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Patrick James (Paddy) Drew (1882–1958)

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Drew, Patrick James (Paddy) (1882-1958) sheet metal worker, trade union official and Communist activist 

Birth: 4 May 1882 at Hobart, Tasmania, son of native-born parents John Drew (1861-1912), tinsmith and Fenian supporter, and Hester Maria Louisa Lewis (1863-1888), a clothing and boot-upper machinist. Marriage: 1921 at Ryde, New South Wales, to Ruby Gladys Shields (1894-1970). They had three daughters and one son. Death: 16 January 1958 at Rockdale, NSW. Religion: none. 

  • Described himself in 1942 as “self-educated”, according to another report he went to work at the age of 6, “helping his grandmother to clean offices, beat carpets, polish linoleum and brass plates . . . at 7 years he bought a Marcus Ward copy-book to learn to write. His finishing school was before the hoardings of Bland Holt’s theatrical shows and Fitzgerald’s Circus, the sailing announcements of windjammers, where he spelled over the words”.
  • Began six-year apprenticeship as sheet metal worker in 1895 and worked, in course of working life, for more than eighty employers in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Went to New Zealand in 1903. Foundation member of Christchurch Sheet Metal Workers’ Union.
  • In 1905 demanded his union support Russian workers who stormed the Tsar’s winter palace. From that time onwards always wore a scarlet red tie.
  • Settled in Sydney about 1911. Joined Australian Socialist Party that year. Served Sheet Metal Workers Union in many executive positions, including as trustee.
  • Joined Communist Party of Australia at its foundation in 1920 and was it unsuccessful candidate for the State seat of Sydney at the May 1925 elections, retaining sense of humour despite poor performances. Asked how many votes he secured, he reputedly replied, ‘Sixteen, brother — four more than Christ had to start with’. Also stood as CPA candidate for Barton in September 1934 State election.
  • Mentor of Tom Wright. Occasionally wrote short stories for Red Leader.
  • Reporting that he had served part time for ten years in the militia artillery, he enlisted for service in World War II on 25 March 1942, putting his age down by six years. Served part time in the Volunteer Defence Corps with the New South Wales 10th Battalion (1943–44), 11th Battalion (1944–45), and Sydney Fixed Defences Battalion (1945), in the last reportedly as an artillery fuse-setter. Was discharged in September 1945 when the VDC was disbanded.
  • In 1945 his house was raided by security, though he was in the VDC’s Sydney Fixed Defences Battalion, serving as a part-time gunner in an anti-aircraft battery.
  • A ‘small, wiry, softly spoken man’. Retired at the aged of 70.

Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from origins to illegality (Sydney, 1998); The Sheet Metal Worker, October 1947, February 1958; information from Audrey Johnson, 1990; Len Fox, Broad Left Narrow Left (Chippendale, 1982).

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Citation details

'Drew, Patrick James (Paddy) (1882–1958)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Patrick Drew, 1944

Patrick Drew, 1944

Tribune (Sydney), 8 June 1944, p 4

Life Summary [details]


4 May, 1882
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


16 January, 1958 (aged 75)
Rockdale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.

Military Service
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