Diary of a Labour Man 1917- 1945


1925 Editor of the 'Westralian Worker'



Tuesday evening
20 January


Detail of George Ryce and Curtin at the 11th State Labor Congress Perth 1922
Detail from conference photo showing George Ryce, second row from front, second from right, and John Curtin behind him.

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, Folio box 82.

Attends a meeting of the State Executive of the ALP.

The meeting included 'lengthy discussion to the situation which has developed in respect to the resolution of the Fremantle branch of the Seamen’s Union declaring Mr J Curtin (editor of the "Westralian Worker" and trustee of the State Executive)"black" for having refused to publish a letter in the "Westralian Worker" which he considered to contain libels and misrepresentations respecting the States Disputes Committee and other Laborites.'1

[Read a full report of this meeting in the Westralian Worker 23 January, 1925].

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The Federated Seamen’s Union with the support of the waterside workers declared a ship 'black' for using non-union, non-European labour. Curtin became involved when he refused to publish an article written by George Ryce, a member of the FSU executive, which accused the Westralian Worker of quoting 'lies printed in the capitalistic newspapers against the seamen.' 2 The union declared Curtin ‘black’ (meaning it would not carry him on any ship). Curtin regretted his decision not to publish Ryce’s article and was hurt at being considered an 'industrial Ishmael.' 3

The Argus newspaper publishes a poem on the blacklisting of Curtin.

'Oh, draw down the blinds of the sanctum sanctorum
And let no stray sunbeam steal in through a crack
If people ring; up on the 'phone, just ignore ‘em
The glory's departed; the editor's black.' 3a

[Read the full poem in the Argus newspaper 3 January, 1925 p5].

Saturday evening,
31 January


Percy J Trainer, December 1922
JCPML. Records of the Curtin Family. Percy J. Trainer, December 1922. JCPML00450/5

Attends a presentation smoke social held by the Fremantle Branch of the Plumbers’ Union. Presentation to Mr P. Trainer.

'Mr J Coran the president of the local branch, officiated as chairman and intimated, in the course of his remarks, that it was the unanimous desire of the members that some recognition should be given to Mr Trainer for the successful work he had performed for the union hence the social and the presentation that would be made later in the evening.

Responding to the toast of "The Perth Visitors," Mr A Wilson (president of the Perth Plumbers' Union) expressed pleasure at being present at the function, and testified to the exceptional ability Mr Trainer had displayed as secretary and organiser of their particular industry; he also referred to the important work accomplished when their guest organised and eventually amalgamated the Sheet Metal Workers into the Plumbers' organisation. Every member of the union appreciated Mr Trainer's services as a tactful and successful negotiator, and he concluded by saying that it was the intention of the Perth branch to also suitably recognise their secretary's valued services.

Responding to the toast of "Parliament" Messrs W H Kitson and F Gray, M'sLC, both referred to the great services rendered to the Labor Government in WA by Mr Trainer as union secretary, organiser, adviser, and advocate in the Arbitration Court, the latter predicting that their guest, who was in every way competent and capable, would be called upon to fill, in the future, the highest positions in the Movement.

Mr J Curtin made the presentation on behalf of the members. He congratulated them on the suitability of the presentation – a handsome dinner service of 75 pieces – and on their recognition of Mr Trainer's work. It would, he said, help to recompense Mrs Trainer for the long absences from home entailed in the work of any capable, energetic Labor officer.

Mr Trainer thanked the members of the union for their valuable presentation, and also the various speakers for the complimentary references to himself. A comprehensive toast list was carried out, interspersed with musical items …' 4

'Percy Trainer (c. 1886-1947) arrived in Western Australia shortly before the First World War (see Westralian Worker 15 August 1947). He was active in the Coachbuilders’ Union before serving as State Secretary of the ALP in Western Australia from 1933 until he went to the Arbitration Court as Employees’ Representative in 1941-42.' 5

Saturday evening 28 March

Bunbury, Western Australia
  Gives a public talk in the street. 6

Sunday morning 29 March

Bunbury, Western Australia

Frank Anstey c1930. JCPML00653/8/84
JCPML. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Frank Anstey c1930. JCPML00653/8/84

Attends the quarterly meeting of the South-West District Council, at the urgent request of officers of the State Executive. Mr Curtin had been billed to speak at Queen's Hall, Perth, but Mr Clementson acted as substitute speaker in his stead. 7

'Mr Frank Anstey, MHR,
Howard Street ,

Dear Frank,

Last Sunday night I was billed to speak at the Queen's Hall, in Perth, and on the Thursday night an urgent telegram came from Bunbury to the effect that at the instigation of Ryce and his colleagues, the South-West Council ALP had called a mass meeting of unionists, so that the whole matter might be thrashed out. I was invited by the Lumpers' Union to be present. I knew that whatever be the explanation for my absence, it would be misconstrued, so I had to go to the Queen's Hall meeting people, make the most humble apologies, find a substitute, and, that done, telegraph Bunbury that I would be there even though the heavens fell.

The sequel there is as it has been everywhere. The enemy failed to turn up. He discovered urgent and unexpected business compelling attention in Perth; and, of course, however much the audience may have been satisfied with what I had to say, it would have been infinitely preferable that my case should have been tested by the presence and contradictions of Ryce. However, so that the time would be occupied to advantage, I addressed three meetings - a public talk in the street on the Saturday night, a discussion with the members of the Council on the Sunday, and an indoor public meeting on the Sunday night. Each of these experiences was entirely satisfactory; that is to say, so far as I could judge the disposition of the audience, they were perfectly friendly, appeared to have entire confidence in the correctness of my statements, and, indeed, developed no little enthusiasm for the fight which is ahead.

Yours faithfully,

[ John Curtin]' 8

Frank Anstey (1865-1940) was a fellow journalist and Member of the Victorian Parliament from 1902-1910. He was a Member of the House of Representatives for Bourke from 1910-1934 and a minister in the Scullin Labor Government from 1929-1934.9

Sunday evening 29 March Bunbury, Western Australia

Addresses an indoor public meeting. 10

See Tuesday 20 January. The ALP passed a resolution calling the FSU to rescind its resolution declaring Curtin ‘black’. No reply was received from the FSU and the union was threatened with being 'placed outside the ALP' unless it responded. No satisfactory action was taken and the Party expelled Ryce, the FSU and its executive, though the union was subsequently readmitted.11

c. Friday 29 May Cottesloe, Western Australia
  Suffers an attack of gastritis, has to relinquish work and is confined to his room for a fortnight. 12
Wednesday 10 June Fremantle

Fremantle Public Hospital 1920
Fremantle Public Hospital 1920.
Courtesy Fremantle City Library Local History Collection, Photo No. LH001231B

Attends a meeting of the Fremantle Hospital Board where a cheque for £530 was presented to the Board from the recent Labor Carnival effort.13

Wednesday 24 June Perth Trades Hall

Attends the meeting of the Shareholders of the People's Printing and Publishing Company. This was the first meeting since the death of Mr J.B. Holman in February 1925, founder of the company and Chairman of the Board of Directors for 15 years. From this meeting Mr Willcock stood in as Chair.

Mr Curtin moved, and Mr Davidson seconded a hearty vote of thanks be accorded the Directors who have guarded faithfully the position of the 'Worker', while having been cautious they have still forged ahead with a bold and vigorous policy. He joined with the others in paying tribute to the late Chairman who worked hard and successfully in the interests of the company. He deeply appreciated all that had been said on behalf of the staff, all of whom had done well.

Also mentioned at the meeting was Curtin's selection to contest the Seat of Perth.

Mr Hickey moved, Mr Millington seconded, that this Meeting of Directors and Shareholders offer their congratulations to Messrs. Curtin and Clementson on being selected to contest seats at the forthcoming Federal Election and wished them every success at the poll. 13a

Tuesday 7 July to
c. Friday 10 July
Unity Theatre, Perth

Delegates to the Australian Labor Party (WA Branch) Triennial Congress, 1925
Conference photograph. John Curtin is seated 3rd row, 3rd from right.

JCPML. Records of Selby Munsie. Delegates to the Australian Labor Party (WA Branch) Triennial Congress, 1925.

Attends Sixth General Council (twelfth Labor Congress) of the Australian Labor Party, WA Branch (as delegate for the Australian Workers' Union State Executive affliliation) and speaks in favour of a resolution being adopted banning Communists from membership of the party. 14

Monday evening 20 July Miller’s Restaurant, probably in Fremantle

Attends a function held by the Fremantle Labor Women’s Organisation to farewell their retiring secretary, Mrs E. Mannion.

'A tasteful programme of musical and elocutionary items was presented. Supper was served at 10 o’clock, and dancing concluded a very enjoyable and memorable evening. ....

Mrs Green, Messrs J Curtin, P G McMahon and E H Gray, MLC also spoke in congratulatory terms of the guest of the evening.

The presentation took the form of a gold brooch, suitably inscribed.

Mrs Mannion, who was received with applause, thanked all present for their kind remarks and presentation. She was, she said, grateful that Mrs Beadle had taken the trouble to come from Perth to be present that evening, and recalled with pleasure the many years they had worked together. "It has been stated this evening," said Mrs Mannion," that I am in the habit of calling a spade a spade; but if I have ever said anything harsh to anyone, I have always been actuated with the highest motive, and with always the idea of doing my best for the Labor Movement.’'' 15

Sunday 23 August  

Attends the Annual General Meeting of the WA District of the Australian Journalists' Association.

Resigns as President to stand for the Fremantle seat in the House of Representatives. Mr Curtin had been chairman of the district for five years. 16

Curtin was urged to stand for Parliament by friend, Frank Anstey (1865-1940) a fellow journalist and Member of the Victorian Parliament from 1902-1910, and Member of the House of Representatives for Bourke 1910-1934. He was a minister in the Scullin Labor Government from 1929-1934.17

Anstey wrote that, 'if you want to see something being accomplished before you die or I die. Buckle on your armour and if there is anything in the way fall upon it & march on. I want you. Your voice, Your vigor. Your talents. I want your full views to help secure a triumph for the Party – that you could do as much perhaps as editor as candidate. There is something more important than that. I want you inside to make sure that the principles for which the party is supposed to stand shall also be triumphant & not be submerged by undertakers, facilitators and quitters. Now John dear do not tell me any more about not caring. Go and win. Not for yourself but for all those [who] "Sacrifice for the mob"– you know the rest.' 18

c. Friday 11 September Perth


Takes part in a deputation to the Minister for Works to request that a Sawmilling Industry Regulation Bill be introduced into Parliament this session, as 'serious injuries are being sustained every week by workers and lives are being lost…' 19
Monday 19 October Jolimont and Wembley Park
  Attends and speaks at a Federal election meeting. 20
Tuesday 20 October West Leederville, Western Australia
  Attends and speaks at a Federal election meeting. 21
Thursday 22 October Rosemount Hotel, North Perth
  Attends and speaks at a Federal election meeting. 22
Friday 23 October Oxford and Newcastle Street, Leederville

Attends and speaks at a Federal election meeting. 23

Monday evening 26 October

Memorial Hall, Hamilton Hill
  Addresses the electors of Hamilton Hill as the Labor candidate for Fremantle. 24

Wednesday evening
4 November

Princess Theatre

Addresses meeting. 'People are rolling up in large numbers to hear the Fremantle Labor candidate, Mr John Curtin, present his case.' 25

Thursday 12 November 3pm

Town Hall, Fremantle

Addresses a meeting of ladies. 'Laborites are requested to do their utmost to persuade their womenfolk to attend this gathering.' 26

Saturday 14 November Election Day

Portrait of William Watson. National Library of Australia: nla.pic-23515099
Portrait of William Watson. Photograph by Nash Boothby.
Courtesy National Library of Australia: nla.pic-23515099.

Fails to gain the seat of Fremantle. Curtin secured 14,253 votes to Independent National William Watson’s 19,605. 27

Saturday 5 December Perth
  Leaves for Melbourne and is absent for a month. 28
Saturday 5 December –
c.Tuesday 5 January 1926
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