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Alfred Charles (Alf) Cullen (1899–1969)

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Alfred Charles (Alf) Cullen (1899-1969) machinist, tramway employee and trade union official. 

Birth: January 1899 at South Melbourne, Victoria, youngest of seven children of native-born parents Francis Patrick Cullen (1858-1942), labourer, later farmer, and Mary Jane, née Whitehead. Marriage: 1920 at Melbourne, to Christina Marjory Hunter (1901-1979), born in Alloa, Clackmannan, Scotland. They had one daughter and two sons. Death: 15 April 1969 at Northcote, Victoria. 

  • Was working as a grocer at Cockatoo Creek, in Gippsland, in 1915.
  • Put his age up two years and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 4 September 1915. Was discharged, before leaving Australia, on 31 October 1915, following a letter from his mother, who wrote “I cannot let him go, I have three other sons over at the Dardanelles & all have been wounded.” [One of them, Frederick, was to be killed in action in Belgium serving with the 14th Battalion on 19 October 1917.]
  • On 11 March 1916 Cullen re-enlisted under a false name (Christopher Patrick), again putting his age up. He served in France and Belgium with the 58th Battalion and after an eventful war service returned to Australia and was discharged in Melbourne on 4 October 1919. While in uniform, he had not responded well to military discipline and, when not in the front line, had often been in trouble for absenting himself without leave. After the dreadful battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917, he was court martialled for being absent for a period of weeks. Back with his battalion, he took part in the fighting in 1918. He was one of some fifty men from the small Cockatoo Creek district who had served in World War I.

  • Cullen became a tramway body maker, later machinist and leading hand. He worked in the Melbourne tramway service for 41 years. Delegate, Preston tramway workshops. Sometime vice-president, he was president of Victorian branch of the Australian Tramways and Motor Omnibus Employees’ Association in 1947 and 1948, an ally of the union’s general secretary Clarrie O’Shea. Cullen was councillor and representative on the Melbourne Trades Hall Council for 28 years.
  • President of Tramway Mutual Benefits Society for 7 years.
  • Helped form and build Preston Tramway Workshops inter-union shop committee. Led union through 60-day stoppage in 1950. Member of the Australian Labor Party from about 1927, seeing himself as ALP ‘Progressive’, though after retirement assisted production of Vanguard.
  • Accused by Cecil Sharpley of being a Communist, he appeared at the 1949 Royal Commission into Communism in Australia, where he cross-examined Sharpley, and stated that he had never been a member of the Communist Party of Australia, though “he had been a left-wing member of the ALP since his return from the last war”.
  • Cause of death: acute myocardial infarction, coronary sclerosis and hypertensive vascular disease.

Sources
Tramway Record
, 14 June 1946, January 1964, January 1965, May 1969, July 1969.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Cullen, Alfred Charles (Alf) (1899–1969)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/cullen-alfred-charles-alf-33219/text41441, accessed 2 March 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Alf Cullen, 1949

Alf Cullen, 1949

Herard (Melbourne), 11 August 1949, p 2

Life Summary [details]

Birth

January, 1899
South Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Death

15 April, 1969 (aged 70)
Northcote, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Occupation
Military Service
Key Events
Key Organisations
Political Activism