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Roland Thomas (Rowley) Farrall (1893–1966)

This article was published:

Rowley Farrall, n.d.

Rowley Farrall, n.d.

Farrall, Roland Thomas Joseph (Rowley) also known as Joseph Phillips (1893-1966) carpenter, gaoled IWW member, Communist and social activist 

Birth: 16 June 1893 at Cobram, Victoria, son of native-born Harry Hussey Farrall (1854-1946), carpenter, and Elizabeth Emma (Emma), née Nixon (1862-1939), a milliner. Marriage: 1926 in Victoria to Agnes Jane (Jean) Garvie (1886-1973), born at Coghills Creek, Victoria. Death: 25 December 1966 at Prahran, Melbourne. 

  • Brought up at Cobram, Victoria, where he attended Cobram State School.
  • Anti-conscriptionist and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) member during World War I. Claimed that IWW did more in a year to alter class consciousness of workers than other militant groups had done in ten years.
  • Distributed fake bank notes in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, abusing skeptical publican, arrested under the name of Joseph Phillips and sentenced to imprisonment for three years.
  • Active in Melbourne and Sydney Locals of IWW, but peripatetic and also spread IWW propaganda in Queensland meatworks.
  • In 1931 his brother Herbert (Bert) Farrell (1891-1931), was one of the eight victims of the Southern Cloud plane tragedy.
  • Demagogic orator who later joined Communist Party of Australia but did not like party’s ‘reduction of his colourful style’.
  • Longstanding member of Building Workers’ Industrial Union of Australia, and widely respected for work as shop steward at W. C. Burne job at Bandiana, during World War II.
  • Helped bind first copies of Frank Hardy’s Power without Glory. 23 October 1966 joined Arthur Calwell, Mrs Doris Blackburn and Dr Jim Cairns on podium for anti-conscription rally, Richmond Town Hall to commemorate 50th anniversary of first anti-conscription campaign.
  • Cousin of ‘Fish Fingers Fred’ Farrall who did not have high opinion of him: ‘a contradiction of his political views, having no respect for other people, least of all his wife, Jean, who was frequently a victim of Roly’s drunkedness. “But he was a character”’.
  • Cause of death: bronchopneumonia, myocardial ischaemia, generalised arteriosclerosis and cerebral ischaemia.

Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia (Melbourne 1995); Frank Cain, The wobblies at war: a history of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne, 1993); Tribune, 10 January 1967; The Carpenter and Joiner, August 1967.

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'Farrall, Roland Thomas (Rowley) (1893–1966)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

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