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Henry Patrick (Harry) Scanlon (1902–1987)

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Henry Patrick (Harry) Scanlon (1902-1987) coal miner, trade union leader and Communist activist 

Birth: 1902 at Teralba, New South Wales, son of native-born parents Michael Joseph (or John) Scanlon (1875-1931), miner, and Amelia Gertrude, née Opfer or Ophir (1879-1946). Marriage: 1927 at Cessnock, NSW, to Grace Irene Barrett, from long-time mining family. They had one daughter. Death: 22 January 1987 at Cessnock, NSW. 

  • Moved with family to Weston, then Cessnock. After leaving school, worked as surface hand at Aberdare.
  • Involved in 1929 Northern coal lock-out and Rothbury demonstration. With wife, joined Communist Party of Australia and Militant Minority Movement, becoming an acknowledged leader of the militant Left in Cessnock area.
  • After lock-out, was again cavilled out and became a founder and president of the Cessnock branch of Unemployed Workers' Movement. Resumed work at Aberdare Central in 1933 and within months was elected lodge president.
  • Elected vice-president of Northern District of Australasian Coal & Shale Employees' Federation in 1936, supporting leadership of fellow communists W. Orr and C. Nelson and playing direct role in securing improved rates and conditions for miners in the late 1930s, including paid holidays and pensions.
  • Elected Northern president and vice-president of Federation's Central Council 1941, giving unqualified endorsement to Federation's policy of support for war effort. Lost presidency in 1943 after alienating rank and file through attempts to have local lodge rules, including disciplinary fines, enforced. Returned to Northern vice-presidency 1944, retaining position until defeated by F. H. Cockerill in 1948.
  • Working at Kalingo Colliery at retirement. Subsequently president of Cessnock Retired Mine Workers Branch and for three years Northern president of Retired Mine Workers Association. Awarded life membership by RMWA State Council.

John Playford Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p.431; Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); information from E. Ross, 1990 & 1991; Andrew William Metcalfe, For freedom and dignity: Historical agency and class structures in the coalfields of NSW (Sydney, 1988); Common Cause, 4 February 1987; obituary Tribune (Sydney), 25 February 1987, p 10 [].

Additional Resources

  • profile, Workers' Weekly (Sydney), 10 April 1936, p 4

Citation details

'Scanlon, Henry Patrick (Harry) (1902–1987)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

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