Peter Bowling

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Peter Bowling (1864 – 22 February 1942) was an Australian coal miner and trade unionist.

Bowling was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland to miner Patrick Bowling and Marguerite MacGuire. He started working in the mines at the age of twelve and migrated to New South Wales when he was 20, working around Newcastle. He married Mary Ann Madden at Branxton on 5 September 1889. He worked in Gippsland in the 1890s, where he was involved in founding a miners' union, but returned to New South Wales and in 1893 was elected as an official of the Back Creek miners' lodge. He joined the Australian Socialist League in 1897 and was influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World, supporting direct action and strong unions. Appointed treasurer of the Colliery Employees' Federation, a northern union, in 1904 and president in 1906–10, he was influential in uniting the northern, western and southern unions as the Coal and Shale Employees' Federation in 1908.[1]

Bowling was a militant socialist and supported confrontation against the mine owners, calling for a general strike which eventuated in November 1909. Supporting radical action against the calls for moderation from his fellow mining representative Billy Hughes, Bowling was arrested for conspiracy in Newcastle on 4 December and later physically attacked Hughes while out on bail. He was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment in Goulburn Gaol; the strike ended in defeat in March 1910. Despite this apparent failure, Bowling was used in the Labor campaign for the 1910 state election, appearing on posters in leg-irons; Labor won government for the first time in New South Wales in that election. After his release Bowling visited New Zealand, during which time he lost his union presidency; he subsequently worked in a colliery in Balmain and the abattoir at Homebush. Initially an anti-conscriptionist, he switched to the conscriptionist camp in 1917 after four of his sons enlisted. Robert served in France in the Medical Corp.

After the War, one of his sons jointed the NSW Police Force. Realising through his son that the Police had no formed union structure, Bowling was instrumental in the establishment and development of the NSW Police Union.

In later years, he and Billy Hughes became close friends, particularly after Hughes' daughter first attempted to commit suicide by trying jumping off a ship steaming out of Perth on the way to the UK. After reaching London and giving birth to a son, she ultimately did suicide. As a single young woman, she was depressed by her pregnancy and feared family shame.

During the 1920s Bowling worked on the Sydney wharves before retiring. He died of cerebral arteriosclerosis in 1942 at Sacred Heart Hospice in Darlinghurst.[1]


  1. ^ a b Gollan, Robin (1979). "Bowling, Peter (1864-1942)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 12 November 2011.