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Ronald William (Ron) Hurd (1909–1972)

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Ronald William Jackson (Ron) Hurd (1909-1972) seaman, volunteer anti-Fascist fighter in Spanish Civil War, trade union leader

Birth: 1909 at Carlton, Melbourne, son of Lawrence Samuel Hurd (1884-1961), a driver, later storemanager, born at Stockport, Cheshire, England and his first wife native-born Caroline Eveline Viola (Carrie), née Meighan (1883-1915). Marriage: to Communist activist Patricia Devanny (1913-1980), born at Puponga, New Zealand, daughter of Jean Devanny. They had two sons. Death: 3 September 1972 in hospital at Townsville, Queensland. 

  • Educated at Melbourne High School. Ran away to sea. Reputedly served in World War I.
  • Returned to Australia about 1928. Worked as a professional boner. State secretary of the Workers’ Defence Corps (part of the Militant Minority Movement).
  • Fought with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1938, was wounded and recovered. Upon return to Australia he addressed about 500 meetings throughout the country speaking against fascism and raising money for the Spanish Medical Relief, 1938.
  • Member of the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia from 1938. Union official until the war.
  • Went ashore in New Zealand in early 1939. Became propagandist for the Labour movement in Auckland, New Zealand and was jailed for six months for political offences.
  • After he returned to Australia in early 1942 he sailed on Australian merchant navy ships during WWII.
  • Settled in Western Australia in 1947. Member of Maritime Union Committee of the Waterside Workers’ Federation in the late 1940s. Formed a ring of bodyguards around Communist speakers on Perth Esplanade in 1949.
  • Secretary of the Seamen’s Union, WA branch, from 1948 to 1958, and was known for seeking confrontation and presenting a style of industrial militancy which owed as much to the Wobblies [Industrial Workers of the World] as it did to Marxism. He retired from union office due to continuing ill health.
  • Returned to the sea and sailed on several Australian vessels from 1959 to 1970. Retired from work because of grave illness. Brisbane seamen established the Ron Hurd Fund, 1970. He was awarded life membership of the Seamen’s Union.
  • Cause of death: carcinoma bronchus and haemoptysis.

Jean Devanny, Point of departure; the autobiography of Jean Devanny (St Lucia, 1986); John Playford Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p 423; West Australian, 6 September 1972; Seamen’s Journal, January 1959, p 6, August 1971, p 184, 21 September 1972, p 317; Amirah Inglis, Australians in the Spanish Civil War (Sydney, 1987).

Citation details

'Hurd, Ronald William (Ron) (1909–1972)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


3 September, 1972 (aged ~ 63)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (lung)

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