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Bernard (Barney) Smith (1902–1967)

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Bernard (Barney) Smith (1902-1967) seaman, trade union leader and Communist 

Birth: 1902 in Liverpool, England. Parents unknown. Marriage: defacto relationship with Lilian Maude Wilson. They had three sons and three daughters. Death: 4 August 1967 in North Sydney, New South Wales.

  • Lived in Liverpool. Fireman on Western ocean ships.
  • Arrived in Australia in 1920. Joined Seamen’s Union of Australia in 1922. Participated in British Seamen’s strike of 1924, cooks’ strike of 1928, wharfies’ strike of 1928 and maritime strike of 1935. In the latter strike he led the North Sydney district of the strike committee and was on the shipping companies’ ‘black list’ for two years after the 4-month strike ended.
  • Activist in Communist Party of Australia. Helped to found the Unemployed Movement paper ‘Progress’. Involved in the internal Walsh-Johnson faction arguments.
  • Secretary of the Sydney Branch of the Seamen’s Union of Australia from 1941 to his death. Member of the National Committee of Management of SUA from 1941 and chairman of executive of waterfront-based Sydney section; senior vice-presiding officer and member of the Federal Executive.
  • Involved in major issues of the time such as the boycott of Dutch ships organised by the Indonesian Seamen’s Union and supported by the SUA; support for the 1945 steelworkers’ strike and the 1949 miners’ strike; mobilisation of seamen against the Petrov Commission; opposition to the US intervention in Korea and actions against the war in Vietnam.
  • Member of North Sydney Leagues Club.
  • He and his wife died when run over by a car while crossing the street.

John Playford, Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p.432; Foreman Stevedores Review, Sept-Oct 1967 p.5; Seamen’s Journal, Jan. 1945 p.6, Sept. 1967 pp.196-97, 224; Tribune, 16 August 1967, p 10 No. 1522; L. J. Louis, ‘Recovery from the Depression and the Seamen’s Strike 1935-6’, in Labour History, November 1981, No. 1, p 74-86; Donald Sinclair Fraser, Articles of agreement: The Seamen’s Union of Australia, 1904-1943 a study of antagonised labour, PhD thesis (University of Wollongong, 1998).

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Citation details

'Smith, Bernard (Barney) (1902–1967)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Liverpool, Lancashire, England


4 August, 1967 (aged ~ 65)
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

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