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Claude William Thompson (1876–1949)

This article was published:

Calude Thompson, 1910

Calude Thompson, 1910

Truth (Perth), 14 May 1910, p 12

Claude William Hercules Thompson (1876-1949) journalist, socialist, arrested trade union leader and political activist 

Birth: 16 April 1876 in Sydney, New South Wales, son of Scottish-born Peter Thompson (1851-1893), cigar maker, and Ellen Mary Agnes, née Connolly (1853-1937), who was born in London, England. Marriage: 1914 in Sydney, to May Cain [who survived him]. Death: 29 August 1949 at Croydon, Sydney. 

  • Moved at an early age from Sydney to Melbourne, Victoria. Joined Victorian Progressive Political League in 1895 as a boy.
  • Left Melbourne for Western Australia in 1897 following the rush to the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields. Foundation member of Amalgamated Workers’ Association (which later merged into the Australian Workers’ Union). Acted as secretary of Goldfields Trades and Labour Council, then treasurer.
  • Elected general secretary of Political Labor Party on Goldfields Executive. Campaigned successfully for election of C. E. Frazer who contested and won the Kalgoorlie seat in the House of Representatives in 1903.
  • Moved to Perth and became foundation member and auditor, Social Democratic Federation (SDF) of WA, 1901. Consistent and persistent advocate of socialism in pages of Westralian Worker. Critic of Single-Tax League & Labor Party.
  • 1904 represented SDF at International Socialist Congress, Elected President British Colonial? Dependencies Section of Congress in Amsterdam. Also toured England & United States of America in 1904-05, writing regular reports for Westralian Worker on issues and personalities encountered, including Ben Tillett. Much impressed by future founders of Industrial Workers of the World, particularly William Haywood.
  • Returned to Perth at end of 1905. Elected president of East Perth Political Labor Party and elected to Leederville Municipal Council for Labor in 1908 for one term.
  • Shifted to Broken Hill, New South Wales, and became editor of Barrier Daily Truth and Sport newspapers in 1910-12.
  • Moved on to Sydney. Was general secretary of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Service Association (ARTSA), succeeding J. H. Catts, from 1913 to 1920. Successfully appealed to have the union re-registered which was granted by Judge Heyon, (although it was generally opposed by craft unions).
  • One of leaders of general strike and arrested with others and charged with conspiracy in 1917 but was found not guilty. Editor of union’s newspapers Co-operator and Advocate.
  • Contested the seat of Murray in State elections of 1920. Delegate to ALP conferences.
  • Worked on Melbourne Truth 1921 and acted as editor on several occasions. Secretary of the Victorian district of the Australian Journalists’ Association in 1924-25.
  • Editor and manager of Adelaide Truth for several years.
  • Moved back to NSW in Depression years and worked in hotel keeping and worked on a banana plantation in Coff’s Harbour.
  • Worked on staff of the Guardian in WA for several years. Later joined R. & S. Sampson’s chain of Country and Goldfields’ papers.
  • Returned to Sydney in 1940. Old member of Workers’ Educational Association and attended lectures and debates.
  • Cause of death: chronic myocarditis.

Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905 (Sydney, 1985); Greg Patmore A history of industrial relations in the NSW Government Railways (PhD thesis University of Sydney, 1985); Railroad, 30 September 1949; Co-operator (Sydney), 17 May 1917, p 3 []; Australian Worker, 30 August 1917 p.10.

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'Thompson, Claude William (1876–1949)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012