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Charles John (Charlie) Franklin (1883–1957)

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Charles John Leonard (Charlie) Franklin (1883-1957) railway employee, trade union official, Communist and versifier. 

Birth: 19 August 1883 at Numurkah, Victoria, eldest child of John Taylor Franklin (1853-1895), a miner, later a clerk, born at Bickenhall, Somerset, England, and Gertrude Alicia, née Schlitz (1853-1944), born at Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Marriage: 17 September 1927 in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, to native-born May Arthur (1892-1969) They had one son. Death: 12 September 1957 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, usual residence Mooltan St, Flemington. Religion: buried with Catholic rites. 

  • His father died when Charlie was 11. His mother Gertrude ran the Albert Hotel, West Footscray, in 1890-1893, later became a storekeeper at Cassilis, Gippsland. Later the family moved to North Melbourne.
  • Charlie joined the Victorian railway service in May 1911. While tending engines at Williamstown Depot during World War I, he produced pamphlet, The Footplate, condemning imperialist war.
  • Active in Movement against War and Fascism in 1930s and joined the Communist Party of Australia. His house was raided during World War II.
  • Secretary of Victorian Branch of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen (AFULE) for nine years, also treasurer, and vice-president. President of Victorian Division AFULE 1943-1945. Representative on Australian Council of Trade Unions; also served as member of federal executive.
  • Established socialist library at union and ensured that union steering committee was established to run the railways should capitalist system collapse.
  • Retired 1948. Cause of death coronary occlusion and coronary sclerosis.
  • Wrote stirring verse, published in union journal, including his epitaph:

Stand four square in labour’s cause
Spread the Gospel without pause
Do the right thing by your mate.
Go forward, do not hesitate.
Never say it can’t be done.
Fall back, but never turn and run
Follow the ‘Social Justice’ path
Let this be my Epitaph 

Locomotive Journal
, 10 October 1957, March/April 1986; Traction, July 1982.

Citation details

'Franklin, Charles John (Charlie) (1883–1957)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


19 August, 1883
Numurkah, Victoria, Australia


12 September, 1957 (aged 74)
Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism