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Thomas (Tom) Batho (1869–1932)

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Thomas Batho (1869-1932) printer and Socialist activist 

Birth: 6 July 1869, Chester, England, son of Thomas Batho, joiner, and Margaret Annie, née Phoenix, dressmaker. Marriage: (1) 1885 at Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, to Alice Jane Humphreys (d.1915). They had four daughters and four sons; (2) 1923 at Glebe, to Lenora Annie Barrett (d.1945). Death: 17 June 1932 in hospital at Randwick, Sydney. Religion: Baptist. 

  • 1881 arrived Port Mackay, Queensland; worked in iron foundry, then as whitewasher and shop assistant, then as apprentice compositor with Mackay Standard.
  • To Sydney 1884, worked as compositor. Radicalised by events of 1890 maritime strike. Joined Leichhardt Labor Electoral League and Australian Socialist League (ASL) 1891. Worked for election of Labor candidates at 1891 election; assisted in publication of The New Order in support of Labor 'Solidarity-ites' during 1894 election; subsequently became disillusioned with Labor parliamentarians.
  • Bespectacled, typically unshaven, scruffy and dishevelled; reputedly drew gun on a Labor parliamentary candidate soliciting ASL support. Long-time member of ASL/Socialist Labor Party general committee.
  • In 1894, with Harry Holland, began producing ASL's weekly paper, The Socialist, from his Leichhardt home; 1896 summonsed, with Holland, for criminal libel by Joseph Creer, director of the State Labour Bureau (for which Holland was convicted and sentenced to three months imprisonment).
  • In November 1896, with Holland, moved newspaper operation and family to Newcastle at invitation of Hunter district miners, renaming paper The Northern People (The People and Collectivist from 1898, The People from 1899), producing paper under conditions of near poverty. Returned to Sydney, with printing operation and family, at end of 1900.
  • Member of Waterloo Branch of ASL/Socialist Labor Party (SLP). In 1902-1916 edited The People for SLP in semi-'honorary' capacity; effort to keep paper going caused breakdown in health in late 1909.
  • In 1914 given press as part payment for years of unpaid labour; left editorship after imposition of heavy wartime censorship.
  • SLP candidate for Senate 1906 & 1913; candidate for NSW seat of Belmore 1907. Supported SLP’s embrace of De Leonism and alignment with United States SLP. Associate of SLP leaders James Moroney and Ernest Judd. 1907, represented SLP at Socialist Unity Conference with Moroney; opposed move to amalgamate with Victorian Socialist Party and other socialist bodies. With J. O. Moroney, travelled to Broken Hill, West Wallsend and South Maitland to address miners on IWWism.
  • Virtually blind by 1919 having spent most of his adult life in penury producing papers for the ASL/SLP. Used nom de plume ‘The Vag’.
  • Produced several influential pamphlets, including: The Privileged Loafer, 1902; The Iron Law of Supply and Demand, 1904; Socialism and Churchianity, 1904; The Two Wars (with E.E. Judd) 1914; Random Ramblings, 1916. Most published anonymously.
  • An invalid pensioner, he died of cancer of the oesophagus.

The People
, 8 Jan. 1910, 18 Jan. 1913 & Jan. 1916; Labor Call, 18 July & 3 April 1918, & 22 May 1919; Revolutionary Socialist, 2 July 1921; Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, (Sydney, 1985); information from F. Cain, 1992; R. Sharpe MA thesis, 2003.

Additional Resources

  • tribute, Labor Daily (Sydney), 2 July 1932, p 6

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Batho, Thomas (Tom) (1869–1932)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • The Vag

6 July, 1869
Chester, Cheshire, England


17 June, 1932 (aged 62)
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (oesophageal)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Political Activism