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Thomas James (Tom) Graham (1904–1998)

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Jock Graham, n.d.

Jock Graham, n.d.

Thomas James (Tom or 'Jock') Graham (1904-1998) blacksmiths striker, trade union official and Communist

Birth: 24 December 1904 at Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of Thomas Graham (1881-1918), railway labourer, and Lavinia, née Pickering (1883-1973). Both parents had been born at Bellaghy, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Marriage: 17 February 1930 at St Philip’s church, Newcastle, New South Wales, to Margaret Drummond Goodall (1904-1978). They had two daughters and one son. Death: 16 July 1998 in a nursing home at Hamilton, Newcastle, NSW. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Of Irish stock — family emigrated to Scotland searching for work in Glasgow. Tom’s father served in the British Army in World War I.
  • As a youth he listened to John McLean, general secretary of the Scottish Socialist Party, on Glasgow Green. Joined Hammerman’s Union, working in workshops at Glasgow, aged 14.
  • Migrated from Scotland to New South Wales aboard the RMS Orvieto which arrived in Sydney on 9 May 1924. He found work at Newcastle, first at Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd and later as a railway porter.
  • After three years of unemployment (1930-1933), campaigning for the Unemployed Workers Movement, and participating in Clara Street riot, he was an ironworker in the blacksmith’s shop at BHP.
  • Sacked for encouraging co-workers to join the union and at Stewart and Lloyd’s, his cards marked ‘Never to be re-employed’.
  • By the mid-1930s his employment (with Commonwealth Steel, then State Dockyard) was stabilised and he was elected job delegate.
  • Joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1938 and successfully proselytised at State Dockyards, producing monthly bulletin, The Slipway. Elected as organiser for Federated Ironworkers’ Association in 1946 but was defeated in 1949 by a right wing candidate. Remained an active member of CPA for more than fifty years, holding meetings of the Hamilton branch at his home.
  • Tom was a vigorous supporter of the 40-hour week campaign, an opponent of the groupers, and an active member of Newcastle's New Left Theatre.
  • Remained prominent in community affairs, Hamilton and Combined Pensioners’ Association.
  • Cause of death: cardiorespiratory failure (days), congestive cardiac disease (years) and recent pneumomia (weeks).

Ross Edmonds, In Storm and Struggle. A History of the Communist Party in Newcastle 1920-1940 (1991); Hunter Regional Journal of Labour and Regional History, No. 1, 1995.

Citation details

'Graham, Thomas James (Tom) (1904–1998)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Jock Graham, n.d.

Jock Graham, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Graham, Jock

24 December, 1904
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


16 July, 1998 (aged 93)
Newcastle, New South Wales, 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.

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