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Falkingham, Thomas (1884–1957)

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Thomas Falkingham (1884-1957) boilermaker, gaoled trade union leader and politician 

Birth: 5 February 1884 at Armley, Leeds, Yorkshire, England, one of eleven children of Thomas Falkingham (1841-1889), labourer and “cart man”, and Anne, née Swales, charwoman (1846-1909). Marriage: 31 July 1914 at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Redfern, NSW, to native-born Nellie Crompton (1894-1954). They had two sons and one daughter. Death: 23 December 1957 at Rose Bay, NSW. 

  • Educated in Yorkshire, and was a boilermaker at Morley in Yorkshire in 1901. Worked in South Africa in 1906-1908.
  • Arrived in NSW 1908. Assistant secretary, Redfern branch of the Federated Society of Boilermakers and Iron Ship Builders of Australia [Boilermakers’ Union] 1920-32; secretary 1933-36; vice-president federal council 1917-1936.
  • Was one of the seven men charged in the “Port Lyttelton conspiracy’ or “Coffin ship” case. The trade unionists were charged with having conspired to pervert the course of justice by declaring the steamer Port Lytellton “black”. Judge Edwards refused to grant bail on remand so the defendants were imprisoned for two nights in Long Bay gaol before they were acquitted on 23 July 1924.
  • Executive member, Labor Council of NSW in 1927. Member of Hand’s Off China Committee, International Class War Prisoners Aid.
  • Prominent in Australian Labor Party from 1924 and sometime member of federal executive. Ally of J. S. Garden then member of J. T. Lang’s “inner group” with Jack Beasley. Unsuccessful in pre-selections for seat of East Sydney in February 1931 and Dalley in June 1931.
  • Appointed to the NSW Legislative Council in November 1931. Held seat until council reconstituted in 1934. Expelled with R. J. Heffron and others from ALP by special conference in August 1936.
  • Remained secretary of the Boilermaker’ Society, Redfern branch, into the 1940s.
  • His son Thomas (1915-1979) served in World War II and became a barrister and a workers compensation court judge.

Sources
Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Malcolm Henry Ellis, The red road: the story of the capture of the Lang party by Communists, instructed from Moscow (Sydney [1932]); A.L.P. Year Book / Australia Labor Party. New South Wales Branch, 1933; Labor Daily, 13 Jan 1937, p 8.

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Citation details

'Falkingham, Thomas (1884–1957)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/falkingham-thomas-32712/text40661, accessed 6 December 2022.

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