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Frederick John (Fred) Morgan (c. 1888–?)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Frederick John (Fred) Morgan (c.1888-?) engineer, linotype operator, Socialist and IWW leader

Birth: Wales, United Kingdom, about 1888. Marriage and Death: details unknown. 

  • Came to Australia, via America, in 1914 and became financial secretary of Local No. 2 of the Industrial Workers of the World in Sydney. With John Ferguson, he did the typesetting for the IWW’s official organ, Direct Action.
  • Closely involved with the IWW plotters in 1916 and was named in their arson case. Reputedly, Charlie Reeves had written to him “Let us see to it that the kittens travel and Bryant and Mays [matches] is not dead yet.”
  • He also masterminded a forgery plan. Reputedly, he proposed to John Benjamin King, John James Ferguson and ‘Jock’ Wilson that “this was the psychological moment to smash the capitalistic system by launching big parcels of forged notes”.
  • He purchased a printing press and other equipment and at a cottage at Maroubra point, in Sydney, produced some 5000 notes which were distributed in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. The forgeries were discovered and Morgan was arrested in September 1916 with King, Ferguson and others.
  • On 8 September he was charged “that he did at Sydney, between the 1st March, 1916, and the 11th August, 1916, forge a Commonwealth security, to wit an Australian note of the denomination of £5, with the intend to defraud”. He skipped bail (£400), however, failing to appear at the Central Police Court, Sydney, on the 18th September 1916, and disappeared.
  • The reward notice for his arrest described him as “28 to 30 years of age, 5 feet 5 or 6 inches [165 cm] high, medium to stout, nuggety build, but not fleshy, fair complexion, dimples in cheeks when smiling, gold tooth in front, supposed left upper jaw; dressed in a grey sac suit and brown soft-felt hat; an engineer, recently in business in Sydney as a linotype operator; a member of the Industrial Workers of the World; usually carries firearms.” Other reports were that “he always carried a loaded revolver”.
  • The discovery of his hat and coat on rocks at Maroubra Beach suggested he might have committed suicide. But the more likely case was that, as Ian Turner wrote, “he had been smuggled out of the country by sympathetic seamen”. According to rumour he travelled to America. He was believed to be living in the Pacific Islands in 1923, having been last reported at Hawaii.

Sources
Ian Turner, Sydney’s Burning (Sydney, 1967); Frank Cain, The wobblies at war: a history of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne, 1993); Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia (Melbourne 1995; Rowan Day, The Tottenham Rebels: Radical Labour Politics in a Small Mining Town during the Great War, PhD thesis University of Western Sydney, 2014, pp 170-180.

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Morgan, Frederick John (Fred) (c. 1888–?)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/morgan-frederick-john-fred-34345/text43101, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Fred Morgan, sketch

Fred Morgan, sketch

Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 23 June 1923, p 9

Life Summary [details]

Birth

c. 1888
Wales

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