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Stokes, Walter James (1879–1967)

by Chris Cunneen

Walter James Stokes (1879-1967) cook, gaoled trade unionist and labourer 

Birth: 19 April 1879 at Alma, South Australia, son of native-born parents Thomas Stokes, labourer, and Jane, née Jenner. Marriage: 26 March 1914 at Registry Office, Adelaide, South Australia, to Florence Hilda Curyer (1894-1984). They had one son. Death: 4 November 1967 at Glenelg, Adelaide. Religion: Anglican.

  • Also known as Walter James or Charles Ross, between 1894 and 1901 Stokes was convicted in South Australia four times for stealing pigeons, horse stealing, house-breaking and larceny.
  • In 1909 during the lockout at Broken Hill, NSW, he was working as a cook, a financial member of the Australian Workers Union and contributed five shillings a week into the lockout fund. Arrested and, like Bowling, leg-ironed, he was charged with riot [throwing stones at police] and convicted at Albury Quarter Sessions on 3 May 1909, with Tom Mann, Harry Holland and Richard John May. Stokes pleaded for leniency admitting his character had “not been too good during the early part of his life. Because of his previous convictions he was sentenced by Judge Pring to 3 years hard labour. A remission granted by the Wade government reduced his sentence but the new Labor government refused to further remit it and Stokes remained in prison when Holland and May were released, resulting in an angry response by Holland.
  • When Stokes was released from Parramatta gaol on 31 December 1910, no one met him and his request for assistance from the Labor Party was rebuffed. He returned by coach to Broken Hill on 10 January at his own expense. Assisted by the Australian Socialist Party he also received support from some local labour organisations, but was unable to find work. He contrasted his treatment to the previous adulation of Holland and May and attacked the State Labor government for not further remitting his sentence.
  • Was back in South Australia by 1914 living at North Payneham and working as a gardener.
  • Had retired and was living at Klemzig, South Australia, in 1967.

Sources
Chilch? p.119 

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Stokes, Walter James (1879–1967)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/stokes-walter-james-32157/text39739, accessed 5 December 2021.

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