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Robert Mark Livett (1879-1961)

Spennymoor man became President of the Canadian District United Mine Workers of America

The second son of Suffolk born coal miner Robert Livett and his Irish wife, Mary, Robert Mark Livett was born on 22 November 1879 in Spennymoor. He worked as a coal miner from the age of 12 and served in the Territorial Army with the Durham Light Infantry. A keen football player, Robert played for the local league team in Tudhoe and was on the county team when they played the New Zealand All Blacks on their first tour to England in 1905.

On 26 May 1906 Robert arrived in Canada on board the SS Ionian as a miner with the intention of making for Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, where he stayed for a few months before heading west to the Crowsnest Pass mines in Alberta. He was elected as president of the local union at Hillcrest mines in 1907 and also at Bellevue. As part of the rescue team from Bellevue he survived the Hillcrest Mines disaster in 1914, and was also a union representative and witness at the enquiry that followed.

In February 1915 Robert enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) at Pincher Creek, Alberta becoming Private 13104 with “A” Squadron 13th Canadian Mounted Rifle. However, he was discharged a month later for refusing to be inoculated against typhoid (a refusal which is still grounds for dismissal from the Canadian Forces today).

After his discharge from the CEF Robert became a full time union man, becoming secretary at Bellevue mine, and also international board member for District 18 of the United Mine Workers of America. He strongly opposed the idea of One Big Union for all workers which arose in 1919 and he resigned his position over the difference of opinion and returned to work as a coal miner.

By the end of 1919 Robert became President of District 18, which included all coal mines from Saskatchewan to Vancouver Island, and with which he was involved until his retirement due to ill health in 1958. He was involved with union executive at both national and international level, was a founding member of the Canadian Labour Congress and the the Alberta Federation of Labour. He also helped create the Alberta Workers Compensation Board. Robert became President of the Canadian District of the United Mine Workers of America in 1925, again a post he held until 1958, and spent a lot of time fighting off infiltration of the union by communists.

In 1929 Robert married Russian girl Rosina Murschel at Nelson, British Columbia and they settled in Calgary. Two years later he was in London when he represented Canadian labour at an international trades union conference, where he was presented with a pocket watch by Ernest Bevin, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Robert was awarded an MBE by King George VI in the New Year’s Honours’ List 1946 for his union activities in Canada and his prominent role in the affairs of the United Mine Workers’ of America , Robert Livett retired from work and union activities in 1958.

Robert died in Calgary on 29 June 1961 and is buried in Union Cemetery.

Civil Parish: Tudhoe

Birth date: 22-Nov-1879

Death date: 29-Jun-1961

Residence: Spennymoor (birthplace)
3 King Street, Houghall Colliery, Durham (1881 census)
6 Cuthbert Street, Tudhoe (1891 census)
Bellevue, Macleod, Alberta (1911 Canadian census)
Bellevue, Macleod, Alberta (1916 census of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba)
1629 6th Street NW, Calgary, Alberta (death certificate)

Religion: Roman Catholic

Employment: coal miner

Family: Parents: Robert Livett, Mary Livett nee McNamara
Siblings: Margaret Livitt, David Livitt, John Livitt, Mary Ann Livitt, Elizabeth Livitt, Michael Livitt, Martin Livitt, Charles Livitt, Imelda Livitt, George Livitt, Thomas Livett, Joseph Livett
Wife: Rosa Livett nee Murschel

Military service:

DLI Teritorials (pre-war)
Private 13104
13th Canadian Mounted Rifles

Medal(s): MBE

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jean Longstaff, Durham | Jim Busby, Canada | Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada

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