toast a famous export and leader of a nation...
by Jeff Centenera
Over a century after his emigration to
Australia, the Scottish mining village of Crosshouse has not forgotten
its favourite son, a coal miner and, more surprisingly, an Australian
The birthplace of three-time Labour prime
minister Andrew Fisher, presented a scroll to Senate President
Margaret Reid, commemorating Australia's Centenary of Federation and
Mr Fisher's contribution to it.
The presentation was made by Mary Nicholls,
whose mother Esther Caldwell is chairman of Crosshouse council.
She said Mr Fisher's legacy was well known
in the village, just south of Glasgow.
"It's a tiny place," she said.
"Apart from the local hospital, Mr Fisher is its only claim to
Mr Fisher was born in 1862 and spent his
childhood in Crosshouse, where he started working in the mines at the
age of 10. By the time he was 23, he emigrated and found work in the
A political career came in tandem with the
mines. He was secretary of the District Mining Workers Union in
Crosshouse, and his work in Queensland led to a seat in the state
And as prime minister from 1908 to 1909,
1910 to 1913 and 1914 to 1915, Mr Fisher's career gave Crosshouse
three anniversaries to celebrate. Ms Nicholls said his presence was
also visible in the village, with a garden of remembrance was placed
close to where he was born.
Fisher, Andrew Labor politician who was prime minister of Australia 1908-09,
1910-13 and 1914-15.
MINER WHO BECAME AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER (Thanks to Isla Browhill for
sending in this account)
The political career of
Andrew Fisher, three times Labor Prime Minister of Australia from 1908
to 1915, began on the Gympie goldfields as a direct result of his
involvement in the miners union.
"From pit boy to
Prime Minister" is how some historians have described Andrew
Fisher, the coal miner from Crosshouse in Scotland.
From all accounts
Fisher was a modest and deeply sincere man whose commitment to social
justice, and concern for the underprivileged, went hand in hand with
his dedication to the Labor Party. He was an inspiring example of
honest worth, dignity, principle and commonsense.
He liked to be known as
Andy Fisher, and later in his life refused a Knighthood.
Fisher was about ten
years old when he went down into the pits. His father was crippled
with disease and the family needed his wage to survive. Despite
working twelve hours a day six days a week, and four hours on Sunday,
the boy somehow managed to gain an education, which he saw as a
When he was just
seventeen Fisher was elected Crosshouse district secretary of the
Ayrshire Branch of the Miners Union, becoming a thorn in the side of
mine owners to such and extent that he was blacklisted as a strike
Out of work because of
his union activities Fisher decided to emigrate to Australia with his
brother James arriving In Brisbane in August 1885. Within a month they
were working at the Burrum coalfield north of Maryborough.
When his application as
manager of a new mine was turned down in 1888 he left Burrum for the
Gympie goldfields, finding work at the North Phoenix No.10.
Over the next five
years his union involvement became political. He taught himself
shorthand and studied political philosophy.
With an eye on the
State elections in 1893 Fisher set about what would now be described
as raising his public profile. He joined the Oddfellow Ledge, local
Presbyterian Church and Gympie Chess Club. He was superintendent of
the Sunday School, a shareholder in the Gympie Co-operative Society,
organised debated and even joining the local Defence Force.
He won Gympie for the
Labor Party but lost his seat in 1896, a defeat he attributed to the
press "not being impartial".
He bought a printing
press, learned how to work it, then ran off issue after issue of the
Gympie Truth while working as an engine driver in a small mine. This
determination was rewarded when he regained his seat in 1899.
The commonwealth of
Australia was founded in 1901, with the opening of the first Federal
Parliament on New Years Day. At the age of thirty-nine Fisher was
elected to Federal Parliament as the member for Wide Bay, and was
appointed Deputy Leader of the Labor Party.
That same year he
married Margaret Irvine, daughter of Henry and Margaret Irvine, whose
house had been his home almost since his arrival in Gympie.
In 1908 Fisher headed
his first Government, however a fusion of opposition parties brought
it down a year later.
Labour won the 1910
election with a comfortable majority in both houses and Andrew Fisher
once again became Prime Minister.
It was the Fisher
Government of 1910-13 which negotiated the purchase of land from New
South Wales to build a Federal capital.
Fisher gave King OMalley,
the Tasmanian Minister for Home Affairs, all responsibility for the
capital, including submitting a list of Aboriginal words for
consideration as the name of the new capitol.
At the next Cabinet
meeting OMalley confessed he had no list and proposed the Federal
capital be named Fisher.
An indignant Fisher
rejected the suggestion as a "Yankee joke." Thus Andrew
Fisher turned down the offer to have the capital of Australian named
in his honour. On his suggestion it was given the Aboriginal name
Fisher was into his
second stint as Prime Minister when, in 1911, he returned to Scotland
and received a warm and emotional welcome at Crosshouse. He was in
England to represent Australia at the Imperial Conference and attend
the coronation of King George V in London.
Thirteen months after
taking office as Prime Minister for the third time, in October 1915,
Andrew Fisher resigned a Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party.
He then took up the post of High Commissioner of Australian in London,
an appointment he held until 1921.
The burden of office,
failing health and his opposition to compulsory conscription for armed
services during the initial stages of the First World War were
contributing factors in his resignation.
He died in London in
October 1928, at the age of sixty-six. Australians living in Britain
paid the cost of erecting a memorial over his grave at Hampstead
Cemetery and this was unveiled in 1930 by Labor Prime Minister Ramsay
MacDonald of Great Britain.
Andrew Fisher was
survived by his wife, five sons and a daughter. Andrew Fishers
cottage now stands as a memorial to this outstanding man in the
grounds of the Gympie Mining Museum.
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