolgardie, Western Australia.

His reputation had preceded him. He worked at the Mulga Queen Mine near Erliston and afterwards at Mount Sir Samuel; he was also a founder of the North Coolgardie branch of the Amalgamated Workers' Association (Union). In 1901 the 'big, brainy … man from Darlot' was the successful Labor candidate for the vast Mount Margaret electorate. Taylor proved formidable on the hustings against his affluent opponent J. W. Hall and held the Legislative Assembly seat until its abolition in 1929.

In parliament he was a confrontationist: he attacked much of (Sir) Walter James's legislation and the appointment of W. J. George as commissioner of railways, and fell out with his colleagues T. H. Bath and W. D. Johnson. After being expelled from caucus for crossing the floor on the appointment of (Sir) Cornthwaite Rason to the ministry, Taylor attacked the parliamentary Labor Party's leader, Robert Hastie. Despite such rows, in 1904 Taylor's constituents at Kookynie gave him a purse of sovereigns and in August he was made colonial secretary. In this portfolio he administered the gaol and prison department, but resigned in June 1905 over Premier Daglish's vacillating administration. Taylor was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1917-24; in 1910-11 he had been chairman of committees during Frank Wilson's Liberal government, to the displeasure of his Labor colleagues.

Taylor's favourite pastime was attending the vaudeville. On 12 December 1910 he married a widow, Neta Hannah Stanley Whalan, née Oughton, manageress of the Follies Co. His bushman's image was replaced by that of 'a gentleman with … red necktie, red buttonhole, beard closely cropped à la Française, moustache waxed'. His speeches may also have changed from their 'straight-out rude, loud' form, but 'Mulga' never lost his punch. He split with the Labor Party in 1917 over his support for conscription; although he sat thereafter on the front bench as a Nationalist, he remained essentially a labour man and his electors on the goldfields stayed loyal.

Chairman of the board of the Perth Public Hospital and a member of the licensing bench in 1930-35, Taylor was a keen fan of trotting. Predeceased by his wife in 1933, he died on 24 September 1935 and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery. Three stepchildren survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Fitzpatrick, A Short History of the Australian Labor Movement (Melb, 1940)
  • G. C. Bolton and P. Joske, History of Royal Perth Public Hospital (Perth, 1982)
  • Westralian Worker, 12 Apr, 10 May 1901, 8, 21 Mar 1902, 4, 11, 18, 25 Mar, 22 Apr, 20 May, 3, 22 June, 26 Aug 1904, 9 June 1905, 11 Jan 1917
  • Kookynie Press, 7, 10, 17 June 1905
  • Morning Herald (Fremantle), 10, 14, 17, 21 June, 1 July, 26 Aug, 4, 25 Oct, 26 Nov 1905
  • West Australian, 25 Sept 1935
  • Worker (Brisbane), 14th anniversary special ed, 1940.

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Taylor, George (1861–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-george-8755/text15341, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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