My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner
London was a noted American adventurer, journalist, traveller, oyster pirate, hobo and radical thinker, born 1817 and died 1916, who was for many years a member of the American Socialist Party. He produced some 50 published works, including those with an anti-capitalist slant like The Iron Heel, People of the Abyss, The Mutiny of the Elsinore, John Barleycorn, and the anti-boxing novel, The Game, as well as the better-known adventure stories, such as The Call of the Wild, Burning Daylight, the Red One, White Fang and The Sea Wolf.
In Solidarity Forever! Bertha Walker set out some of London's story during his stay in Australia in 1908-9. She notes that the Victorian Socialist Party published some of his work in its paper, The Socialist, including the serialising of his novel, Martin Eden. She also wrote
Both Sydney and Melbourne were pleased with Jack London's visit and his delight with the Socialist organisation......
Jack London who came to Australia to report the Burns-Johnson heavyweight championship of the world fight.....was one of the most popular authors in Australia as well as his native America.... he was especially revered for his definition of a "scab"......
The special interview by (Percy) Laidler in The Socialist of 5th February, 1909, included
....London said that he was once arrested at Oakland for free speech in a socialist campaign. He thought it could be possible that the triumph of socialism might involve physical force but only if the capitalist class refused to surrender. He discussed the scab and the tramp. He said that the surplus labour army is an economic necessity. Without the present construction society would fall to pieces. He felt his Iron Heel was his best contribution and The Game his most literary work.
Despite his strong socialist leanings, London displayed an unfortunate weakness concerning the Burns-Johnson fight: He barracked for the white man to defeat the black Johnson. (Johnson triumphed in the fight.)
In 1889, the great London Dockers strike, was led by the President of the Union, Tom Mann, and the Secretary, Ben Tillett. Both came to Australia for varying periods (Tillett during 1897-8 and 1907-8; Mann from September 1902 to December 1909). The biographical information contained in Bertha Walker's Solidarity Forever! lists many of their activities in Australia, England and other
parts of the world and particularly the number of occasions when Mann was gaoled in England and Australia over his involvement in strikes and free speech fights. She also draws a brief picture of the difference between the two men:
Tom Mann, of course, would speak without a chairman, to two men and a dog after acting as crier of the meeting.
Ben Tillett was considered a great orator --- some thought even better than Tom Mann. Laidler's comparison --- Ben could get his audience to weep Tom could get them to fight.
But, in the case of Mann, she also notes that his period of seven years in Australia so impressed the labor movement in Australia that
on the occasion of his 80th birthday, large celebrations were held in Melbourne to coincide with other celebrations throughout the world.
Both men held to socialist ideas and ideals and played an important part in socialist organisations of the period. Ian Turner, in his Industrial Labour and Politics, quotes from Tillet's book, Environment and Character:
There is no security against poverty save in collectivism....We say that we want to alter the conditions, we want to build beautiful characters, we want to rear fine men and women.
And, R.N.Ebbels, in his The Australian Labor Movement , 1850-1907, quotes from Mann's work on Socialism and Communism,
Private ownership of the means of production, which was formerly the means of securing to the producer the ownership of his product, has today become the means of expropriating peasants, manual workers, and small traders, and enabling the non-workers --- capitalists and large landowners --- to own the product of the workers. Only the transformation of capitalistic private ownership of the means of production, managed for and through society, can bring it about, that the great industry and steadily growing productive capacity of social labour shall for the hitherto exploited classes be changed from a source of misery and oppression, to a source of the highest welfare and all-round harmonious perfection.
Ray Markey, in his In Case of Oppression, takes note of one aspect of the activities of Mann and Tillet, referred to in the Painters and Dockers minutes, with regard to the Labor Council:
It remained common for socialists to deliver lectures at Council meetings. Examples in the early 1900s included Christian socialists, such as the Rev.Billing, whose lecture on socialism was actually printed by the Council. The Council even assisted in organising public meetings for Tom Mann and Ben Tillett, both of whom were connected with Victorian socialist groups. However, the dominance of laborism and support for the Labor Party in the Labor Council meant that, in the early 1900s , it was usually less sympathetic to hearing representatives from socialist groups which rivalled the Labor Party for support. These included the Social Democratic Federation and the International Socialists....In 1908, it sought a ban on dual Party membership for members for delegates of the P.L.L. conference. Tom Mann and Ben Tillett were exceptions in this regard, for they were also unionists, willing to work with the Labor Party and having a prior association with the Labor Council
Henry Copeland was never a member of the Labor Party, or its predecessor, the Labor Electoral League, yet he appears to have strongly supported workingclass needs. He supported the eight-hour movement and introduced eight-hour days in mines with which he was associated. He is credited with being a vigorous opponent of Sunday closing of public houses arguing that
if Providence had intended that people should forego their customary beverages one day a week, men would have been provided with pouches like camels in which they could lay in a supply till Monday.
The Biographical Register of the N.S.W.Parliament, 1856-1901, records that he was born in England and qualified as a navigator at the age of 15, joined the merchant service and saw active service in the Crimean War; arrived in Victoria in 1857, deserting ship and taking to mining, farming, contracting on the goldfields; and arrived in New South Wales in 1872. He was Agent-General for New South Wales from 1900 to 1904; M.L.A. for Goldfields North 1877-1880; M.L.A. for New England 1880-1882; for Newtown 1882-1887; for East Sydney 1883-1887; for New England again 1887-1894; for Armidale 1894-1895; and for Sydney-Phillip 1895-1900.
He was Secretary for Public Works in 1883 and Secretary of Lands in 1886-1889 and 1891-1894. He was noted for being a Free-trader who was converted to protectionism, for which he fought strongly. After being defeated in his seat of Armidale, he became the member for Sydney-Phillip in a by-election, and retained that seat until his retirement in 1900 when he became Agent-General.
Dave Stewart had been the Labor Council's representative until his resignation on 14th October, 1915 after which he became WEA secretary which position he held until his retirement in the 1950s. He was still Secretary when the writer attended forums on Labor history conducted by Lloyd Ross at the W.E.A. holiday premises at Newport in the early fifties. The W.E.A., set out with great ambitions in 1912-13 to educate workers in what it proclaimed as "democratic ideals and aspirations, an organisation open to every friend of democracy, providing a common meeting ground to all, who, though differing on other questions of vital importance, are united in their desire to raise the intellectual standard of Australian democracy", and provided for much discussion on socialism. However, it has drifted away from this ambition and is now a tutorial business organisation, dealing with a wide range of topics but with little or no reference to socialism.
J.S. ("Jock") Garden was a delegate to the Labor Council from the Sailmakers' Union which had a number of members employed by sailmaker firms in Balmain. He became Secretary of the Council in May 1918, replacing Jack Kavanagh who had taken up a position on the Board of Trade. Garden was a strong advocate of the One Big Union, influencing the Labor Council to examine a scheme essentially based on the OBU. Ray Markey in his book, In Case of Oppression, states:
During his long involvement with both the Council and the Labor Party, Garden was almost an icon of trade union militancy and left wing politics. Born in Scotland, he became a clergyman....a radical, and from 1919, an ardent Communist....He was instrumental in forming the Communist Party of Australia in 1920.... In 1916 he was elected assistant secretary of the Labor Council before becoming its secretary.
He worked closely with Judd in the anti-conscription fights, the IWW case and other issues during the War, but after the formation of the Communist Party, they had political differences
Ian Turner, in his Industrial Labour and Politics, quotes from a Labor Council report, presented by Garden on 31st December, 1918:
I can see the worker awakened to the fact that he has the brains to control and manage the workshop..... He will, through educational propaganda, receive such a vision that will set the capitalist class thinking. He will awake, stand up and stretch himself, and marvel at his own powers, at present latent or subservient to another class. He will march forward united on the industrial field to take and control that which he produces, NO MORE AND NO LESS.....He will put up his hand and cry halt, and say, 'No longer shall you have power over me, I am free'; and as a free man will now use the instruments of freedom --- 'the plants of production'. (See also Appendix 11(h)
See Photo of J.S.Garden, from Ferguson collection, ANU.
Constance Larmour, in her biography, Labor Judge, wrote
Foster always maintained that one of the greatest moments of his life occurred on 8 September 1947 when he delivered the judgment to reduce standard hours of work from 44 to 40. He was proud to have been able to implement and frame this historic decision which had such wide social implications. Through the retirement, death and illnesses of the senior judges Foster was by the conclusion of the case the senior puisne judge. Although it was the unanimous decision of the three remaining members of the Full Court (Drake-Brockman, who was appointed Chief Judge in 1947, Foster and Sugerman) it was Foster's task to write and deliver the judgment. Clearly the social philosophy expressed in it was his own.
In that judgment, Foster, in his opening remarks spelled out some of his philosophy.
The pursuit of leisure by the workers of the world has persisted through history for many centuries. But leisure did not become realizable until man was able to add to the labour of his hands and his animals the forces of nature. In the past it was enjoyed by the few who were able to command the labour of others, whether as slaves or feudal serfs. Capitalism replacing earlier social orders ushered in the machine age and made it possible to extend the boon of increased leisure --- freedom from the grind of unremitting labour --- to the many. From the early beginnings of this system workers sought this leisure of industry and have slowly won it.
One hundred years ago in England a 10-hour day or a 60-hour week was enacted. In Australia 90 years ago an 8-hour day or 48-hour week was achieved in limited cases. Twenty years ago this Court awarded a 44-hour week. There is no reason to assume that the capacity of industry has ended at 44 hours. It has been the historic role of employers to oppose workers' claims for increased leisure. They have, as is well known, opposed in Parliament and elsewhere every step in this direction, and this case is no exception. The arguments have not much changed in 100 years. Employers have feared such changes as a threat to profits; an added obstacle to production; a limitation upon industrial expansion; and a threat to internal and international trade relations. Steadily, first in one country, then in another, this opposition has been overcome, until great institutions like the International Labour Organisation in the international arena, this Court in this country, and the legislatures both here and elsewhere, have declared for the desirability of added leisure.
And history has invariably proved the forebodings of the employers to be unfounded
Ian Turner, in his Sydney's Burning, writes of Marshall (whom he appears to incorrectly refer to as "Vance"), thus
Vance Marshall was a young Sydney Social Democrat who was convicted under the War Precautions Act; he recorded his prison career in a book,Jail from Within. In Long Bay on one occasion he was set to work cleaning the locks of the cells, one of which was that of Donald Grant.
"I glanced at the cell information card, fitted in its socket on the wall. It read: Division B. No. of Prisoner, 59. Date of conviction, 1916
Length of sentence, 15 Years' penal servitude...... There was Donald Grant, whose wondrous eloquence and passionate sincerity had stirred the very souls of tens of thousands --- Donald Grant, a helpless, listless prisoner.
He greeted me with, 'What are you doing here?'
'War Precautions Act --- Bill Hughes', was my laconic reply.....
I told him about outside determination, about pamphlets, speeches, and agitation....."
The Labor Council minutes record for its meeting on 24th October, 1918:
Peter Simonoff, Russian Consul address Council for an hour and a half, delivered one of the most educational and impressive addresses on the present Government in Russia.....The address was well received.
Bertha Walker, in herSolidarity Forever! writes of Peter Simonov
From his Sydney address he issued a periodical called "Soviet Russia" and his byline was "Official organ of the Russian Soviet Government Bureau".
Simonoff announced in Melbourne that he was leaving for Russia in July, 1918. He had at last been able to arrange passage on a Japanese ship leaving the port of Sydney.
A complimentary testimonial was organised at the Socialist Hall, with sixpence the price of admission..... After a great farewell news came ....that his passage had been cancelled. At the end of October he was back in Melbourne and a couple of weeks' later was arrested on the Yarra Bank.
He was charged under the War Precautions Act as an alien. He then addressed a meeting and in doing so propagated Bolshevism, after he had received an order not to address meetings. The result was a fine of £50 on each of two counts in default 6 months' gaol and costs and was to enter into recognisances totalling £200 (two of £100 each) to observe the regulations for the period of the war. He served 4 months. Simonoff was deported in 1922.
See Photo of Peter Simonoff, Mitchell Library.
Paul Freeman was a member of the Australian Socialist Party and of the IWW. In The Wobblies at War, Frank Cain states that Freeman
had given lectures in economics at the Broken Hill Local but escaped the net (police rounding up Wobblies for deportation) which collected many Wobblies there and had established a small copper mine in the Cloncurry district in Queensland by 1918. His organising of the wage miners on the IWW lines and his statements against recruitment ('any man who put on a uniform to fight is lower than a dog') brought him to the attention of the police and the military. He claimed to be an American and the government decided to deport him in November 1918. Although the war had ceased, the regulations governing such matters as deporting aliens continued and indeed remained in place until November 1920....He was arrested and deported from Sydney on 29 January 1919 but was refused admission by the American officials at San Francisco and returned to Australia on 10 March 1919. The army officers refused to allow him to land in Sydney and he was sent to America again. Once more the Americans refused his landing and he returned to Sydney. The army sought to keep him on the same ship so he would sail for America for a third time, but he staged a hunger strike and the labour movement demanded that he be put on trial if he had done wrong. The army switched tactics and interned Freeman as a German citizen. After being examined by magistrates he was ordered to be deported to Germany, but a Royal Commission into the release of internees did not uphold the Australian Communist Party, travelling to Moscow in those early days to seek Comintern recognition
In her Wharfies --- The History of the Waterside Workers Federation, Margot Beasley notes that McCristal was a Returned Soldier, a Wharf labourer and a President of the W.W.F. and quotes his views from the Sydney Morning Herald of 13th August, 1917 and 1st September, 1917:
All kings, governors, bosses and parliamentarians are parasites fattening off the backs of the workers..... I did not go to the other side to fight for the love of King, but so that I could get the necessary knowledge, so that when the time comes I will be able to stand side by side with my fellow unionists in that great fight against the parasites and even though they will kill some of us we will fight on."
She notes, too, that he was arrested later for sedition under Hughes' pro-war legislation. In 1923, his name appeared in the Communist Party's paper,The Workers Weekly, as responsible for printing the paper.
Percy Brookfield played a major role in many of the important issues confronting the labor movement during the war and in the years after the war until his untimely death at the hand of an assassin in 1921. Brookfield's biography, Labor's Titan, written by Gilbert Roper (published after Roper’s death), recounts the heroic career of a remarkable, genuine politician. Brookfield fought strenuously inside and outside Parliament for the release of the 12 IWW men. While no other historian has bothered to record anything of Brookfield, Roper, an intellectual, socialist, militant member of the Printers' Union displayed his great admiration for Brookfield in his posthumously published work. In it he quotes from the Brisbane Standard:
In this age of working-class betrayal, of compromise, and timidity on the part of many working class representatives, both political and individual, Brookfield's unbroken record of unswerving honesty and adherence to the higher principles of the Labor Movement stands out in striking contrast to that of many other less scrupulous and courageous leaders.... There is no man in the whole Labor Movement of this country that could be so ill-spared as Percy Brookfield.
The tall pillar on his grave, holding a globe representing the world, carried around its base, the words;
See Photos of Percy Brookfield
John Storey born 15th May, 1869, Jervis Bay. Died 5th October, 1921, Sydney.
Storey was apprenticed as a boilermaker at 14 years of age and was employed at Mort's Dock at the time of his election to Parliament. He played an active part in the Boilermakers Union for many years and, when he lost his seat in Parliament, in 1904, he found that he was victimised by employers.
He was a member of the Political Labor League and of the Central Executive of the Party on two occasions, in 1903 and 1907. On 3rd March 1916, he was elected as leader of the Party, but ceded the position to Holman almost immediately after his election to the position. This was essentially due to the power struggle going on between the Party and its Parliamentary representatives over whether the Party could dictate that its policy and programme be implemented. The issue at the time, was that of abolition of the Upper House and, as on other occasions when this issue came to the fore, the Labor Government of the day dithered, tinkered with As a result of the dilatoriness of the Government under Holman on this issue, and a proposal for the Government to resign, Holman resigned as leader and Storey was installed in his place. But the issue would not go away and Storey felt obliged to withdraw and allow Holman to become Premier again.
Storey represented the seat of Balmain North from July 1901 to 1904 when he was defeated. He was re-elected in 1907 and held the seat until his death in 1921. He was slow and often criticised for not heeding the calls for policy implementation
He, however, found himself once more opposed to Holman on the conscription issue and with Holman's expulsion from the Party over it, Storey was re-elected leader in 1917. He remained as leader until 1921. He was Premier from April 1920 until his demise in October 1921.
His family was closely associated with Storey and Keers, the ship repair and shipwrighting firm in Louisa Road, Balmain. With the closure of the firm in the late 1980s, the whole ship activity disappeared under a development for 10 expensive
town houses, one of which was purchased by John Singleton. Many Painters and Dockers passed through the yard over the years when the company held important contracts for maintenance and repair of vessels.
He was the New South Wales Branch Secretary of the Seamen's Union, until being elected its General Secretary in 1918. He was later (1925) to be involved in a general strike of seamen which led to a settlement involving an undertaking
"to abandon all and every form of job control" and the undertaking was backed by a "guarantee" by seven other unions: Marine Stewards; Marine Cooks, Butchers and Bakers; Waterside Workers; Coal Lumpers; Ship Painters & Dockers; Miners; and Shipwrights & Ship Constructors. The seamen went back to their ships on August 7... Then on September 1, notices were served on Walsh and Johnson requiring them to show cause why they, having been responsible for the tie-up and not being Australian-born, should not be deported. Presumably Walsh would be banished to Ireland, whence he had come thirty-two years before, and Johnson to his native Sweden, which he had left in 1910. [The Seamen's Union of Australia, 1872-1972, Rowan Cahill, pp.63-4]
This case was successfully fought on behalf of Walsh and Johnson, by Dr. H.V.Evatt.
Walsh was married to Adelia Pankhurst, daughter of the noted British suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst.
Gerard Henderson, in an article entitled The Deportation of Charles Jerger, published in the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History's journal,Labour History, No.31, for November 1976, wrote
During World War I Jerger was stationed in the western Sydney suburb of Marrickville.....On Sunday 24 September 1916 (just prior to the first conscription plebiscite), he preached a sermon in which he made a passing reference to the forthcoming referendum .... After discussing both the advantages and disadvantages of conscription he concluded:
Now as far as Australia is concerned. Under the voluntary system she has given roughly 300,000 men --- roughly 3 out of 50 whilst England has given 3 out of 84; eliminating Irish, Scotch and niggers, I suppose, 3 out of 102. Hence people think that Australia has done her share. But whatever you do, vote on this matter conscientiously, as good citizens.
Henderson notes that Jerger was of German extraction with a German name and this together with a complaint by one of his parishioners (Mrs. McCall), led to a threat of internment during the First World War. Due to the intercession of Hugh Mahon, Minister for External Affairs in Hughes' Government (and remained in the Labor Party after Hughes was expelled over the conscription issue) and others, Jerger remained free. Henderson follows on
But early in 1918 Jerger was interned following fresh allegations concerning his activities at the time of the second conscription plebiscite... On 13 February the Defence Department ordered that Jerger be interned and he was taken into military custody on Friday 15 February....Ness was informed by the military authorities.
(Ness was an alderman on the Marrickville Council and also was Chairman of the Marrickville Recruiting Committee and had campaigned strongly for action to be taken against Jerger.)
At a protest meeting held in the Sydney Town Hall, under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Kelly (a supporter of voluntary recruitment), concern was expressed over the internment and Henderson states
Between then and the middle of 1920 there were no more public protests. Throughout 1918 and 1919 the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister received numerous letters (from, inter alia, the priest himself, his immediate family, the Passionist fathers) and petitions (including one from the mothers and fathers of Marrickville parishioners with sons at the front, and one from Protestant citizens of Marrickville) but they remained unmoved. Some State and Federal parliamentarians of both parties did take up Jerger's case, but the government took no notice of their requests than it did of the protesters outside parliament..... At the conclusion of the war the government faced the problem of what to do with the interned aliens. Thousands were deported..... In April 1919 the Royal Commission on the Release of Internees...recommended that Jerger not be released..... The priest then appealed to the Aliens Board and his case was heard by Mr. Butler S.M.....(who) recommended his compulsory repatriation....Jerger's case was submitted again to the release Commission for further consideration, but in its report of August 1919 the Commission recommended that he should be repatriated, stating
Under ordinary circumstances (having regard to) his 48 years of residence under the British flag, he should be allowed to remain here, but he still says he is German and describes his attitude in the Great War as neutral......
Hughes decided that Jerger should be deported in May 1920. Jerger appealed to the Court against this decision, an action which failed but by then the vessel on which he was to be deported had sailed. An inquiry under questionable circumstances (considering it was presided over by Judge Sir Robert Garran, who had recommended deportation in the earlier hearings) went against Jerger as did further legal challenges and
From early July until his eventual deportation the Jerger issue was the cause of extensive political unrest..... union militancy forded the government to change its deportation plans....The crew of the Nestor, however, refused to work the ship unless the priest was given a fair trial. So Jerger was transferred to the P & O liner Kyber which was manned by a coolie crew....On 26 July the Kyber sailed from Fremantle to Ceylon --- and Jerger was never to set foot on Australian soil again.....he died in London on 11 September 1927......the fate of the most publicized of the World War I
The Evening News, of 19th November, 1921, carried a brief report on Thompson:
Dr. E.S.Thompson of Carr St, Coogee who figured prominently in the Farr case and is a conspicuous advocate of lunacy reform, appeared before the members of the British Medical Association in Australia, last night on account if certain charges said to have been made against the medical professional.
Dr. Thompson made a statement and considerable discussion ensued.
Eventually it was decided to remove Dr. Thompson from the membership of the Association.
Following his expulsion from the British Medical Association, Thompson sued the B.M.A. for £5000 damages for loss of earnings, dignity, etc., and the hearing commenced on 5th December, 1922. His case was handled by W.A.Holman, K.C., one-time Premier of New South Wales, and later classed with W.M.Hughes, as a "Labor rat". The hearing was before a jury of four men
The Evening News, in a lengthy report on the issue, on 5th December, 1922, noted
Mr. Holman read letters sent by the Secretary of the BMA to Dr Thompson calling his attention to what were termed "statements defamatory of the members of the association", which had appeared in his letters published in the Evening News and in statements alleged to have been made at a deputation to the Minister on the question of lunacy reform. Dr Thompson sent to the BMA a full and detailed statement in reply to the charges and denied having said to the deputation
"I am not such a fool as to suppose that there are no doctors who cannot be bribed or bought..."
The newspaper report noted that the plaintiff's case was that the "defendant's wrongfully and maliciously conspired to pass a resolution expelling him from the association". It then stated that Holman set out the basis of the BMA's case against Dr. Thompson, namely his action in the Farr case
"He took up a position", said Mr. Holman, "that the question of committing people to an asylum should not be relegated as a medical question at all, but as a judicial question; that it should be decided after a special inquiry."
....Dr. Thompson had an increasing body of support to the view that some such inquiry as that should precede every committal of a supposed lunatic to an asylum.
The newspaper also referred to Dr Thompson's letter to the Premier, John Storey, which was another ground in the BMA's case against the doctor, in which letter, he had stated
"On the evidence before me it appears that something very improper is going on in this matter, and the case requires sifting to the bottom...
Mrs Farr is not insane. It is scandalous that certain persons should have the power to kidnap people and keep them in prison at their own sweet will. "
That letter, contended counsel, was a protest against a system that placed such power in the hands of private doctors.
On 13th August, 1923, the Evening News reported briefly
Dr. George Stanley Thompson of Randwick, has determined to appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of the Full Court.
The Court reversed the verdict of the jury in the action brought by him against the BMA, awarding him £2000 damages for alleged libel, slander and expulsion.
Sam Smith (b.Scotland, 1857, d. 1916) held various positions during his career: Secretary of the Seamen’s Union, President of the Sydney Labor Council, President of the Political Labor League (1898-99), Sydney City Council Alderman, 1900-02, Member of the Marine Board, MLA for Pyrmont, 1898-!902. At one stage he joined with W.Holman and five other co-directors, to produce a daily newspaper, The Daily Post, to replace the Labor Council’s weekly, The Australian Workman. In seeking finance for the proposal, the seven men were charged with fraudulently obtaining a loan, were convicted and gaoled, some for eighteen months, some for two years, although they did not see out their full sentences. Jack Lang, in his book, I Remember, wrote
.... Holman and Smith were convicted and sentenced to two years. The others to lesser terms. An appeal was upheld, and the Crown didn’t go ahead with a second trial.
Evatt, in his Australian Labor Leader, wrote of Holman, and it may be assumed of the others, since Holman was regarded as a Labor leader, even then,
For nearly two months at Darlinghurst Gaol, Holman underwent the unspeakable indignity and mortification of suffering imprisonment for a crime of which he was entirely innocent, certainly morally, and in my firm view, legally as well.
Ray Markey notes in his In Case of Oppression,, that a third unskilled unionist was elected to the position of President of the Sydney District Council as the Labor Council then known, in 1895:
Sam Smith from the Seamen’s Union, His tenure which lasted until 1899, was the longest in the nineteenth century.
Markey also refers to Smith’s election as union representative on the Arbitration Court:
The Court itself consisted of a delegate each from registered employee and employer unions, president over by a Supreme Court Judge. H.E.Cohen was the first president and Sam Smith. the first employee representative, replaced by E.Riley (ex-Labor Council president) in 1905.
In Civilising Capitalism, Bede Nairn gives a little more detail:
Smith was a leader of the Seamen’s Union; in 1894 he had succeeded P.J.Brennan as president of the Sydney District Council of the ALF and remained as its head until the Sydney Labor Council replaced it in February 1900. In January 1898 he was aware that his Seamen’s Union colleague, T.M.Davis, MLA, was seriously ill and would not run again for the seat of Sydney-Pyrmont, and Smith was preparing to replace him. James Wilson, a confectioner replaced S.Smith as president of the PLL (in 1898). At a meeting in Woonona on 31st March, 1899, during a debate on "Trade Unionism in Politics", Smith pertinently said that ‘the Pledge (to abide by parliamentary Labor Caucus decisions) bound the Party together and enabled them to mark traitors’. Smith also stressed the essential role of trade unionism in the ‘permanence and success’ of Labor.
And in Australia’s Awakening, W.G.Spence had most to say about Sam Smith
In 1909, most excellent work was accomplished by the New South Wales Labor Party. It was due to one member of the Party (Mr. Sam Smith, for some years secretary of the Seamen’s Union but now, unfortunately for himself and the movement, laid aside by illness) that it has become safe to travel on some of the ferry boats of Sydney Harbour. Prior to his taking the matter up in 1899-9 profit-making private enterprise was carrying thousands daily to Manly and other places in steamers the hulls of which were so rotten that if they bumped a dead dog in the harbour they would have gone down ..one steamer actually sank at its moorings. When Sam Smith got at them, one of the worst was run into Mort's Dock to be replated. Sam had portions of the rotten plates on exhibit when moving on the matter in the House .. Premier Reid put Sam on a Board after that, which stirred up things and gave some degree of safety to the lives of the public.
While Sam Smith undoubtedly did a great deal of important work as a member of the Marine Board, it is interesting to note that a few years later, Bob Mahony was able to report to a union meeting that he had succeeded in convincing the Government to licence passenger-carrying vessels so as to provide some safety for workers being transported to and from work by Mort’s Dock’s own launches.
Jack Lang reminisced, in his I Remember
McNamara (Lang’s father-in-law) kept a large reading room above his shop where most of the debates took place. There could be found Joe Lesins and Joe Schellenberg, atheists who were wrongly accused of blowing up some machinery in the harbour; Jack Dwyer, a "red flagger", who became a leading fair rents advocate; Harry Holland who ran a paper in Leichhardt and later went to New Zealand to establish a Labor Party there, becoming its first leader. There, too, were Sam Smith, of the Seamen’s Union, who went to gaol with Holman over the unfortunate Daily Post incident on a charge of conspiracy.
It is a most remarkable fact that, given Smith’s active participation in union and political affairs, the foregoing excerpts appear to be all that is to be found about him. Various Who’s Who and biographical publications fail to take note of him and it has been difficult to establish his eventual fading out, apparently through serious illness (unspecified) which left him and his family in destitute circumstances warranting the Ship Painters and Dockers Union running a subscription list to raise a few pounds for them.
The Coyle family were well known in Balmain, and this report in the Labor Daily, of 1st September, 1925, listed some important personages at his funeral, including Bob Mahony, Federal Secretary of the Union:
By the death of Mr. Richard Coyle on Saturday, Labor in this State lost one of its stalwarts, Deceased was only 59 years of age.
Mr. Coyle was a foundation member of the Australian labor party which was instituted in 1891. His activities were particularly manifest in Balmain where he did sterling service as treasurer of the local league for 20 years.
....Among the mourners were Messrs. W.G.Mahony, M.H.R., Dr. Evatt. M.L.A, R.Mahony, M.L.C., T.Storey, M.L.C, and E.J.Johnson, one of the first of a batch of Labor members to enter the New South Wales Parliament.
On 1st September, 1925, the Labor Daily ran a story on the dispute by Balmain Council workers against allegations by the Council Engineer of men not doing their job:
Council Men Protest --- Balmain Allegations --- Stop Work Meeting
The Mayor (Ald. Harrington) pointed out that portion of the engineer's report which stated that only a few men were responsible for the slowing down, but part of the Press maliciously left that out..... the Engineer had made the statement on his own responsibility. Owing to the nature of the work there were times when men might appear to be idle such as while waiting for materials, etc. and yet do a good day's work. He considered they had a right to be indignant owing to Press misrepresentation and to hold a stop work meeting.
.... a vigilance committee of seven was appointed, also a new union delegate.
A motion was carried demanding a thorough investigation into the charges made by the engineer and it was decided that the men would be prepared to give their statements on affidavit.
It was also decided to demand that all reports alleged to come from ratepayers should be in writing and signed and be shown to the workmen affected within 48 hours of being received.
....The meeting which was held in the Painters and Dockers Hall was attended by Mr Flanagan, organiser of the Municipal Association and Ald. Wheeler one of the Labor Aldermen who addressed the gathering and approved the appointment of the vigilance committee.
But despite Harrington's protestations and support for the actions of the men, as recounted by the Labor Daily, the paper gave the following report, on 24th September, apparently on the same issue, since no other issues had been mentioned
At a largely attended meeting of the Balmain League consideration was given to the conduct of the Mayor of Balmain Ald. T.V.Harrington. It was resolved that the executive be requested to expel him from the Australian Labor Party as the members of the Balmain league consider his actions as Mayor of Balmain are a violation of his pledge to the Australian Labor Party.
See under "Communist Party", particularly re expulsions from the A.L.P. The Evening News carried a report on the subject of the expulsions, on 22nd October, 1923:
The expulsions recommended by the Investigation Committee appointed by conference were endorsed by the executive at a full meeting with a single exception --- Mrs. K.Dwyer.
....Mr. J.Howie, it would appear by the latest utterances, has now definitely placed himself outside the fold. Mr. Jock Garden, apparently, is determined to "gang 'canny", and swallow his communism for the time being. If he does he will save his head.
The result may be that, on Friday night, Mr. Howie will be put on the list with Messrs. Bailey, Minahan, Buckley and Smith and the rest of the line of fighters who have fallen by the wayside.
In his published work, The Australian Labor Movement, R.N.Ebbels noted that O'Sullivan was a journalist/editor for a number of years in Hobart before going to Sydney in 1882 and
Became active in the trade union movement. At various times President of the Typographical Union, President of the Seamen's Union, and President of the Sydney Trades and Labor Council. Won the Queenbeyan seat with labor support in 1885. In the New South Wales Parliament he became a pioneer of protection; he claimed he was the first protectionist in that body. Died 1910.]
Despite his union background, he was not one of the thirty-five Labor Members elected in 1891, following foundation of the Labor Electoral League. Throughout his career, he does not appear as a Labor parliamentarian and at the time of the strike, he was the Minister for Works in the Lyne (non-Labor) Government.