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Robert Prince Bambrick

Robert Prince,
Prisoner, atheist, with his fellow conspirators

If I could have a drink with any one of my ancestors, I'd probably choose Bob. (If Bob wasn't available, I'd certainly like to talk to his mother Jane.)

Bob Bambrick, first son of Robert Bambrick (b1827) was the first of my Bambrick relatives to be born in Australia.

(I am a descendent of his younger brother John, b1866., there is also writing about his youngest brother, Horace.)

Of dark complexion & fine physique, he looked 'a thorough bushman'.

— via People Australia, Biography: Robert (Bob) Prince -

Robert Prince Bambrick

There are some discrepancies as to when Robert Prince Bambrick was born (hence his year of birth is not in the title of the article).

From his involvement in the Shearers Strike and Lyrup community, to his next adventure of contesting the Capricornia House of Representatives seat in Queensland, Robert Prince Bambrick always had a strong sense of community and social justice.

—Judy Schramm

Judy Schramm has written an extensive essay on Bob. I have included it in full further down, under the heading Robert Bambrick Essay.

Valentine Bambrick was the son of a pioneer of the Lake Hope district, South Australia, although he spent the greater part of his life in central Queensland. He later became the proprietor of the Crown Hotel, Mackay. During his youth, however, Bambrick was a noted shearer and member of the Australian Workers' Union.

Bambrick, Valentine - Biographical entry - Australian Trade Union Archives

which also says he was a member of:

  • Amalgamated Workers Union of Queensland (1892 - 1904)

  • Australian Workers Union (i), AWU (1905 - 1976)

    Title: Valentine Bambrick Collection Repository: James Cook University of North Queensland, Library Archives Reference: VB/1-VB/7 Date Range: 1897 - 1899 Description: Includes shearers' tickets from the Australian Workers' Union Adelaide and Bourke branches, 1897-1899; material relating to the Amalgamated Workers' Union of Queensland, Longreach Branch.

...from: Valentine Bambrick Collection - Australian Trade Union Archives

The biographical summary at People Australia is excellent. I'll quote the entire thing here:

Robert Prince (also known as Robert Prince Bambrick) (c.1860-1937) shearer, gaoled trade unionist and selector

Birth:Possibly c.1860 in Victoria, son of Robert Bambrick, carter, born in India, and his second wife Jane, née Pratt. Unmarried. Death: 22 July 1937 in hospital at Camden, New South Wales. Religion: Atheist, nominally Anglican.

  • Of dark complexion & fine physique, he looked 'a thorough bushman'.
  • His father had arrived in South Australia with his first wife in 1849. As a child, young Robert had been taken by his father and mother to Lake Hope, in northern South Australia. About 1886 Bambrick left home and travelled through the colonies as a shearer. Was active in Queensland Shearers' Union and took a leading part in strike action around Emerald during 1891 shearers' strike.
  • Arrested on 30 March 1891 he was charged with conspiracy and tried, with others, before Judge George Harding, at Rockhampton, May 1891. Convicted and sentenced to three years hard labour. St Helena prison records describe him as a native of Victoria. Aged 30, he was able to read and write, was 5 feet 10 ½ inches (179 cm) in height and stout, with a dark complexion, black hair and black eyes. He gave his religion as atheist.
  • Released in November 1893, in February 1894 he became chairman of the Lyrup Village Settlement Association, a “communistic” settlement he set up on the Murray River in South Australia.
  • Back in Queensland by 1903, now a selector at Jericho, near Emerald, and active in the Australian Labor Party, “Robert Prince Bambrick” made several attempts to enter parliament. He contested Labor preselection for the Federal seat of Capricornia that year and for the State seat of Leichhardt in 1904. In February 1908 as selected Labor candidate he was narrowly beaten for Barcoo in the State election. He again contested Labor preselection for Barcoo the following year, as did his former fellow prisoner William Fothergill. Both were defeated by Thomas Joseph Ryan who went on to win the seat.
  • He later held selections in Queensland at Fork Lagoons and in the Sapphire district and was a noted shearer. In May 1922 the Brisbane Worker reported that Prince was “a banana grower in central Queensland”. In 1931 he resided in Rockhampton Benevolent Home.
  • An old age pensioner, in 1937 he was living at Thirlmere, NSW, near a sister. She signed his death certificate, which gave his place of birth as Victoria. [Baptismal certificates indicate that he was baptised at Port Augusta, South Australia, at the same time as his younger brother Henry (born in 1862), on 5 November 1865.]

— via People Australia, Biography: Robert (Bob) Prince -

Robert Bambrick Essay

The following essay is by Judy Schramm (I am just writing to get permission to share it here... hopefully ok)

Robert didn't waste any time. Released from a three-year gaol sentence in November 1893 for his part in the shearers strike, his name was again appearing in the newspapers only two months later.

Like most of Australia in the 1890s, South Australia was suffering from extreme drought and high unemployment due to severe economic depression. Families were choosing to leave the state, some even leaving Australia. The Liberal Government not wanting to lose its workforce, jumped at a Village Settlement Scheme as a way to move the unemployed out of Adelaide. Also, it meant they were 'doing something' to solve the unemployment problem and opening up land for settlement.

The Village Settlement Scheme became law 31st October 1893 by a bare majority. The Government decided the experiment be permitted and concluded that they stood 'to lose little, or nothing at all in the event of failure'. The scheme was not without its objectors. Honourable RC Baker predicted in November the scheme would be 'bursted up in eighteen months'. His reply when asked what should be done with the unemployed was simply, 'they should overcome it', and it 'would exist so long as there was laziness, drunkenness, idleness, sharks, trade unions, and other unnecessary evils'. Mr Darling of the Legislative Council, was afraid that 'the village settlements will become a sort of asylum for deadbeats and all they will accomplish will be to spoil the land for others'.

The first two public meetings to discuss the scheme were held on Wednesday, 17th January 1894, on the Victoria Square land in Adelaide. That was possibly where Robert first heard of the proposal. A larger meeting was held the next evening at the Selbourne Hotel where the scheme was explained in more detail. Members of the Association would be responsible for developing the land and it would then be divided and allocated to members. A village settlement did not mean communal living. There were provisions in the act for the majority of the settlers to decide by a vote if the land should be sublet in individual plots or stay as a community. Robert and six others were elected as committee members and at the close of the meeting 120 men were willing to give the scheme a go.

Next day at the Victoria Square meeting, Robert spoke to the usual gathering of unemployed. He told them the settlement planned would be and would remain to be, a communistic settlement. The land would be run by the Association, worked and improved upon by all, and all would share in the proceeds.

Robert and Francis Shelly left Adelaide three days later on Sunday 21st January by train to inspect a parcel of land at Mooreland for suitability. While they were away, a committee was appointed to set up the rules and report to the prospective members. The next day, sixty-eight men formally joined and they elected the Board of Trustees and office bearers, including Francis Shelly and Robert Bambrick. There were forty-eight rules, most were racist and sweeping. Members must be workers over 18 (unless children of workers), Asiatics or any foreigners that couldn't understand or speak English were not accepted, neither were unmarried couples. The board showed the draft rules to the Premier for approval on Monday 22nd January.

When Robert and Francis returned from inspecting the land at Mooreland their report was presented at a general meeting of members. Unfortunately, the land was unsuitable. There was limestone in abundance, and the soil was very poor quality and too shallow for intensive cultivation.

However, during their trip a Murray Bridge farmer told them of good land on the upper part of the Murray River. Once again Robert left Adelaide, this time accompanied by Mr FG Goodwin to inspect the land. A week later they returned and presented their findings at the meeting on Monday, 5th February. Some of the land was too high for irrigation and some too low, even underwater in parts. Then they came across land at Lyrup Hut, Bookpurning, and found it most suitable with its large extent of clear land. It was good fertile loamy soil enclosed by pine ridges and level land between. The lowest point along the river was about 18 to 20 feet making it possible to pump water to all the community.

Robert said, 'there was an opportunity for founding splendid homes at the settlement which they proposed should be established'. He went onto say, 'he didn't think they could have more than 100 adult members at the start and they should progress slowly'. The next morning Robert formally applied to the Commission of Crown Lands for the lease of about 15,500 acres. The meeting also re-affirmed the election of trustees previously chosen and elected Robert as their first chair. The revised rules were read to the members, with 52 men formally signing the Act. The official name was changed to Lyrup Village Settlement Association, taken from Lyrup Hut, a shepherd's hut erected on the banks of the Murray.

Through all the complexities and challenges of village life, it was probably due to Roberts' strength of character and sense of duty, when in July 1895 he was the only remaining original trustee still serving on the board. He eventually left the Association in June 1896.

From his involvement in the Shearers Strike and Lyrup community, to his next adventure of contesting the Capricornia House of Representatives seat in Queensland, Robert Prince Bambrick always had a strong sense of community and social justice. A man we can proudly say was our Great Uncle.

Thank you Judy!

lyrup settlers

Caption: Settlers were brought to the Lyrup village settlement site, with basic building material and farm equipment, on the paddle steamer Ellen in 1894.

Images courtesy State Library of South Australia

Here is a little more about the Lyrup settlement — picking up directly after Robert’s time there:

Village Settlement: Lyrup

Lyrup … was the most successfully placed village settlement. Lyrup's pumping station was able to be located on relatively flat land, not too high above the river level, even at times of low river. Additionally, the sandy clay soil around Lyrup was more productive than the shallow 'mallee' soil around most of the other settlements. The settlers at Lyrup came to the realisation earlier than those at other villages that they had less irrigated land than was needed to grow enough crops to support their population. Their initial pump was insufficient but when it was replaced in 1898, the villagers' attempts at irrigation were much more successful. In 1897, the Lyrup village association requested that the land commissioner approve changes to their rules to allow a more co-operative form of association rather than communal. The changes granted to the settlements rules included:

  • The replacement of the board of management with an individual manager
  • The coupon system only to be retained as a system of monitoring and recording the work done by individual settlers for the association Work outside the settlement to be allowed with membership to the association to be retained by completing £70 worth of work for the settlement or by paying 10/- per week if outside work was engaged in.

The Lyrup settlers were resistant to what they saw as government interference in their affairs and were at first unwilling to take the advice of the village settlement expert, Samuel McIntosh. Eventually, however, his recommendations were heeded and in combination with the new administration of the settlement by a manager reduced the mismanagement and internal wrangling like that which marred the other settlements. Lyrup expanded and by 1924 had 600 acres of irrigated land. Today, the settlement of Lyrup still exists as a town and irrigation area. The village association has survived too - it presently owns and runs the irrigation and drainage systems of the land owned by members, and supplies domestic water to Lyrup



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