Well known figure in the township

Vice President of the Amalgamated Miners Association was the title Henry held for some years, later it was known as the Amalgamated Miners Union which then became the Australian Workers Union. Henry’s best mate John Verran, was at one time, president of the union and when he was elected to State Parliament as a Labor member, Henry was elected President.

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To add to the fame of Henry, there is now a book out called “Australia’s Little Cornwall” where a man by the name of Oswald Pryor has a cartoon of Henry, a rather good one too. Oswald writes in the book about the union clashes with management of the mines, of industrial unrest and of Captain Hancock who was a well known figure around the mines and Moonta. Henry along with Phillippa were also written about by a reporter in 1926 for the Moonta newspaper, the article was titled “A Venerable Couple” where Henry also states that he started the Amalgamated Miners Association and that he was vice president for 13 years.

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I did learn one thing, in the book “Australia’s Little Cornwall” Henry is called Uncle Arr, this puzzled me for awhile, I thought maybe people were calling him Arthur or because of their accents it was easier to call him Arr. Well, I was half right, it seems Henry was known to all and sundry on the mines as Harry, shortened in Cornish fashion to “Arr”. As he was an office holder in the Union, the miners put “Uncle” in front. Which is why on the mines he was called “Uncle Arr” but at home and to family members he was called Henry.

Something which happened in 1875 which I find to be slightly amusing is that there was a strike regarding wages, which was then the beginning of organised union activity. A man by the name of John Prisk emerged as a leader and he addressed the wives and daughters of miners who were very angry at their loss of house keeping money.

“There’s a rumour,” he shouted, “that you are going to sweep all the scabs out of the engine houses and stables.” This was enough for the Jennys to get their brooms and cleaning gear, and with the miners cheering and egging them on, they cleared out the stables, all of the surface areas including the engine houses, and dressing floors, sweeping all men before them. Men that the Jennys considered weak they let off with a good rubbing down of bristles. Others who really raised their ire, got a good scrubbing with soap and water, much to their embarrassment.

(There is a gentleman in the photo below who looks somewhat like Uncle Arr, I’ll need to ask family about it, back row in the middle, short gentleman with full faced white beard beside the tall slim gentleman)

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Strikes later followed due to the falling price of copper and meeting after meeting was held to try and find a solution that would keep all involved happy, from the miners to the Union members to the wives and daughters. Henry tried to keep out of these strikes the best he could as he could see it from the miners point of view, he had been there and done that, he had worked for a very small wage back in Cornwall before coming to Australia. Though it is said that he shared what he could with the striking miners, primarily food as the miners had been earning no wage while on strike and had no money for food, this is why their big strike, which lasted 18 weeks ended, starved men went back to the mines begging for work no matter the wage.

 

 

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