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My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner


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Appendix 4: Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, Sid Schneider

  1. Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1817-1878)
  2. Sid Schneider

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(a) Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1817-1878), whose interests spread into many fields of endeavour, formed a docking company with Captain Rountree in Waterview Bay in 1855. By 1861, Rountree had left the company to the sole ownership of Mort, who leased the dock from time to time to various shipping companies and individuals, including Rountree who had set up his own shipwrighting business. Mort set up the docking company under the managership of J.P.Franki in 1869. The company reformed under the title "Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company", which later, in 1875, became a limited company. By that time, however, Mort had relinquished the reins to a Board of Directors.

He had many advanced ideas for his times, including his proposal to sell shares in the business to some of his employees. While it soon became apparent that the employees to be favoured did not reach below foremen, his reasons for making the offer were clear enough as quoted from Mort’s speech to his employees by Alan Barnard in his Visions and Profits (page 127-8):

I as a capitalist, and you as workers, should be bound together with the cords of common interest".

To Laidley, his son, he confided:

I look upon this arrangement as of vast importance to the success of the concern because it will secure me against strikes, 8 hour system, and enable me to enforce piece work which latter is the only way of breaking down wages, but your leading men must participate in the benefits resulting from such a system or you cannot by forcability (sic) carry it through.

Mort's many and varied interests, in construction of trams, in dairy farming, in refrigeration for overseas export of meat, etc., was no where more interesting than his revolutionary (for his times) thoughts on "the high cost of dying". He declared that at funerals there should be only

"a plain coffin --- free of that heathenish tinsel which is so absolutely a mockery on the coffin of a Christian."

And on another occasion he expressed the view

Surely a slow trot would be as solemn as the conventional walk now observed.

And the manner in which he was buried followed the pattern which he had outlined at a funeral reform meeting:

The coffin to be plain and as far as may be free from adornment; no pall to be used, neither scarves nor hatbands to be worn, nor gloves to be provided, no mutes to be employed nor plumes used; the hearse to be plain, and ordinary vehicles to be used instead of mourning coaches, the vehicles to move at a quicker pace, no funeral procession to be held, mourners and other relatives to meet at the burial ground; no invitations to funerals to be issued; costly mourning to be avoided, ordinary attire, with the addition of black crepe or a hatband to worn.

The Governor's unveiling of Mort's statue in Macquarie Place, in the city, in 1883, was witnessed by hundreds of workers who had voluntarily forfeited a day's pay in order that they might be present for this final tribute to their late employer.

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(b) Sid Schneider was, in all probability a grandson, or similar close relative of the Schneider family referred to in Leichhardt --- On the Margins of the City, by Peter Reynolds and Max Solling

The Mirror of Australia embarked on a campaign of vilification of anyone who might have a 'Hun' connection, however remote. It wrote scurrilous things about 'Herr Bollard, a Mort's Dock draftsman', chemist Carl Bogenrieder and medical practitioner Franz Breitner, all from Balmain. Dr. Breitner's wife, they complained, 'can even give garden parties at a leading Sydney hotel'. Three sons of Henry Schneider, general manager of the Balmain Co-operative Society, enlisted in the AIF. 'There has been considerable comment in the district at the retention of Mr Schneider's services by the company', observed the Mirror. But not for long; Schneider was sacked...... (pp. 171-2)

These events occurred in 1916. By 1918, it is possible that the young Sydney was able to take work in the docks without suffering any of the hostility engendered by jingoistic rags like the Mirror.

Sid Schneider lived for many years in what was probably a family property at 55 Curtis Road, Balmain.

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