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Noel Lyons (1900–1970)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Noel Lyons, by Fairfax Corporation, 1925

Noel Lyons, by Fairfax Corporation, 1925

National Library of Australia, 51936758

Noel Lyons, known as ‘Ham and Eggs’ (1900-1970), soldier, seaman, IWW member, carpenter

Birth: 13 September 1900 at Richmond, Victoria, son of Michael Edward Lyons (1858-1916), a musician, later shopkeeper, born in Tipperary, Ireland, and his second wife, native-born Margaret ‘Madge’ Groves (1879-1956). Marriages: (1) 15 March 1926 at Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, to Resla Natalie Schznoffski (d. 1948). The marriage ended in divorce. (2) 17 December 1938 at Belmore, Sydney, to Winifred Jean, née Dwyer, late Whaites (1906-1965). They had two sons and two daughters. Death: 12 August 1970 in hospital at Newtown, Sydney. 

  • While working as a labourer, aged 15, he put his age up by three years and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne on 29 June 1915. His mother, his legal guardian as his father’s whereabouts were unknown, gave her consent.
  • Served in France with the 60th Battalion and was wounded in action in July 1916 when he received a severe gunshot wound to the neck. Reclassified (under age) in May 1917 he was transferred to the Australian Army Medical Corps and was posted to the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford, Wiltshire, England. Returning to Australia aboard the Euripides in 1918 he was discharged (under age) in Melbourne on 21 March.
  • Became a seaman and joined the Industrial Workers of the World in Melbourne. He was reported to wear in the lapel of his coat an IWW button instead of an AIF badge.
  • In 1925 when a fireman aboard the SS Manuka, he demanded a better menu for the men’s mess on a voyage from Melbourne to Wellington, New Zealand, and distributed IWW literature. On 26 May he was issued with an order as an undesirable immigrant “likely to be a danger to the peace, order and good government of New Zealand” requiring him to leave the country. When he refused to obey, denouncing the local Labour leaders as “paid parasites and servants of the capitalists”, he was arrested and after a fortnight in gaol was deported, with his fare paid, to Sydney, NSW, on 17 July 1925 aboard the Moeraki. The “ham and egg revolution” and its aftermath created publicity in New Zealand and Australia, and earned Lyons his new soubriquet.
  • In the following years Lyons and Charlie Reeves were active radical activists in NSW. With Ted Dickinson, Lyons assisted with the revival of the IWW in Sydney following World War I. He was convicted of various offences, including selling literature and using insulting words in the Sydney Domain when speaking on an IWW platform and taking part in the Sacco and Vanzetti demonstrations in Sydney (1927). He also travelled as a propagandist to other States.
  • In the 1930s, apparently still working as a seaman, he continued agitating, and in July 1932 was involved in an eviction riot at Tighe’s Hill, Newcastle, leading to his arrest in Queensland on a charge of assaulting a policeman. He was eventually acquitted in October 1933.
  • Following his second marriage, he lived at Marrickville, worked as a bricklayer, raised a family, apparently served during World War II and seems to have engaged in no further political activism.

service record 1915-1918, series B2455 item 8215050 (National Archives of Australia); service record 1941-45, series B883 item 4828973 (National Archives of Australia); Noel Lyons’ departure, Ashburton Guardian (New Zealand), 18 July 1925, p 5; Bulletin (Sydney), 8 September 1927, p 10.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Lyons, Noel (1900–1970)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Noel Lyons, by Fairfax Corporation, 1925

Noel Lyons, by Fairfax Corporation, 1925

National Library of Australia, 51936758

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Life Summary [details]


13 September, 1900
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


12 August, 1970 (aged 69)
Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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