Diary of a Labour Man 1917- 1945

1922 Editor of the 'Westralian Worker'


John Curtin aged 37, April1922
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. John Curtin aged 37, April1922. JCPML00376/143

Writes leaflet for the Perth Australian Labor Federation against proposal by Prime Minister Billy Hughes to reduce wages and speaks at protest meetings on issue.1

  Is appointed judge by the Australian Labor Federation to assess essay competition for children on the issue of wage reduction. The prize is £2.2
Mid February  

Has health problems.

'Heavy smoking and prolonged speaking took their toll on his throat' and he was 'strictly enjoined by his medical advisor to abstain from public speaking for at least another month.'3

Friday 24 February Perth Trades Hall

Speaks at the farewell for Mr B G Eagle.

'Last Friday the secretaries at the Perth Trades Hall assembled under the chairmanship of Mr J J Kenneally to say good-bye to Mr B G Eagle. His health was proposed and complimentary expressions of his worth as a man and his splendid services as a Laborite were delivered by Messrs Butler, Needham, Keaughran, and Curtin. Mr Eagle, in responding, voiced the hope that he might return to WA and permanently establish himself here.4

Mr Eagle had assisted the Metropolitan Council of the ALP in its "propaganda activities" to awaken public interest in child welfare.'.5

Friday 10 March Literary Institute, Hay Street, Perth

Addresses the official opening of the Labor Daily Campaign.

'On Friday next Messrs E Grayndler and R S Ross will arrive in Perth to facilitate the campaign on behalf of a Labor Daily in this State.

At 8 pm the visitors will be accorded a public reception at the Literary Institute, Hay-street. … There will be orchestral music, songs, recitals, and refreshments. The proceedings will be informal and small tables will be distributed throughout the hall. Laborites and unionists, their wives, daughters and sweethearts are all heartily invited. It is hoped to give everybody an opportunity to fraternise with the big men of this great effort.

In addition to Messrs. Grayndler and Ross, addresses will be delivered by Messrs P Collier, MLA, and J Curtin.'6

Wednesday evening 3 May Perth Trades Hall

Perth trades Hall, n.d.
JCPML. Records of Bobbie Oliver. Perth Trades Hall, n.d. JCPML00568/12

Attends opening session of Labor Study Circle, and gives an outline of its purpose and programme and presents 'prizes won for essays on "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific". The prizes were won by Miss Trixie Bourke and Mr George Watson. Miss Bourke’s essay was of such merit that a special prize was awarded for it. Mr Watson read his essay.'

'Workers, men and women, boys and girls of the working class, are invited to attend all gatherings of the Labor Study Circle. They will be held in the Trades Hall, on Wednesday evenings, throughout the winter months. No charge will be made for admission, and all wishing for information and to study and understand the problems of their class will be welcome.'7

Monday 8 May Perth Trades Hall
  Addresses to the Metropolitan Timber Workers on the Labor Daily.8
Friday evening 12 May Collie
  Attends union meeting on behalf of the Labor Daily Chain and the 10/- levy.9
c. Friday 26 May Collie and Cottesloe

Unwell, not at work.

'… having a few days spell. His health has not been too robust lately. At Collie, where he went to help Laborite Jackson, he broke down. … Much disappointment was expressed.'10

Wednesday evening 7 June Probably Perth
  Presents lecture 'Economic Causes of War' to Labor Study Circle.11
c. June Perth
Detail from Photograph of Delegates to the 1922 Labor Congress
Detail from photograph of delegates to 1922 Labor Congress. Curtin is third from the right in the third row from the front.

JCPML. Records of Lloyd Ross. John Curtin and delegates to 11th Labor Congress, 1922. JCPML00799/4
Courtesy National Library of Australia: MSS 3939, Series 18, Box 82.
Acts as delegate to the State Labor Congress.12
Thursday 8 June Perth Trades Hall

Attended the 8th Annual Meeting of the Shareholders of the People's Printing & Publishing Company. Curtin's comments below were related to a suggestion from Mr Ryce that the Company get in touch with the Unions and the Labor movement to improve the circulation of the Worker. Ryce "claimed that the Westralian Worker was our best propaganda and he knew of no better Labor Paper in the World".

You can always attract a market if you have the commodity. I know that there is a desire in some quarters for light literature. I would sooner look elsewhere for work if I had to provide that. I came here to Edit a Labor Paper. If you want news you must have additional Staff. I think we ought to give the paper a chance as it is. I know that many men only read the sport.

As the proprietors of a Labor paper we are not alone in our troubles. The English and other Labor Papers find it difficult to get a Circulation. Let us get busy amongst our own people and I am sure with an effort we can increase circulation. 12a

The 8 June meeting was adjourned til the following week, Thursday 15 June.

Thursday 15 June Perth Trades Hall

Attended the Adjourned Meeting of the Shareholders of the People's Printing & Publishing Company. Curtin's comments below were prompted from an issue raised by Mr Kelsall that W.A. should be adequately represented at the All Australian Trades Union Congress to discuss our position of the following two points:

1. The advisability of immediately entering a chain of Labor Dailies.
2. Going on as at presented with the ultimate view of entering the chain.
Mr Curtin - The All Australian Trades Union Congress decided that Labor Papers should alter their Articles of Association so as to become part of the proposed chain. This included Labor Papers Limited who were also asked to alter the Articles of Association to permit of this being done. Evidently the only thing done to date was to collect the 10/- levy...

Mrs Hogarth - It certainly would be no more difficult to alter the Articles of Association to-day than in the future.

Mr Curtin - I do not think that the All Australian Congress will help us any, but a Conference of the Labor Papers would materially assist. 12b

Sunday morning 2 July Princess Hall, Claremont
  Addresses the Bootmakers’ Union on the Labor Daily.13
Wednesday evening
2 August
Perth Trades Hall

Lectures to Labor Study Circle on 'Recent Strikes Reviewed.'

'All workers are urgently requested to attend.'14

Thursday 18 August Cottesloe

Abraham Needham (Elsie Curtin's father) aged c. 58 ca. 1918
JCPML.Records of the Curtin Family. Abraham Needham (Elsie Curtin's father) aged c. 58 ca 1918. JCPML00376/225

Death of father-in-law, Abraham Needham, from a heart attack, aged 62 years old.15

'The Metropolitan District Council of the ALF sent their condolences to the Curtin family on Needham’s death, paying tribute to his "great work … in the cause of humanity both by pen and voice."'16

John Francis Curtin remembers that his grandfather Abraham Needham:
'…died when I was about one or two. He had a big white beard. Must have been Father Christmas’ brother or something like that I suppose! Mum said that he’d hold me and I would look at him, you know, and play with his beard. And he’d whistle and I’d be thinking where is that noise? I can vaguely remember the hearse and the coffin. Horse-drawn, sort of going down Napier Street.'17

Friday 22 December
4 pm-9 pm
St James’ Hall, Aberdeen Street, Perth

Attends Labor Christmas Fete, and 'gave the show his benediction and support.'


By way of an experiment the WA Organisation of Labor Women lately organised a Christmas fete for workers' children. The committee set out to collect sufficient money to decorate a Christmas tree, and to provide supper and entertainment for at least 500 youngsters. This ambition was more than realised. All expenses were paid and over 600 kiddies were catered for!

… In addition to the "small fry" quite 400 adults put in an appearance. The Christmas tree, which at first was heavily laden, became in course of time denuded. Father Christmas, accompanied by his good wife Mother Christmas, went about distributing bounty with lavish hands. Foodstuffs in great variety and abundance were in evidence. The scene throughout was sparkling and animated. No Labor function of recent years has been more successful, more genial, more fraternal.

So pleased are the Labor Women, that it is their intention to promote similar gatherings in the near future for the juveniles.

Miss E Hooten, hon secretary of the Committee, writes: "'Will you allow me, on behalf of the Xmas Party Committee of the Labor Women's Organisation, to express our heart-felt thanks for the wonderful outburst of generous feeling which followed so quickly on our appeal for energy, money, and goods with which to promote Christmas joy for little children. Also to say that that same spirit of 'goodwill' should be the keynote of all Labor activities. Surely, if we could so join together to give pleasure to children for one day, we can continue that spirited effort in the economic field in order to so re-adjust conditions and social institutions as to ensure lasting peace and happiness in the long future. … When the happy co-operative spirit that works for children permeates the movement throughout nothing will obstruct the pathway of the Australian Labor Party." 

SOME SNAPSHOTS   By a Literary Photographer.  

Splendid work was done by a number of Engineers who installed electric fittings, with festooned lights, and worked out a design in streamers and balloons which was the admiration of everybody. … The General President (Sid Munsie) assisted by Mrs Munsie, churned out mince from a sausage-machine.   Dave Watson was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Emperor of the Xmas Tree.   Cecilia Shelley seemed to enjoy directing her indomitable spirit and energy along such a pleasant channel.   Charlie Cornish was described by an unblushing damsel of 12 as a "'man with a nice face, who is full of jokes."  Marion Greenough, as usual, talked down work and worked like a Trojan.   Jack Hogarth blew in with a box of dolls which he had collected. … Keaughran cutely told the young 'uns to watch the "dicky bird"' hopping out of the camera the while he "snapped" them.   Billy Fuhrman, King of the Kids, starred in "Jolly Miller" and "'Kiss in the Ring." … Father and Mother Xmas were as busy as bees. The face of "Father Xmas"' (who was quite sure he wouldn't be known) was a study when his youngest looked up at him and said, "'Hello Dad!" Harold Millington snatched half-an-hour from his busy office to gaze with sparkling eyes on the scene. Mrs Corboy, in her usual hearty way, presided over the refreshment department. … Jack Curtin gave the show his benediction and support. … A splendid spirit of harmony dominated everything and everybody.'18

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