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John Callanan (Jack) Hartley (1920–1964)

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Hartley, John Callanan (Jack) (1920-1964) seaman, dockworker, trade union official and Communist 

Birth: 1920 at Newcastle, New South Wales, son of native-born parents John Robert Hartley (1890-1964), a militant waterside worker of English ancestry, and Uriel Mary, née Callanan (1896-1971), dressmaker. Marriage: 1955 at Cairns, Queensland, to native-born Vera Myrtle Davis (1929-2023?). They had three sons and three daughters. Death: 24 August 1964 in hospital at Balmain; usual residence Rowell Street, Revesby. Religion: no clergy at funeral. 

  • Started work about 1934 in Australia. Deck boy on a British tramp steamer from Sydney to Uruguay, where he left the ship and travelled around South America in about 1936.
  • Joined South American worker struggles. Was a dockworker at Santos, South America. Jailed for strike activity about 1938. Released from jail and deported to England.
  • Worked on tramp ships and until settling in Jamaica as a dockworker. Joined West Indian worker struggles and jailed for trade union activities. Released from jail and deported to England about 1939.
  • Joined Royal Navy and promoted to second engineer. Presented with Presidential Citation in United States for heroism.
  • Joined National Maritime Union while working on American ships and American ports. Member, Strike Committee in New Orleans and attempted to build trade union organisation in the gulf ports of Mexico.
  • Assisted in organising a walk-off from all ships in the port of Le Havre, France, to attend inaugural meeting of World Federation of Trade Unions, late 1940s.
  • Docker on waterfront in New York, USA. Assisted in organising pickets against the harassment by ‘Murder Incorporated’ of trade union participants. Deported from US for trade union activity.
  • On route to Australia he was jailed in Manilla. Released from jail by intervention of Australian authorities.
  • Worked as a seaman and wharf worker in Australia. Assisted in forming the Job Delegates’ Association, Sydney, in 1951.
  • Member and Federal Councillor of Waterside Workers’ Federation, Sydney branch. Secretary, Job Delegates’ Association. Participated in peace and Aboriginal struggles.
  • Communist Party member in US and Australia. In 1954, during the Petrov controversy, Hartley was one of the Communist officials blocked from leaving Australia to travel to Peking (Beijing), China, with a peace delegation.
  • Active member of a delegation to Walgett, NSW, in July 1964 investigating the gaoling of Aboriginal children.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion due to coronary artery disease.

, 26 August 1964; Maritime Worker, 2 September 1964, 26 May 1965.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Hartley, John Callanan (Jack) (1920–1964)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

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