By George Solly
This article was published in the April 2019 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
We were delighted to receive an email from member Prue Webster in relation to the Solly Co-ordinator’s report last August. It’s always good to know someone is actually reading the Journal! Prue gave us an update on Robert H Solly whose gravestone another member had found in Melbourne. Prue writes:
I was fascinated by the brief information on Robert H Solly in the August issue of Soul Search, so I did a bit more research and came across the following information in The Australian Dictionary of Biography. However the it is under Copyright so you probably cannot publish it. However, it does give you a bit of information as to his background and ancestors, and his son, also Robert who was elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne 1953-54 is buried at Fawkner Cemetery and on his death in 1968 was survived by his wife and two daughters.
Regards, Prue Webster (nee Sewell)
Now, we are always very careful about copyright (having heard that prison food is awful) but we can give you some of the highlights.
Robert Henry Solly was born on 9th September 1859 in Ellington, Kent. His parents were Stephen Solly, a labourer and Eliza nee Sage. Initially Robert worked locally as a farm labourer then a rope maker and was then was apprenticed to a bootmaker in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1876 he emigrated to Australia with his brother, landing in Adelaide.
He worked as a station-hand and bootmaker in Victoria NSW and then returned to Adelaide where he continued to work as a bootmaker and married Mary Graham on 12th September 1883 in St Patrick’s catholic church.
He was involved in the Victorian Operative Bootmakers’ Union and worked at a prominent level during the struggles with employers over modernisation of the process of boot making. He then became involved in politics and was a founder member of Richmond’s branch of the Progressive Political League which was later the Australian Labor Party.
He was a special representative of the railway officers on the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1904 up till 1906 when, over the next few years, he made several unsuccessful bids for parliament. He then returned to the Assembly to represent Carlton from 1908 to 1932.
Throughout his career he worked to improve the conditions of the working class and remained on the left of the labour movement.
He was survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons one of whom, Robert Henry Solly was mayor of Melbourne in 1953.