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The Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919

The Fremantle
Wharf Crisis
of 1919

The Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919—Tom Edwards.png

OF 1919

38–40 Stirling Street


The Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919—Tom Edwards.png

Vale, Tom Edwards!

ON SUNDAY, MAY 4, 1919, Thomas Charles Edwards, a member of the Fremantle Lumpers’ Union, received, during a riot on the wharf, at the hands of a policeman, a blow from a baton, the force of which fractured his skull, and ended fatally three days later. He was only 30 years of age, and he left a wife and three little children.

To his memory this brief history of the crisis is dedicated. It has been issued under the direction of the State Executive of the Australian Labor Federation, and the proceeds of its sale are to be devoted to the fund to assist the widow and children of the deceased — the first man in Western Australia to give his life for his fellow workers, when seeking to preserve industrial freedom, in conflict with the armed forces of the Government of the day.
The Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919—The Cortege Marshalling.png

The Cortege Marshalling.


THE industrial records of Australia contain no more pregnant illustration of the power of organised labor than is to be found in the history of the Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919. Hitherto, in the long struggle for the proper recognition of the rights of the working classes the force of arms had not been openly employed; but what occurred on that tragic Sunday morning of May 4, and both prior, and subsequent, to that day, has shown to the Governments of this country that even armed force is impotent when employed to protect the privileges of the few against the common interests of the body politic. The victory of the Lumpers’ Union was complete, although in the achievement thereof one life was sacrificed on the altar of industrial freedom.


The genesis of the 1919 crisis is to be found in the wharf trouble of 1917. On August 13, 1918 the Empire was engaged in a life and death struggle, a cargo of flour was to be lifted at Fremantle by the Singapore liner Minderoo and destined for a Dutch settlement. The Fremantle lumpers had been advised that flour so consigned was finding its way into Germany, and refused to load the ship. For this action they were declared disloyalists and pro-Germans, and accused of starving the boys in the trenches. History has disproved the first infamous calumny; the second needed no refutation. Amongst those boys in the trenches whom they were accused of starving were scores of their own comrades, the sons of many lumpers, and husbands and brothers of lumpers’ wives. Even were that proud fact not sufficient to silence the slanderers of a body of men whose record of patriotic service provides its own imperishable testimony of patriotism, the offer of the President of the Lumpers’ Union might have been accepted as a complete denial. For on August 24 Mr. William Renton offered, through the Press, on behalf of the lumpers to load any ship, free of all charge or wages, with foodstuffs for the boys in France. His offer was not accepted, and for the purpose of the employers the cry of anti-patriotism was continued.

It would take too long in this brief history, which has to do more particularly with the 1919 crisis, to deal at length with the progress of the 1917 dispute. It is known to the world that the Government of the day, backed by the shipowners, decided upon the enrolment of "blackleg" labor, and with that labor the work of the wharf proceeded. On October 4, 1917, the lumpers presented themselves for work; no work was offering. For some time this state of affairs continued, and even when work was offering the lumpers were studiously overlooked and "blackleg" laborers engaged. Attempts were made to open negotiations with the employers, but the men’s leaders were treated with contempt. An application for a conference was refused, and on October 19, in a public statement, Mr. McCallum threw upon the Government and the employers full responsibility for the continuance of an intolerable position. When at long last some recognition was made of the lumpers, who had declared their willingness to work side by side on the wharves with the "blacklegs," they were subjected to many indignities and unfair tactics in the allotment and nature of the work. With marked forbearance and patience the injustices were borne until April of 1919, and then the inevitable conflict came. That it was inevitable is not the claim of the lumpers. It was admitted by the then Premier of the State (Mr H. P. Colebatch), in his first interview with the leaders of the men, when he declared that industrial peace was impossible on the wharves whilst two bodies of workers were engaged.


Before embarking on a record of the 1919 crisis, it is necessary to recall what was occuring in the intervening period of time between October, 1917, and April, 1919. The "black leg" laborers had been engaged for a specific task. That task completed, the majority were quite willing that the lumpers should return to their rightful calling on the wharves, and therefore did not continue to offer their services. Those who remained, though always in dwindling numbers, were used by the employers in continual acts of provocation against the lumpers. Invariably in industrial disputes a condition precedent to resumption of work is that differences between the parties shall be regarded as finally settled, and that no victimisation shall follow. Without that essential understanding industrial harmony could never exist. But in the period following the wharf trouble of 1917 the powers that be deliberately chose to perpetuate discord. Then, when the inevitable conflict of their own creation came, they sought to saddle the lumpers with the blame. If, not knowing the facts that history has since proved, the public in 1917 was induced to support the Government of the day, it was not so in 1919, as was so dramatically proved. For in 1919 the lumpers were able to substantiate what they had previously asserted regarding the flour destined for Dutch settlements in 1917, and to refer the public to the statement of the British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) in the House of Commons, in which that great statesman admitted that flour had found its way into Germany from Dutch sources. In reply to Mr. McPherson, Mr. Lloyd George also admitted that Australian and New Zealand flour had reached Germany during the war.

It has been stated that Mr. Colebatch admitted it was impossible for industrial peace to exist on the wharves whilst two distinct organisations were engaged — the members of one (the minority) under conditions which humiliated the members of the other (the majority). Mr. Colebatch had good reason for that observation. It is explained in the words of the President of the Lumpers’ Union (Mr. Renton), who, on April 28, inter alia, in a Press interview, said:—

"We agreed when we went back to work (i.e., in October, 1917) to give the Nationalists (free labor) preference; that is, the original Nationalist workers. We claim that they are not only getting preference, as given by Judge Higgins in the Arbitration Court, but that they are allowed by the employers in Fremantle to go on to any ship they desire in preference to the old lumpers, and also have the right to refuse to go on any ship to which they object, and the work of that ship is left to the old lumpers. Those ships are flour, phosphate, wheat, and sulphur ships. The only jobs they will take in preference to the old lumpers are those on cargo and coal boats. If while on one boat another full cargo boat comes in, and they want to work it, they can leave the first boat before finishing the job, come to the pick-up place, and get preference over the old lumpers for the fresh job, and the old lumpers have to take the jobs they have just left and finish them. If one, or any, of the old lumpers leaves a job and comes down to the pick-up place they are reported and are stood down from one to twenty days for leaving a job before it was finished."

In addition to this positive assertion of unfair discrimination in so-called preference, which was never contradicted, the President also recounted how the employers deliberately refused to proceed against Nationalists caught in the act of of pillaging, whilst using every opportunity of accusing the lumpers. Referring to a case of assault, supposed to have been committed by lumpers against Nationalists, Mr. Renton said:

"Eight of our men were arrested on a charge of assault and brought before the Court. At the time of the assault none of them were near the scene, some of them being home in bed. Each case was won by the Lumpers’ Union; yet, in the meantime, these men were pre-judged by the committee managing affairs on the wharf so far as labor is concerned, were suspended until the trials were concluded, and deprived from earning their living at their usual calling as lumpers on the wharf. Before trial in the Court they were tried by this committee, without a hearing, condemned and suspended."


Here, then, were all the ingredients for revolt. No self-respecting body of men could be expected to submit to such studied oppression. The breaking point came on April 12, when the members of what had become the National Waterside Workers’ Union — it was registered as such on October 20, 1917 — decided, in defiance of an understanding arrived at the previous day, to work the influenza-stricken interstate liner Dimboola before her period of quarantine had expired. The lumpers decided to prevent them placing the lives of the people of the State in jeopardy. That morning, when a few of the "blacklegs" attempted to proceed to the Dimboola, lying in the stream, they were directed by the lumpers to leave the wharf. They did. That was the end of the National Waterside Workers. Their connection with the wharf terminated from that hour.

The next day was a Sunday, and no work was done, but on Monday morning, April 14, the lumpers again refused to let the small body of "blacklegs" who reported for work set foot upon the wharves. During Sunday police reinforcements were despatched to Fremantle, and it was evident from the conduct of two of the employers on the following morning that they were prepared to immediately employ force in order to allow the "blacklegs" to return. The lumpers did not subject any of them to personal violence of any description; they simply gathered round and prevented them from being employed upon work which they believed might involve the State in an epidemic of disease such as had not been known before. At no time did the lumpers refuse to work; but that day, finding that the "blacklegs" were not available, the employers, despite the farcical claim made the previous day that they were in the hands of the Federal Controller of Shipping, decided that no vessel should be worked until such time as the "blacklegs" did return.


That the lumpers did not stand alone in their action was immediately emphasised. At a big meeting held outside the Fremantle Town Hall on the night of Monday, April 14, the following resolution was carried unanimously:—

"That this meeting of Fremantle citizens expresses its gratitude to the waterside workers for refusing to unload the Dimboola, and those present pledge themselves to support any action of these workers in preventing the spread of the disease."

Reinforced by this early and striking declaration of public approval and support, the lumpers each morning presented themselves at the pick-up bureau for employment. On the other hand, the Government, undoubtedly persuaded to action by the employers, was rushing all the available police from every centre in the State to Fremantle. A week went quietly by. Then, on the morning of April 22, a big demonstration was organised at Fremantle in which many thousands took part, and the men demanded interviews with the shipping representatives. This was granted, and after the men had stated their case, the employers through their chairman (Mr. C. H. Salmon) reiterated their claim that they were merely agents for the Shipping Controller and were powerless to move except under his direction, a statement which Mr. Alex. McCallum point blank told them the public would not believe.

The next day a further evidence of public support was forthcoming. In response to a requisition, signed by a large number of prominent citizens, the Mayor of Fremantle (Mr. W. Montgomery) convened a public meeting at the Town Hall, and the crowd that sought to gain admission was so great that an overflow meeting had to be held in the streets. At the meeting inside the hall the Mayor declared he was prepared to stand or fall with the lumpers, and he only voiced the opinion of all present, for the following resolution was submitted and carried unanimously:—

"That this meeting of Fremantle citizens commend the action of the Fremantle Lumpers’ Union in refusing to unload the plague-infected ship Dimboola, and deprecates the action of the Government and shipowners in refusing to allow these men to handle any cargo on the wharf; and, further, expresses the opinion that no permanent settlement of the present trouble can be arrived at so long as the National volunteers are permitted to work on the water front."


Earlier in the day a conference had been held at the Premier’s office between representatives of the shipping companies and the lumpers, but whilst the lumpers endeavored to find a solution of the position, the employers only repeated their claim that they were helpless in the matter unless directed by the Shipping Controller. Of what transpired at that conference, Mr. McCallum has said:—

"The conference proved absolutely abortive, and the employers remained callous and indifferent to the highest degree. They simply brushed aside our case and made no effort to offer a counter suggestion. It was apparent that they had a fixed determination to starve the men and women of Fremantle into submission.... Knowing the feeling of the men and women immediately concerned as I do, I view the immediate Outlook with a great deal of concern. For the past 18 months they have been living on the starvation line. Hundreds of them have not earned sufficient to supply their families with the bare necessities of life. Their position is becoming desperate.... The position that has existed on the wharves for the last 18 months cannot continue any longer. Whilst there is the picture of poverty, hunger and want on the one hand, the shipping companies sit back callous and indifferent."

And here Mr. McCallum made the important disclosure that it had come out in the discussion at the conference that the agreement which the "blacklegs" had signed when they were engaged for work on the wharves stipulated that their employment was only to exist until the lumpers returned to work. Although this statement was strenuously denied at the time by the employers, it was fully confirmed on August 22 — over three months later — when Mr. Colebatch, in the course of a speech in the Legislative Council in reference to the crisis, said that the document for enrolment read:— "National Volunteer Service: We, the undersigned, do hereby offer our services to the Government of Western Australia, and we agree to do to the best of our ability any labor we may be called upon to perform until a suitable settlement has been made with the industrial workers now out on strike." The Premier further

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The Casket Leaving Trades Hall.

definitely stated that no promise of permanent employment had been given to the "blacklegs" who remained after the dispute was settled. "Something of the sort was put forward by the employers," he said, "but employers do not always state the case fairly." What more complete vindication of the attitude of the lumpers is necessary than that remarkable confession?

On the morning of April 26 another big demonstration took place in the streets of Fremantle; and as a result of visits to all the big business houses, considerable support was forthcoming in cash and donations of food for the women and children of the men.

These demonstrations—April 22 and 26—spoke eloquently of two things, the determination of the men and the wonderful courage and support of their wives and dependents, and the fact that dire need and hunger was the daily portion of many as a result of the rightful calling of the lumpers having been taken from them. The sight of hundreds of women, many of whom carried little babies, or to whose skirts clung tiny, ill-clothed children, marching at the head of a column of men numbering thousands, was distressingly impressive. For many long months they had watched their little ones suffer, going short of necessary food and clothing; they had seen what little nest-egg might have been accumulated in better days gone by gradually diminish and vanish; and with the spectre of hunger hanging continually over them and their children, both men and women were determined, once and for all, to settle the issue and demand the right to work on the wharf. In no industrial trouble before did the women folk stick to their men as did the wives, daughters, and sweethearts of the Fremantle lumpers, and in the achievement of final victory they are entitled to claim an honored place.


The same day—April 26—the Federal Government came into the dispute through the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. W. A. Watt), who, in the course of a telegram to the Premier, stated:—"Both Federal and State Governments are alike committed to the pledge given to the loyalist workers, and that pledge must be respected." Yet, after threatening the withdrawal of shipping, Mr. Watt concluded with the extraordinary declaration that he could not accept the Premier’s suggestion that the matter was one for the Commonwealth to deal with, as "this is manifestly a local dispute."

In the face of this statement "that this is manifestly a local dispute," it was scarce matter for wonder that the Lumpers and the public refused to take seriously the expressed view of the employers that they were in the hands of the Federal Shipping Controller.


Matters were now approaching a crisis. As a result of further negotiations with the Premier it was agreed that the Industrial Disputes Committee, which had been called into being to watch the interests of the men, should formulate a further proposal for the consideration of the Government. This they undertook to do, but before their work was complete the Government decided to take control of the wharves. This announcement was made to a large gathering of consignees and merchants at the Premier’s office by Mr. Colebatch on the evening of April 30, a few hours before the members of the Disputes Committee attended at his office to place before him their proposal.


During the morning the lumpers had agreed to offer no objection to returned soldiers unloading perishables on the Dimboola, and this fact was mentioned to the Premier after which Mr. McCallum handed Mr. Colebatch the following communication:—

"We regret the delay in answering yours relating to the proposals made to the Lumpers’ Union, and assure you it was unavoidable. After very careful consideration, and viewing the situation from all aspects, keeping in mind the whole time the question of a permanent solution of the trouble and the establishment of conditions which would make for industrial peace at the water front, we have to again advise that we are very cemented in our belief that there can be no industrial peace on the wharf while the two elements exist relating to the supply of labor. If the Government and the shipowners agree that they are under an obligation to these so-called Nationalists, any compact they may have entered into between them cannot in any way he regarded as a responsibility of the Lumpers’ and Tally Clerks’ Unions, and we do not feel justified in suggesting any method by which the alleged compact may be carried out; that is, a matter for the parties to the compact to consider.

"We desire, however, to direct your attention to the fact that the contention that these men were given preference in the Court of Arbitration is not true. All the Judge did was to refuse to do anything which could prevent the shipowners carrying out their promises, but he did not in any way direct that preference should be given. Indeed, it would have been impossible for him to have done so because the Nationalists are not registered under the Commonwealth law and have absolutely no status before the Court, and could not be recognised in any of the Court’s decisions.

"We now have to advise that the Lumpers’ and Tally Clerks’ Unions are prepared to guarantee sufficient labor to carry on the work of the Fremantle Harbor without stoppage, and to give assurance of continuity of work under the existing Arbitration Court award, and if those who have the power can find a way to remove the Nationalists from the wharf, the guarantee to man the harbor and carry out the work of the Port without stoppage will be given in approved form. We may remind you that the last 18 months have proved that the so-called Nationalists cannot do the work of the Port, and the Lumpers’ Union is the body that can be looked to to effectively cope with the position.

"We are ever ready and willing to give consideration to any proposal for a settlement but cannot see any way which will mean a permanent solution other than that herein outlined."

Mr. Colebatch having made his declaration that the Government had already taken possession of the wharves, this communication, of course, was not considered. The next move lay with the Government. It was anticipated that an attempt would be made almost immediately to proceed with work on the wharves, for so far as was known the Government could not collect any greater force of police than those who had already been sent forward to Fremantle.


Because of this anticipation there was a larger crowd than usual on the wharf the following morning. A feeling of suppressed excitement was manifest. Although the Premier had declared that the Government had already taken possession of the wharf, the claim was early rendered farcical by the lumpers themselves taking possession and proceeding to unload a barge which contained a cargo of about 60 tons of salt obtained by returned soldiers from the Rottnest Island lakes. The Harbor Trust officials had promised the assistance of a man to work the crane, but the man, on arrival, proved to be a "blackleg" and he was given the "office" to make himself scarce. The lumpers then set to work unloading the barge. From hand to hand the bags were lifted over the whaling piece and thence to waiting lorries, to be driven to the depot, where other lumpers took delivery. The work was carried out in record time, amidst much cheering and good-humored banter, which time the police looked on from their shelter in "B" shed.


For the next two days the position remained unaltered, and when Saturday passed and the Government had not shown its hand it was generally believed—it was, in fact, stated officially—that work was to be started on Monday morning, May 5. Meanwhile, however, other forces were at work, and it was made known later that a complete scheme had been prepared for taking the "blacklegs" to Fremantle on the Sunday morning to commence unloading the Dimboola. That scheme was apparently altered at the eleventh hour, and instead of the "blacklegs" a large body of employers and commercial travellers undertook to make the trip and prepare the way for the morrow by the erection of barricades for the greater protection of the "blacklegs." This work the Harbor Trust employees had already refused to do.

The plans of the bosses were not known to the Labor leaders on the night of May 3. They have since been disclosed. Had the schemers any idea of what their actions would lead to they might well have hesitated before attempting to put them into force.


The people of Fremantle little dreamed on the morning of Sunday, May 4, that the Sabbath quiet was, within a few hours, to be turned into pandemonium; that men and women would be called upon to fight the armed forces of the Government; that to one at least it would mean the sacrifice of life; to others sore and bloody wounds. The morning broke with threatening rain clouds scurrying over the sky, portent of the other storm that was soon to break with such tragic fury. It early became known that an attempt was to be made to bring "blackleg" labor down the river to work on the wharves but it was nearly 10 o’clock before the outside ripples of excitement began to manifest themselves at the Port. Up to that hour very few people had any inkling—that is, except the Premier and the employer schemers—of what was afoot. A rumor gained currency that a body of "blacklegs" were coming down the river in a launch. Immediately bellmen were despatched throughout the Fremantle district calling all unionists to the wharf.

Confirmation of some secret move was first obtained in Fremantle by the arrival of a number of motor cars, containing many prominent employers. These cars halted for some minutes on the old Fremantle bridge, waiting for the arrival of the launch with the remainder of the party, the arrangement apparently being that all should arrive at the Port simultaneously. Whilst waiting they were seen by members of the usual lumpers’ pickets, and, their designs being anticipated, an attempt was made to prevent the cars from proceeding. The cars, however, got away and headed for Fremantle.

By this time it had become obvious to all at Fremantle that something was afoot. The police had emerged from "B" Shed, where they had been quartered, and marched to allotted positions. A mounted force, 50 strong, had been drawn across Cliff street at the town end of the Harbor Trust offices, whilst the majority of the foot police paraded in reserve near the pick-up bureau. Small squads were despatched, with fixed bayonets, to guard the eastern entrances to the wharf, and to clear all persons outside the fence of the railway reserve. Through the cordon of mounted police the employers in their motor cars passed. At this time there were about 200 lumpers congregated at the usual picking-up place, whither they had gathered in varying numbers every morning since the dispute arose. Included amongst these men was the union president (Mr. W. Renton). When the police requested them to leave the wharf they offered no resistance, Mr. Renton himself taking the initiative in withdrawing his men outside the line drawn by the mounted police. "Come on, boys; it’s no use resisting," he said. "We will go off the wharf for the present."

But while this was proceeding, events of greater excitement were transpiring on the North Fremantle bridge. For some reason or other the launch carrying a big body of volunteers was slower in making the Port than was anticipated, and by the time she reached the bridge it was lined with scores of men prepared to prevent her, if possible, from passing. The fusilade of stones from above, however, did not have the desired purpose. Having passed the first bridge the launch proceeded on its way down stream. In the meantime the crowd on the road bridge had signalled to their comrades on the railway bridge. A large crowd ran madly along the river bank

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At the Graveside

keeping parallel with the launch and shouting to the men on the railway bridge not to let the "scabs" pass. A squad of foot police had been despatched to the railway bridge, armed with bayonets, but they were greatly outnumbered. They sought to force the lumpers and their sympathisers from the bridge, but in the face of the hundreds of men they were powerless. Three of the constables attempted to make their way along the narrow footway, but the crowd stood its ground and jeered. The launch came abreast and was again subjected to a hail of missiles, but she passed beneath on her way to the wharf.

The men then rushed from the railway bridge and broke through the thin cordon of police guarding the eastern approaches to the wharf, and surged along towards the picking-up bureau, between "C" and "B" Sheds. The real position was not realised by the Commissioner of Police until the men had reached the western end of "C" Shed, not more than 50 yards from where the employers and other volunteers were erecting the barriers. Police were hurriedly ordered to fix bayonets and advance to meet the men, who were asked to retire. They were, however, determined not to allow the work of erecting the barricades to proceed, and it was not until the mounted men, closely followed by the foot police, began to press them closely that they slowly yielded.


The arrival of this body of men was received with jubilation by the other section being held in check by the mounted men drawn across Cliff street. From what vantage points these men could obtain they watched what was transpiring at "C" Shed. Then occurred the incident which incensed them to a degree that they no longer remained spectators only.

Here let the lumpers’ president take up the narrative in the evidence submitted by him on oath at the inquest of Thomas Charles Edwards:—

"When the police succeeded in forcing the crowd back to "C" Shed," he said, "one of my men detached himself from the others and was going towards the water front. Two policemen took hold of him to turn him round and send him back, when from my position on the cart I saw a third policeman come from the corner of 'C' Shed and seem to deliberately bayonet him. At that time I did not know who the man was, but I learned afterwards it was Brown. The latter had no arms, and when bayonetted fell down, then rose again, and holding his hip walked to "C" Shed. There had been absolutely no trouble during the morning between the lumpers and the police until Brown was bayoneted. I then jumped off the cart and said "Come on, boys, one of our chaps has been bayoneted; let us go and rescue him." I jumped the railway fence into the railway yard and, followed by my men, ran up alongside the top end of the goods shed. We crossed the line, opened the gate, and proceeded to the wharf at the east end of 'C' Shed."

This testimony was supported by the newspaper account of what occurred. The representative of the "Daily News," who was an eye-witness of the conflict, reported it as follows: "Suddenly a shout went up from the crowd — i.e. the crowd in Cliff-street — and with loud cheering many hundreds of men scrambled over the railway fences and began to run through the railway yards at the rear of the goods shed to reinforce their comrades pressed by the police on the wharf. They poured through the railway yard and passed to the rear of 'C' Shed, coming up on the water side, many armed with various missiles. The police were now called upon to move forward, and at this moment the first conflict occurred."

These two statements — that of Mr. Renton and the newspaper reporter — are almost identical, and are sufficient proof of the claim that it was not until the police had first used force and actually seriously wounded one of the lumpers that the lumpers began to retaliate. The position was now critical. What happened can best be stated in the president’s own words, for he was an actual participator now, and his testimony needs no corroboration:

"We found two lines of police drawn up and blocking our way. The front row of the police was armed with rifles and bayonets. The crowd stopped, and I asked that we should be let through to the bayoneted man. The police refused, and ordered us to go back the way we had come. The stones then began to fly from the rear, being the first time I had seen them thrown. I was then in front of my men, and when the stones came I returned amongst them. When they had thrown all the stones they had they started to retreat, and the police began to throw the stones back at the men. I sang out to the police: 'The men are retreating; leave them alone now.' With that three or four policemen surrounded me with rifles and stones in their hands. I heard one policeman say: 'Look out you don't hit one another. Get him.' I was then hit on the head with a stone whilst facing the police. This knocked me down, and when I attempted to regain my feet I was again knocked down by a baton, the mark of which I still bear."

In the wild disorder of the conflict many injuries were received by men on both sides, including the unfortunate man Edwards, who had gone to the assistance of Mr. Renton. The latter had just been assisted to his feet by Edwards, when he in turn was knocked down by a policeman. This incident was corroborated at the inquest by a man in no way connected with the Lumpers’ Union, Alphy Denic, who said that Renton and Edwards were struck at the same time, the latter whilst he had his arms around Renton, after assisting him to rise.

Although the lumpers were gradually forced back off the wharf and into the railway reserve, it quickly became known that their leader had suffered, with others, including Mr. Fred Baglin, grievous injury, and they burned to revenge their fallen comrades. The position was made worse by the circulation of a rumor to the effect that the man who had been bayoneted was a returned soldier. Amongst the members of the Lumpers’ Union were a number of returned men, and they, with other returned soldiers who had gathered, could not be restrained. The news acted disastrously upon a crowd so terribly inflamed. Before the last of the slowly-retreating men had reached the safety of the railway reserve, a number of mounted men were ordered to the charge along the roadway. They cleared the road, but were subjected to a tremendous fusilade of stones, and they had at last to beat a retreat.

It was now becoming more apparent every minute that unless the employers retired from the wharf it would be impossible to control the men much longer. It was not by this time a fight between police and lumpers. The crowd of thousands joined with the men, and many women pressed forwards shouting hysterically and throwing stones. One unfortunate woman, apparently recovering from a fainting fit, loudly reviled the police as they passed her by, saying that her children were at home starving because her husband was not allowed to work.

For a few minutes only was there a respite. Then the mob began to move slowly up between the goods shed and the railway reserve fence. Again the mounted men were called to the charge, and with batons swinging, they swept along. They were met with a fusilade of stones, and several shots were heard. They passed through the crowd, but when they turned they were met with a hurricane of stones and other missiles, and had to gallop fiercely back to shelter, crouching low on the necks of their steeds.


Having twice had to retreat it became apparent that the police were in danger of being overwhelmed, unless they were provided with reinforcements or supplied with ball cartridges and thus have the effect of holding the crowd back. It was decided that the Riot Act should be read. The Police Magistrate of Fremantle (Mr E. P. Dowley) had previously been sent for, but things moved so quickly that it was now decided to have the Riot Act read at once, and a Justice of the Peace (Mr. Bryan Brook) performed that office at a spot where few, if any, knew what he was doing. Cartridges were then handed out to a section of the police armed with rifles, and they took up a position facing the crowd. One false step at this moment would have meant the scattering of death broadcast amidst the mob, and there is little doubt that they would in turn have overwhelmed the police and swept them and the employers from the wharf.

But just at this extremely critical moment Inspector Sellinger, chief of the Fremantle police, went over to the men, and he was greeted with cheers. He had correctly judged the position, and realised that unless something was done further bloodshed and the sacrifice of life must transpire. He, therefore, asked for the men’s leaders. At this request Messrs. Ben Jones, M.L.A., Alex. McCallum, and Arthur Watts stepped out from the crowd, and they were invited to come and confer with the Premier, who had arrived on the wharf in the launch that had run the gauntlet earlier in the morning.

These three were first met by the Commissioner of Police, who said to Mr. McCallum: "For God’s sake do something to keep your men back. We don’t want to have any further trouble and you know what will happen if something is not done." Mr. McCallum replied by intimating that the action of the police had so incensed and enraged the men that unless the employers left the wharf he would not be held responsible for what might happen." Whilst these two were talking a report rang out from the crowd, and Mr. McCallum rushed back asking the crowd to remain quiet until he and Messrs. Jones and Watts had seen the Premier.


Returning, and with the Police Commissioner, they sought out the Premier, who said that if the lumpers would agree not to indulge in further violence he would give his assurance that no further work would be done by the volunteers that day. This was agreed to by the men’s representatives, and they returned to the crowd; but not before Mr. McCallum had guaranteed the Premier, at his (the Premier’s) request, a safe passage back up the river to Perth.

Whilst these three envoys were conversing with the Premier and the Commissioner, however, an incident occurred which showed how blind the employers were to the situation in their desire to down the workers, and which might easily have had a lamentable effect and ended once for all the truce just agreed upon. A trooper who had been wounded returned to duty with his head in bandages. Some of the employers turned to cheer him, but they were silenced by the indignant cry of Mr. McCallum: "You damned fools; haven’t you any sense?" Fortunately the crowd was too far away, and the incident passed unnoticed, except by a few.

Having seen the launch under way, Mr. McCallum and his colleagues turned their attention to the men. Mr. McCallum led them to the overhead railway bridge, which was densely packed, and climbing on to the rails alongside a lamp post he briefly explained what had happened. "You have got what you wanted," he said. ‘You have got these men off the wharf. We want you to promise there will be no more violence. There will be a meeting on the Esplanade at 3 p.m., when you will be told what to do."

The promise was forthcoming amid much cheering. Then the crowd, realising that victory had been achieved, rushed to the wharf to meet the incoming troopship Khyber, which was then moving down stream, her decks and rigging brown with the khaki of hundreds of returning soldiers.


At 3 o’clock a very large crowd assembled on the Fremantle Esplanade, where proceedings were cut short owing to the breaking of a severe rainstorm. Mr. Baglin announced that it was intended to take possession of the wharf, and after the leaders had addressed the crowd, a procession was formed and they marched to the wharf. Two files of returned soldiers in uniform headed it, and altogether the number of returned men who participated totalled several hundred.


On arrival at the wharf the returned men immediately rushed to the barricades and, carrying them to the edge of the wharf, dumped them into the river. Instead of the employers, backed by the Government, being in possession, the wharf now belonged entirely to the lumpers. The pick-up bureau was wrecked, the work of demolition being watched by the biggest crowd that had ever assembled on the wharf. After this had been completed the men re-formed into marching order and returned to the Trades Hall, where speeches were delivered in celebration of the victory.


When the casualty list was prepared at the conclusion of the day’s conflict the following lumpers were announced as injured:—

Edward Brown, bayonet wound in thigh (serious).
William Renton, wounds on head.
Thomas Edwards, wound on head (serious).
P. Chaff, wounds on head.
Joseph Slater, wounds on chest.
C. Hanlon, broken arm and cut cheek.
W. Skeet, wounds on head.

In addition to these, however, there were others who received slight injuries, including, as already stated, Mr. Fred Baglin. Of the Police Force, 26 members were treated for wounds.


It is interesting to record the expressed emotions of the little party that met on neutral ground immediately after Inspector Sellinger had succeeded in locating Messrs. McCallum, Jones, and Watts. It was a strange gathering of extremely agitated men. The Commissioner of Police, with the sweat pouring down his face, met Mr. McCallum with an ejaculated half command and half appeal: "For God’s sake, do something to keep your men back!" Mr. McCallum, equally agitated, threw back the obvious retort: "We can’t. You see the temper of those men and women; we can’t!" The shouts and yelling of the crowd pressing threateningly toward the spot where the little group was standing had somewhat subsided. A few paces away was the front line of police, even at the moment loading rifles with ball cartridges. Mr. McCallum suggested he should see the Premier. Upon the decision of the next few minutes hung the lives of many people. If Mr. Colebatch failed to recognise the danger and refused to leave the wharf with the employers, blood must have flown freely and the torch of industrial revolution set blazing throughout the country. It throws an interesting side-light on the workings of the human mind under great stress that at such a crucial and dramatic moment, when Mr. McCallum advanced to meet him, the Premier should extend his hand with: "How do you do, Mr. McCallum." The extended hand was accepted, but there was not, and could not, be any cordiality in the shake, and the probabilities are that had the meeting taken place under less trying circumstances it would have been omitted altogether. The Premier was as much agitated as the men’s leaders, and probably he was not acting normally when, with his own life and the lives of many others hanging in the balance, he made use of the commonplace greeting and proffered his hand, any more than Mr. McCallum was when he accepted it. For a minute or two after the greeting the Premier conversed apart with the police officials. "We can’t hold them any longer," Detective Inspector Mann was heard to whisper "and if we attempt to do so it will mean the sacrifice of many lives." The Premier thereupon agreed to withdraw, and thus averted what must have assuredly been an appalling loss of life.


Simultaneously with the meeting of the men on the Esplanade at Fremantle on Sunday afternoon, a monster meeting was held in the city at His Majesty’s Theatre, which was attended by over 2000 people, and was addressed by Messrs. McCallum and Renton, the latter appearing with his head in bandages. Both received a great reception. It was during his address that Mr. McCallum made the statement which was the following morning seized upon by the Premier as an escape from an intolerable position. An address was also delivered by Mr. Thomas Walker, M.L.A., and then Mr. A. H. Panton moved the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr. J. J. Simons and carried unanimously, amid much cheering:— "That this meeting condemns the action of the Government in arming the police and using bayonets against citizens of this State, and calls on Mr. Colebatch and his Government to withdraw the Nationalists from the waterfront." The same night a tremendous meeting was held in King’s Theatre, Fremantle, where Mr. McCallum was the principal speaker, and he again received a tumultuous welcome. During the forenoon, immediately following the riot, a meeting of returned soldiers was hastily called and held at the foot of the O’Connor Monument. Here a resolution was carried pledging the returned men to

The Fremantle Wharf Crisis of 1919—Disputes Committee.png


defend the rights of citizens against the armed tyranny of the Government. Another meeting of returned men was also held at Fremantle Trades Hall the next morning, between 300 and 400 attending, and the following resolution was carried unanimously:—"That this meeting of returned soldiers views with alarm and disgust the act of the Government in using armed forces in Fremantle, and pledge ourselves to resist any such future act of the Government."


Sunday night passed off without disturbing incident. Early the next morning the Premier, realising that force had failed and could not again be employed to settle the dispute, found in the speech of Mr. McCallum the previous day a passage whereby he might find a way out of his dilemma and re-open negotiations. Mr. McCallum had stated:—

"I want to see the trouble ended, and I hope that even at this eleventh hour the Premier will re-open negotiations and see if an amicable settlement cannot be reached."

The Premier sent for Mr. McCallum, and he and the other members of the Disputes Committee journeyed to Perth and met Mr. Colebatch at his office. After deliberation it was decided that the Disputes Committee should formulate proposals and submit them to the Government at the earliest possible moment.


The news of the conflict on the wharf on Sunday spread as on the wings of the wind, and unionists everywhere rallied to the support of their comrades at Fremantle. A mass meeting of railwaymen was held the same night, when a resolution was carried leaving the Executive a free hand to act as it deemed best in conjunction with the Disputes Committee. The Collie miners called a stop-work meeting and placed themselves in readiness to proceed to Fremantle if called upon to do so. Similar assurances of support came from the miners at Kalgoorlie. To a man the workers had been, by the tragic use of armed force, welded into an army of men ready to act in whatever direction those controlling the position might direct. Happily, however, the Government had learned its lesson, and those on the spot knew that the police would never again be asked to repeat the fatal mistake. As a matter of fact, the majority were withdrawn from Fremantle on Monday afternoon.

On the morning of Monday, May 5, the lumpers were in full possession. The excitement, had not entirely died down, and in the late afternoon a further disturbance took place in the main street of Fremantle, being precipitated by the foolhardy action of a constable. In this brief conflict the police again came off second best. This incident was entirely beyond the control of the leaders of the men, and was as undesired by them as the conflict of the previous day. At the time they were away in the city, and during the evening, on their return to Fremantle, Mr. Baglin officially waited upon Inspector Sellinger and Inspector Harry Mann and expressed regret at what had happened.


Important developments took place that night. The Disputes Committee, which had met during the afternoon, placed its proposals for settlement before the State Executive, and the two bodies arranged to place a proposal before a mass meeting of lumpers and tally clerks the next morning.

In the King’s Theatre, Fremantle, at night an immense gathering rallied to hear the men’s leaders. A great reception was accorded Messrs. Renton (who again appeared with his head swathed in bandages) and Alex. McCallum. The latter was the principal speaker, and in the course of a rousing address appealed to the men to be loyal to the Disputes Committee and act as it directed, expressing the hope that the next day would see a solution of the trouble.

Meetings of returned soldiers were held both in Perth and Fremantle, at both of which resolutions in support of the lumpers were carried.

The next morning (Tuesday, May 6) the members of the Disputes Committee waited upon the Premier. At 1 o’clock they adjourned to 3, when their proposals for settlement were handed to Cabinet, and they immediately retired. What transpired at these meetings is best stated by Mr. McCallum to a Press interviewer:—"The Disputes Committee got the endorsement of the State Executive to the proposals for a settlement which it drew up. They were also endorsed by a mass meeting of the men, and we presented them to Cabinet before lunch. After a short discussion we decided to amend them at the suggestion of Cabinet in two slight particulars, and met members of the Government again after lunch. The Premier said they would he presented to the shipping companies and the Commonwealth Government, and he would communicate the replies as soon as they were received."

The Premier submitted the Proposals to the employers, and the employers in turn submitted them to the Shipping Controller, with a request for an early reply.


Whilst these proceedings had been taking place, and whilst both sides were waiting for the reply from the Shipping Controller, Thomas Edwards was sinking slowly at the Fremantle Public Hospital, whither he had been taken after receiving a severe injury to the head on the previous Sunday. The public was not then aware that the blow received by the unfortunate man had caused a fracture of the skull, and the news of his death soon after 5 o’clock on the evening of May 7 came as a sad shock to all. The sorrow of the community generally became personal with trades unionists throughout the State, who mourned not only the death of a comrade who had given his life for the cause of the working classes, but for the young widow and her three little children who were left behind. Their welfare became the immediate care of the Disputes Committee, and it was not surprising that when the terms of a settlement were agreed upon they included a promise from the Government that compensation should be paid to the dependants.


The end of the trouble came the same night with dramatic suddenness; and just about the time that Edwards passed away the lumpers came into their own. It will probably never be known what caused the "blacklegs" to retire from the wharves; nor does that much matter here. Sufficient is it to record that their going meant complete victory for the lumpers and thus the absolute defeat of the shipping owners and the Government. This is how the Premier informed the public on the morning of Thursday, May 8, of the settlement:— "Last evening the president and secretary of the National Workers’ Union came to me with what I can only regard as a most generous proposal, i.e., that they were prepared to do what seemed to them best in the public interest and withdraw from the wharf entirely, in the hope that industrial peace might be restored and the wants of the community relieved." The Premier also said that he had immediately informed the employers of waterside labor and the Disputes Committee of what had transpired, and that he had been assured by both that nothing lay in the way of a resumption of work the following morning.


When the Premier had been advised of the "voluntary retirement" he was tremendously anxious to get in touch with Mr. McCallum. He rang at Mr. McCallum’s private address, without success; then the Trades Hall, without success. Mr. McCallum was supposed to be taking a rest, but as a matter of fact he was at a big meeting being held at Fremantle. When at last he reached home he was informed by Mrs. McCallum that the Premier had been ringing for him, and, getting in touch with Mr. Colebatch, he was asked to immediately journey to Perth to see him. In order that the other members, or as many of them as possible, might be present at what was to be an apparently very important interview, Mr. McCallum got a motor and proceeded to collect his colleagues. This necessitated much travelling to different suburbs, but eventually all but one had been secured and the committee proceeded to the Premier’s office. It was just about midnight when the terms of settlement had been agreed upon, and the members of the Disputes Committee were able to convey the great news of victory to their fellow workers.


Although the "voluntary retirement" meant complete victory for the lumpers, the Disputes Committee stipulated, and it was accepted by the Government, that an independent person should be appointed to determine the amount and the terms of compensation to be paid to the widow and family of their deceased comrade. It was also arranged that there should not be any work on the Friday in order that the men might attend the funeral.

The Disputes Committee also immediately made it known that all men should report for work the following morning (Thursday, May 8). They gathered in large numbers, and in good humor, to hear their leaders and to join in the celebration of the victory. At the foot of the O’Connor Monument they were addressed by their President (Mr. Renton) and Mr. McCallum. Mr. Renton, his head still in bandages, spoke first, and was heartily applauded. After stating that the victory was complete, he made an appeal to the men to still act at the direction of the Disputes Committee, and trust that body to see them safely to the end of the trouble, as there were still some minor matters that required attention. Mr. McCallum followed with a similar appeal, in which he said that 30,000 workers had stood loyally behind them prepared to go to any extent to see they were successful. It had not been a lumpers’ fight only, but something that affected the whole movement. The terms of settlement provided that the State must relieve any urgent cases of distress, and that there should be continuity of employment. He also announced that the Disputes Committee had insisted upon compensation to the widow and family of the deceased comrade, saying: "The one black spot is that a comrade has made the supreme sacrifice. The Disputes Committee insisted that the widow and children should not suffer. That comrade having laid down his life for the cause, we could not, and dared not, let his dependants suffer."

Each of the members of the Disputes Committee followed with brief addresses. Before once again taking up their work on the wharves, the men stood for a moment bare-headed, in silence, in memory of Tom Edwards.

Then the pick-up followed, and such men as were called for the work available set to with a will, and the wharves were once again a scene of great activity.


It has been stated earlier in this narrative that unionists throughout the State rallied to the support of the lumpers, and that the fight became one which involved the welfare of the workers generally. On behalf of the Disputes Committee, Mr. McCallum acknowledged this loyalty in the Press, and said: "Now that the trouble is over we desire to express our appreciation of the loyalty which the whole of the trades unions throughout the State gave to the Disputes Committee. In no previous industrial dispute has there been such a display of solidarity amongst the ranks of the unions, and the committee appreciates the fact that the movement as a whole respects its decisions."


Friday, May 9, was a day of mourning. The previous evening, at another big meeting in the King’s Theatre, Fremantle, the following resolution was carried: "That this meeting of citizens of Fremantle convey its sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the widow and children of the late Tom Edwards, who was done to death on the Fremantle wharf while fighting for the liberty of his comrades." At the request of the heads of the Railway and Tramway Unions the Government agreed to order a stoppage of all traffic for three minutes at 3 p.m. Fremantle citizens have never before witnessed such a funeral at the Port, nor were they ever before moved as they were that day. Long before 2 p.m., the hour appointed for the cortege to move off from the Trades Hall, whither the casket had been moved at noon, covered with floral emblems and four big bows of blue and white ribbon, every avenue of approach was blocked by great crowds of people. The Australian flag fluttered at half-mast from the building and the Town Hall, and many business houses in the town also paid this mark of respect to the deceased. Whilst the funeral passed every business house and every hotel remained closed. The long procession was headed by Mr. Renton, mounted on a black horse, and behind him came the Fremantle Band, playing the solemn music of "The Dead March in Saul." The members of the Disputes Committee, with Messrs. Frank Rowe (secretary of the Lumpers’ Union), and J. Widicombe, were the pall bearers. Behind the hearse was a carriage laden with floral tribute and behind the mourning coach marched every Labor member of the Federal and State Houses then in the State. Over 5000 people marched in the procession, and when the graveside was reached the casket was borne by Messrs. George Sallur, C. and T. Hill, J. Beveridge, J. Baker, and A. Foster, workmates of the deceased.

Whilst this great concourse of people participated in an event which saddened thousands of hearts, the people of the city and suburbs were also reminded that the last rites were being paid to one who had made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of human liberty. For at 3 o’clock every tram and every train came to a standstill, and thousands of hearts went out to the bereaved ones in their great loss. At Kalgoorlie, too, every train and tram came to a standstill, and every shop and hotel closed. At the Midland Workshops all the men ceased work, and throughout the metropolitan area unionists everywhere stopped work for three minutes.

At the graveside, Mr. Thomas Walker, M.L.A., delivered an impressive address, in the course of which he said: "This is a sad occasion to me, as it is to you, to be here to bid a long farewell to a fallen brother—a brother fallen, it is true, but fallen in a fight for honor, principle, and for his fellow men. It is not a time when we should raise bitter feelings, when we stand by the graveside in the presence of the bereaved—it is our duty to think but kindly of the departed, and to give nothing but sympathy to those who may survive. And yet I venture to think there is scarcely one here in the fulness of life but admits that as we wander in 'the narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities,' there is with us a spirit of human comfort that in this very midst of life, in the service of his friends, in the service of humanity, Tom Edwards should go to his last long dreamless sleep. We feel there is engraved in the hearts of all a touch that will not be buried with him.

"I have been informed that the deceased was a man who loved his home, and was in his home beloved. It was not only the love he gave to his wife and family that endeared him to us all, not only the warmth of a large heart and the support he gave to his comrades, but, above all, he was a good citizen. His large heart beat with sympathy for the homes of those that were breadless with a great desire for the betterment of those who had suffered so long in apparently hopeless despair. We part with him, true, but not with his spirit. That sad Sunday morn when he received the wound that has brought him here, he was doing his worship, feeling that for justice all places were a temple and all seasons summer. A victory has been won for the cause his fellows have been fighting through the centuries for—and we still have to fight until every home is bread-supplied and garnished with comfort. That cause he has assisted and honored by his martyrdom. We shed our tears for one who has died for us. His death, his blood, is consecrated to that noble cause which exists alone for the betterment of the lowliest of mankind, the coming manhood and womanhood of every toiler—the right of happiness. The added happiness of your lives should be rendered as thanks to him who sleeps in the cold grave. Though you leave him—or his remains—there in that sacred spot, his memory will be in your minds as an example, and in your hearts an inspiration, and his life a solace to his comrades and a bond between them, stirring humanity to its very depth until all slavery and bondage have been abolished, and happiness prevails in every home. Good-bye, comrade! A long farewell to you as you lie there, but never forgotten—an eternal hope and stimulus to all of us to do our duty as courageously as you have, to fulfil our part as bravely as you have, to love our fellow men so much as to risk all we hold as you have done. Good-bye."

Official representatives were present as follows:—Messrs A Panton (President A.L.F.), A. McCallum (General Secretary A.L.F.), F. A. Baglin (secretary Fremantle District Council, A.L.F.), A. J. Watts (Secretary A.W.U.), C. Haynes (General Secretary Western Australian Amalgamated Society of Employees), and W. Forster (President Fremantle Tally Clerks’ Union), who, with Messrs. F. Rowe, Secretary, and J. Widdicombe, Committee (Fremantle Lumpers’ Union), acted as pall-bearers.

Messrs. P. Collier, T. Walker, W. C. Angwin, W. L. Jones, A. E. Green, S. Munsie, J. Lutey, P. O’Loghlen, G. Lambert, S. M. Rocke, and T. Chesson, M’sL.A.; H. Millington, M.L.C.; and E. W. Corboy, M.H.R.; T. McGrath (Perth Lumpers' Union), W. Roche, Secretary (Fremantle Tally Clerks’ Union), J. W. Bird, President, and L. R. Fortune, Secretary (Federated Harbor and River Union), J. Graham, Secretary (Amalgamated Butchers’ Union).

J. W. Burgess and D. Freedman (Bunbury Branch Shop Assistants’ Union); J. O’Neill, Secretary, and T. Gorman, President (East Perth R.S.A.); S. Elphick, Secretary (Drivers and Tenders); C. Webb (Perth Plumbers); J. Curtin, Editor "Westralian Worker"; C. Webb (Fremantle Plumbers); W. Colls (Amalgamated Society of Engineers); W. Wauhop, President, F. Baglin, Secretary (Fremantle District Council A.L.F.); W. Roberts (Federated Meat Employees, Queensland); J. Taylor (Fremantle Harbor Trust).

L. Morgan, Secretary (Federated Moulders), W. J. Farr, President, and G. Bird, Secretary (Midland District Council A.L.F.), E. J. Tonkin, President, W. Sidebottom, Secretary (Horse Drivers’ Union), W. Jeffrey and J. Gawned (W.A. Amalgamated Society of Railway Employees).

T. Walsh (Railway Officers’ Association), T. Lyons, Vice-President, W. Dacus, Secretary (Barmaids and Barmen’s Union), C. H. Rule, President (Tanners and Curriers), J. A. Lake, T. Egan, and F. Morley (Bootmakers), J. H. Cole (Fremantle Tramways), J. H. Green (Marvel Loch Miners), W. N. Smith, Secretary, and W. W. Mooney (Furniture Trades), E. J. Tweedall, Secretary (Hotel and Restaurant Employees).

A. V. Hughes, President, R. E. Marshall, Vice-President (Brewery Employees), E. Pickering, T. Bycroft (Perth Tramways), T. C. Butler (A.W.U), G. Kerr (Municipal Employees and Water and Sewerage Employees), Mrs. Lindley and Mr A. Martin (Leederville A.L.F.)

Mrs. W. D. Johnson (Labor Women, West Guildfdrd. Branch), S. M. Payne (West Guildford A.L.F.), M. Donnes (South Fremantle R.S.A.), Miss Webb (Secretary Fremantle Labor Women), P. J. Trainer (Secretary Social Democratic League).

H. Stockdale (Westonia Miners), A. E. Pyrce (Secretary Fremantle Workers’ Club), J. Lutey, M.L.A. (Eastern Goldfields District Council A.L.F.), E. G. Backshall (Loco. Engine Drivers’, Firemen’s, and. Cleaners’ Union), E. W. Walsh (Aerated Waters, Pastry Cooks and Saddlers), T. McShearer (Secretary Federated Seamen’s Union).

G. Outried (President), E. Howson (Secretary Shipwrights), Mrs. Coates (Labor Sunday School, J. Patterson (Secretary Wine and Spirit Employees), R. Barnett (President), and M. Cahill (Vice-President East Fremantle A.L.F.), Mrs. Hogarth (Perth Labor Women), A. D. O’Brien (Bread Carters), T. Grant (Fremantle Painters), G. C. Kerr (Metropolitan Timber Workers).

D. Barnsby and E. L. Driver (Secretary Metropolitan Hospitals and Kindred Institutions), A. V. Wilmott (Dairymen’s Union), B. Fraser (Perth Letter Carriers’ Association), V. Norkers (Fremantle Letter Carriers’ Association), T. Symonds (Clothing Trades).

H. K. Surman, J. H. Heitmann (Secretary Federated Engine Drivers’), B. Fraser (North Fremantle A.L.F.), L. White (Secretary Sheet Metal Workers) J. Hummerston (Timber Workers’ Union), J. J. Simons (East Perth A.L.F.), E. L. Driver (Fremantle "Herald"), T. Olsen (Quarrymen), A. Melbourne (Limeburners), G. Toll (Subiaco A.L.F.).

H. Wright (South Fremantle A.L.F.), L. Morgan (President Metropolitan District Council A.L.F.), G. F. Dennis (Australian Engineers).

The following country organisations were also represented:— Geraldton Railways Employees and Engineers, Geraldton A.W.U., Geraldton District Council A.L.F., Cue Miners’ Union, Northam District Council A.L.F.; South-West District Council. A.L.F., Wyndham Workers, Collie Miners, Albany District Council A.L.F.; Albany Lumpers’ Union, Leonora Miners’ Union, and others.

The Rev. F. T. Bowen read the service for the dead.

The casket was borne to the grave by six members of the Union in persons of Messrs. George Sallur, C. and Ted Hill, J. Beveridge. J. Baker, and A. Foster. The chief mourners included Mrs. Edwards (wife), Miss Emily Edwards (daughter), Miss M. Phillips (sister-in-law), Mr. J. Phillips (brother-in-law), Mrs. R. Hovell, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Coleman, Mrs. G. Brady, and Miss A. Hovell (cousins), and Mrs. C. Hill and Mrs. G. Sallur.


To celebrate the victory won by the Labor Movement, as Mr. A. H. Panton expressed it, a monster meeting was held on the Fremantle Esplanade on the afternoon of Sunday, May 11. Speeches were delivered by Messrs. Panton, Renton, and McCallum, after which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Phil Collier) spoke. He said that the one sad spot in the proceedings was the fact that one of their comrades had laid down his life, but that would serve as an inspiration for generations to come. Mr. T. Walker, M.L.A., said that the victory had demonstrated Labor’s strength, and it had learned its strength when solid and united. The proceedings were enthusiastic throughout, and were preceded by a procession through the streets, headed by the Fremantle Band, which played "The Marsellaise."


The inquest on the death of Tom Edwards was not concluded until June 5, after a number of adjournments. The Coroner was Mr. E. P. Dowley, R.M. Sir Walter James appeared for the Crown, and Mr. Walter Dwyer for the widow. At the conclusion of the evidence, which traversed in detail the tragic events of May 4, the principal portions of which are set herein, the jury returned the following verdict:—"That the deceased, Thomas Charles Edwards, came to his death on May 7 at the Fremantle Public Hospital, from a fracture of the skull, caused by a wound on the head, received on the wharf at Fremantle on May 4. We are unable to say who caused the wound. Death was accidental."


In accordance with the agreement insisted upon by the Disputes Committee, the Government appointed an arbitrator to assess the damages which should be paid to the widow and children of Tom Edwards. It was not until some time later that Mr. A. S. Canning, P.M., agreed to act at the request of the Government, and on August 16 it was announced that he had assessed the total to be paid as £686. Of this amount Mr. Canning set aside £300 for the widow, and provided for the children as follows:—Child, aged 15 years, £26; child aged seven years, £150; child, aged two years, £210. It was further stipulated that the shares of the children were to be paid into the Government Savings Bank in the names of the trustees and to be applied for their maintenance, payable in weekly instalments, in respect of each child, to the mother or other person having their care and upbringing.

Referring to this assessment a few days later, Mr. McCallum made the following appeal: "No sum of money, however large, can possibly compensate the widow and children of the late Tom Edwards for their loss. Those children are entitled to the same facilities for education, and a chance for a start in life, as if their father was here. The youngest child is only two years old now, and for the ñèxt fourteen years at least will require assistance. Although the money provided in the Commissioner’s finding will be appreciated and go a considerable way to help, it cannot be argued that it will do all that needs to be done. It must never be said of the Trades Unions of this State that they allowed the widow and children of a comrade, who gave his life for the cause, to suffer; more especially when the tragic nature of his death is taken into consideration." He further announced that it had therefore been decided to make an appeal to all unions to provide a home for the widow, Mr. A. H. Panton being placed in-charge.


Frequently throughout this record reference has been made to the Disputes Committee. The members of the committee were appointed on April 28, and comprised: Messrs. A. H. Panton (President of the A.L.F., and now M.L.C. for the West Province), Alex. McCallum (Secretary of the A.L.F.), W. Renton (President of the Lumpers’ Union), Fred Baglin (Secretary of the Fremantle District Council, W. Forster (Tally Clerks’ Union), C. Haynes (Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Employees), and Arthur J. Watts (Secretary of the A.W.U.).

This committee was, throughout the trouble, loyally supported by the vast majority of the men. On the evening following the conflict on the wharf the State Executive carried the following motion: "That this meeting endorses the action of the Disputes Committee and expresses its admiration of their management of the wharf trouble, and of the action of the lumpers. Further, that this meeting urges all organisations to place themselves unreservedly in the hands of the committee in order that it may continue operations to a just conclusion."

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