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Conlon, Francis John (Frank) (1885–1954)

by Barbara Webster

This article was published:

Francis John Patrick (known as ‘Frank’ or FJP’) Conlon (1885-1954) carter, trade union leader 

Birth: 23 March 1885 in Rockhampton, Queensland, son of James Conlon (1843-1891), a butcher born in County Clare, Ireland, and Emma, née Perkins (1848-1929), born in Staffordshire, England. Marriage: 17 April 1913 in Rockhampton to Sarah Sisman. They had no children. Death: 7 March 1954 in hospital at Rockhampton. Religion: Baptist. 

  • Conlon devoted his life to the industrial and political wings of the Rockhampton labour movement.
  • Began working life as a carter. Inaugural member of Carters and Storemen's Union 1911. Vice-president and president of Rockhampton Sub-Branch of Federated Carters and Drivers' Union and secretary from 1915. Full-time permanent secretary from 1921 (when union became the Amalgamated Road Transport Workers' Union/Transport Workers' Union) until retirement due to ill health in 1953. State ARTWU president during 1930s and federal councillor.
  • A staunch supporter of conciliation and arbitration and talented court room advocate for the union. Conlon's dictum: 'My job is to keep members of my union in work: strikes don't pay’, characterised his conservative approach to industrial relations. Vigilantly policed awards and union rules and maintained strict control over, and discipline of union members.
  • Secretary of the Rockhampton Trades Hall board of management 1922-1926 and 1932-1953 and president 1926-1932.
  • Active member of Eight-Hour/Labour Day celebration committee until early 1930s. Inaugural secretary of the first Rockhampton Industrial Council in 1917 and active in several subsequent but short-lived councils during the 1920s.
  • Union delegate to Rockhampton Trades and Labour Council from its formation in 1938, president from early 1940s until dumped in 1951 by ultra-right wing forces which dominated the council until its collapse in 1956 as part of the Labor Split in Queensland.
  • Member of Rockhampton Workers' Political Organisation, later president of Allenstown Branch of Fitzroy Australian Labor Party for 38 years. Delegate to Capricornia Divisional Executive of ALP.
  • Unsuccessfully contested Rockhampton City Council elections in early 1920s on ALP ticket. Deputy Chairman of Rockhampton Hospitals Board and member of Rockhampton Harbour Board.
  • Also active in masonic lodge and Manchester Unity friendly society.

Queensland Marriages Register 81/1913; obituary, Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 9 March 1954, p 3 []; B. Webster, PhD thesis, 1999.

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Citation details

Barbara Webster, 'Conlon, Francis John (Frank) (1885–1954)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 January 2023.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012