People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Thomas Robert (Tommy) Clarke (1883–1941)

This article was published:

Thomas Robert (Tommy) Clarke (c.1883-1941) wharf labourer and trade union official 

Birth: 29 January 1883 at Williamstown, Victoria, son of Walter Richardson Clarke (1847-1924), a butcher, born at Hobart, Tasmania, and Christina, née McFarlane (1860-1932), born at Sandridge, Victoria. Marriage: 1912 at Parkdale, Victoria, to a native-born divorcée with two children Elizabeth, née Clark, late Evans (1878-1965), a waitress. They had one son. Death: 27 November 1941 in hospital at Heidelberg, Victoria; usual residence Acacia Street, Box Hill. 

  • Paternal grandfather Thomas Clarke senior (1785-1840), a brassfounder, born in Surrey, England, arrived in Hobart as a convict aboard the Governor Ready in July 1827. He married Maratha Jane Holmes, daughter of the convicts John Holmes and Eleanor Marshall.
  • Tommy was a waterside worker active on the Melbourne waterfront.
  • Vigilance office with the Port Phillip branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation in 1917, winning entitlements for wharfies re ‘back-time’, leading ‘lazy strike’ of 1920, and 1926 dispute refusing overtime while 1917 scabs still employed on Sydney waterfront.
  • Encouraged workers to reject the ‘pernicious and vicious’ Beeby award in 1928, leading the Port Phillip branch to salutary defeat — ‘we were all smashed to bloody pieces’.
  • He was driven off the waterfront, and employers subsequently taunted WWF members, ‘You can tell “Tommy” Clarke that peace is restored on the Melbourne waterfront at last’.
  • His occupation on later electoral rolls was given as “union official”. His death notice described him as “late of the defunct Stevedoring Company”. The death certificate gave his occupation as gardener.
  • Cause of death: cachexia (weeks), carcinoma of pyloris of stomach (years), visceral metastases (months) and necrosis of abdominal wall.

Maritime Worker
, 14 February 1942; Wendy Lowenstein and Tom Hills, Under the Hook – Melbourne Waterside Workers Remember Working Class Lives and Class War: 1900-1980 (Melbourne, 1982).

Citation details

'Clarke, Thomas Robert (Tommy) (1883–1941)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012