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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Trenwith, William Arthur

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Trenwith, William Arthur, M.L.A., was born at Launceston, Tasmania, in 1847, being the second of three sons of a Cornish bootmaker, whose trade he began to learn in his ninth year. At thirteen young Trenwith maintained both himself and his younger brother at his trade. In 1864, when only seventeen, he became one of the Provisional Committee of the Working Men's Club in Launceston; and married before he was twenty-one. In 1868 Mr. Trenwith left Tasmania, and settled in Melbourne. Through his superior vigour and undoubted political ability he was chosen lecturer and organising agent for the National Reform League, and in 1879 stood for Villiers and Heytesbury as the Radical candidate, but was defeated. In the same year he formed what has proved a stable Union of his own trade, all previous attempts to band together the working bootmakers having failed. In 1886 he went to Adelaide to investigate the great strike in his trade in that city; and drew up a scale of prices which proved satisfactory to manufacturers and workmen alike. He also established a Board of Conciliation, composed of equal numbers of employers and employés, which Board is still an Adelaide institution. Mr. Trenwith was presented by his South Australian admirers with a purse of sovereigns, and on his return to Melbourne was generally accepted as the leading Labour representative in Victoria. In 1887 he was elected President of the Trades Hall Council, and was appointed one of the Victorian Commissioners for the Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition in 1887, and Executive Commissioner for the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888. In 1886 Mr. Trenwith came forward for the important metropolitan constituency of Richmond, but was again defeated. However, at the general election in March 1889 he was returned by a substantial majority, and was re-elected in April 1892. In Parliament Mr. Trenwith brought forward a motion fur opening the Public Library and National Art Galleries on Sundays, especially in the interests of artisans and working men—but it was "blocked" Mr. Trenwith took a prominent part on the labour side in the disastrous strike in the shipping trade in 1890.