The Keir Hardie Society held its recent AGM in Crosshouse, the first time the society has held a meeting in the Ayrshire village.
Society President began the meeting with a minute’s silence to remember members who had passed away, particular mention was made to executive member Bill Dick who will be sadly missed by all in the Keir Hardie Society.
The meeting centred on a discussion on the life and work of Crosshouse born Andrew Fisher, who was a Labour Party Prime Minister of Australia, and led the world’s first Labour majority government.
With contributions on Andrew Fisher from Pat Kelly and John McHarg, society members learned of Fisher’s beginnings in Crosshouse where his father was a trade union activist and a founder of the Crosshiuse Co-operative Society.
Born in 1862 and having left school at 10 and worked in the pit for 7 years Fisher became the secretary if the Crosshouse Branch of the Ayrshire Miners Union by the Age of 17.
With Fisher joining Keir Hardie who led an Ayrshire Coalfield strike in 1881 Fisher lost his job and subsequent blacklisting in 1885 led him to emigrate to Queensland, Australia. Working in both coal and gold mines he became active in the Labour Electoral league, becoming one of Labourfirst successful candidates in a state election.
By 1901 and Australia’s first federal election Fisher was one of 14 Labour candidates to win a seat, and by 1904 he had become Deputy Leader of the Party.
By 1907 Andrew Fisher had succeeded Chris Watson as Leader if the Australian Labour Party forming a minority government between 1908 and ’09. Following the 1910 election Andrew Fisher formed the World’s First Labour Party majority government.
His stance on the First World War saw him oppose conscription and the toll of wartime leadership led to his resignation in 1915, when he became Australian High Commissioner in London.
Fisher would later unsuccessfully seek to stand in Kilmarnock but his great integrity saw him refuse a Knighthood and the French Legion d’Honneur which were both offered to him.
After suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease Andrew Fisher passed away in London in 1928 and is buried in Fortune Green Cemetery in West Hampstead.
As one of Australia’s longest serving Prime Ministers his legacy includes passing the Act to deliver votes for women in Australia. In Crosshouse he returned in 1911 accompanied by Keir Hardie and the casket presented to him during his visit is still on display at Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute.
The Keir Hardie Society 2013 AGM closed with a vote of thanks for Pat Kelly and John McHarg for their contributions on the life of a true labour hero, Andrew Fisher.