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George Arthur (Doc) Doyle (1905–1955)

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George Arthur (‘Doc’) Doyle (1905-1955) clerk, Communist and trade union official 

Birth: 10 September 1905 at Port Melbourne, Victoria, son of native-born parents Martin Robert Doyle (1876-1933), a clerk of Irish descent, and Christina Margaret, née Sangster (1881-1940). Marriage: 1935 to Dorothy Irene Collions. Death: 21 September 1955 at his sister’s residence, North Williamstown, Victoria. 

  • Possessed ‘labour aristocratic connections’ as grandson of George Sangster, Labor member for Port Melbourne 1895-1915.
  • One of first jobs was in insurance office but he was laid off during Depression and found work on the Melbourne waterfront.
  • Enlisted in Australian Imperial Force on 12 December 1941 and served with the 6th Labour Company and the 6th Employment Company at Caulfield, Victoria, and Tocumwal, New South Wales, reaching the rank of acting-sergeant. Discharged on 17 February 1943 on grounds of having a reserved occupation. One source states that he was compelled by manpower legislation to return to waterfront.
  • Secretary of Victorian branch of Federated Ship, Painters and Dockers’ Union from 1939 to 1952, acquiring nickname ‘Doc’ ‘on account of his learning which was deemed relatively advanced by his humble and unlettered colleagues’.
  • Introduced roster system of recruitment. Encouraged entry of criminals to ranks of painters and dockers, either because of commitment to view that men who had ‘done their time’ deserved second chance, or because of his own involvement with Melbourne’s underworld.
  • During coal miners’ strike of 1949 Doyle was arrested and fined for distributing pamphlets. In 1951 he and the union’s vigilance officer Jim Donegan were prosecuted for hindering transport with other countries during a New Zealand waterside workers’ strike. The charges were eventually dismissed.
  • He was one of the four hundred persons named as members of the Communist Party of Australia in Justice Lowe’s Victorian Royal Commission into Communism in 1949-1950.
  • While seriously ill, he was expelled from the CPA in November 1952, for “gross anti-working-class conduct”. Donegan became union secretary and continued his recruitment policy, later uncovered by the Costigan royal commission of the 1980s.

Lew Hillier, Meet the ship: painters & dockers (St Kilda, 1981); Richard Morris, ‘The incorrigible waterfront and its decline’ in Labour History, No 55 (November 1988) pp 77-79.

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'Doyle, George Arthur (Doc) (1905–1955)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

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