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Ernest James (Ernie) Foyle (1921–2000)

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Ernest James (Ernie) Foyle (1921-2000) plasterer, trade unionist and community activist

Birth: 26 September 1921 at St. Peters, Sydney, New South Wales, son of native-born parents Ernest Joseph Foyle (1895-1922), sawyer and labourer, and Thelma Mary Lindsay (1897-1877). Marriages: (1) 1944 at Randwick, Sydney, to Gwenda Arkinstall, a fellow member of the Communist Party of Australia. They had three daughters and three sons. (2) to Margaret Bettison. Death: 6 August 2000 at Randwick, Sydney. Religion: none. 

  • Educated in Chippendale. His father died when Ernest was an infant and his mother later remarried. Left school in his early teenage years during the Depression. Eventually found work as a chicken plucker at Glazebrook & Sons in Double Bay 1935-41. Joined the Australian League of Labour Youth and later the Communist Party of Australia.
  • Having previously served as a gunner in the Citizen Military Forces he enlisted in Australian Imperial Force on 8 December 1941. Served as a stretcher-bearer in the 2nd 11th Australian Field Ambulance in the Middle East, New Guinea and Tarakan. Discharged on 10 January 1946.
  • Participated in Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme learning trade of plasterer, post-war.
  • Activist in Plasterers' Union during Cold War and was its delegate to the Trades and Labor Council. A proponent of peace, he campaigned against the spread of nuclear weapons and protested against the Vietnam war as a member of the Australian Labor Party, which he had joined in the 1960s. A member of the Clovelly branch of the ALP, he was president for one term.
  • In later years he campaigned for Aboriginal rights and was actively involved in campaigns for Aboriginal reconciliation. Raised funds for Tranby Aboroginal Co-operative College. Had a keen interest in environmental matters.
  • Member of Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.

Interview with Allyson Holbrook 1994; 2 interviews with Paul Tracey [about his involvement in chicken processing at Double Bay Glazebrooks], undated and 17 September 1995; interview with Beverley Symons.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Foyle, Ernest James (Ernie) (1921–2000)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012