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Thomas Glynn (1881–1934)

by Frank Cain

This article was published:

Thomas Glynn (1881-1934) journalist, dock labourer, Communist, gaoled IWW member

Birth: reputedly on 1 April 1881 in Clough, Galway, Ireland, son of John Glynn (1849-1906), farmer, and Mary, née Touhy (1854-1883). Marriage: (1) 7 February 1905 at Johannesburg, South Africa, to Delia Rochford. They had one son and one daughter and divorced in about 1915. (2) 24 December 1931 at Coogee, Sydney, New South Wales, to native-born Alicia Faulkner (1887-1872)). They had one daughter. Death: 3 December 1934 in the state hospital at Lidcombe, NSW. Religion: Catholic.

  • Arrived in Melbourne with his older brother Paddy about 1898. Served in the South African War with 1st Victorian Bushmen which left Melbourne on the Euryalus on 10 March 1900.
  • After war joined Natal Mounted Police. Was suspended & imprisoned for refusing to shoot a Zulu boy during Bambaata [Zulu] conflict of 1906, but escaped court-martial after intervention by the daughter of Bishop Colenso. Subsequently worked on Johannesburg tramways. Was Active in Tram Workers' Union. General secretary Industrial Workers' Union, Johannesburg. Advocated Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) methods and sought to align Union with Socialist Party of South Africa. Leader 1911 tramway strike; sentenced to three months gaol, but successfully appealed. Briefly edited Voice of Labor.
  • After visiting Ireland, Canada (working on Calgary wheat harvest) and United States, he worked his passage to NSW, arriving in Sydney on 28 September 1912 without his family.
  • In Sydney he became IWW activist and editor of Direct Action. With David Goldstein he travelled to South Africa in March 1914 in an unsuccessful attempt to encourage industrial unionism, returning October 1914.
  • One of "IWW Twelve" arrested in September 1916 and gaoled on the charge of conspiracy to commit arson. Sentenced by Judge R. S. Ping to fifteen years hard labour — reduced to ten years on appeal. Royal commissioner Justice R. K. Ewing found that Glyn had suffered sufficient punishment and he was released on 3 August 1920.
  • Active in formation of Communist Party of Australia. Edited Australian Communist. After resigning from CPA he assisted in the formation of Industrial Union Propaganda League.
  • Retired from public life and was a casual labourer on the docks. A public appeal in 1923 raised fund for his support. Said to be driving a lorry in Sydney, after having worked for a time as a taximan. From 1930 he wrote frequently for Sydney’s Labor Daily.
  • Endured a long illness and was partially paralysed prior to his death from chronic nephritis and myocarditis.

H. J. Gibbney & A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 2 (Canberra, 1987); Frank Cain, The Wobblies at war; A history of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne, 1993); Labor Call (Melbourne), 1 March 1917, p 9; Workers' Weekly, 7 December 1934, p 6.

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Citation details

Frank Cain, 'Glynn, Thomas (1881–1934)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Thomas Glynn, 1916

Thomas Glynn, 1916

Sydney Mail, 18 October 1916, p 7

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Life Summary [details]


1 April, 1881
Clough, Galway, Ireland


3 December, 1934 (aged 53)
Lidcombe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney 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.

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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.

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