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Wilson, John Richard (Jock) (1884–1976)

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John Richard ('Jock') Wilson (1884-1976) gaoled and deported radical activist 

Birth: 16 February 1884 at Sorne, on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, son of John Wilson (1850-1925), gamekeeper, and Helen, née Harper (1850-1917). Marriage: 4 October 1917 in Long Bay jail, Sydney, to Sylvia May Ewart, barmaid. They had two daughters. Death: 25 June 1976 in Wollongong, NSW. 

  • Joined Social Democratic Federation in Glasgow c.1903; sacked from one job after physical altercation with employer and from another for refusing to join a tame union.
  • Arrived in Australia in 1909. Member, Australian Socialist Party (ASP). Secretary of ASP’s Melbourne Branch c.1913. Secured employment with Defence Department, Melbourne in 1914, but was dismissed for his part in wages campaign.
  • Left ASP for Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) about 1914, becoming an organiser. Helped found International Socialist. IWW activist in Melbourne and Sydney. Regular speaker in Sydney Domain and Martin Place on Sunday evenings.
  • Spent a month in Darlinghurst jail after being charged during free speech campaign. Returned to Melbourne briefly during 1916 anti-conscription campaign, criticising local IWW members' ineffectiveness. In 1917 was jailed for six months for Domain speech in which he declared: ‘I am not going to the war to have Broken Hill lead pumped into me by Germans.’
  • Married May Ewart in Long Bay Jail in the presence of fellow prisoner Lena Lynch; the newly-weds did not meet again until both were deported in 1917. Deported to Britain, enduring two and a half month trip via Panama, narrowly avoiding German submarines. With help of Irish rebels obtained work as a seaman.
  • Organiser for Independent Labour Party. With May he was a founding member of Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1921, attending the first Party Congress. CPGB organiser in South Wales. CPGB candidate in Caerphilly. Member of CPGB National Executive for many years. Delegate to Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moscow, 1924.
  • Resigned CPGB party leadership positions in 1930s following disagreement with Third Period attack on Labour Party activists as ‘social fascists’, but retained party membership until return to Australia.
  • Subsequently returned to Australia with his wife, living in Western Australia, where they were shopkeepers.
  • Retired to Wollongong. Active in anti-Vietnam War movement; ‘always remained interested and active in the Communist Party’ of Australia.

Sources
Recorder,
numbers 76 & 77, 1975; Eric Fry, Tom Baker and the I. W. W. (Canberra, 1965); Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism (Cambridge University Press, 1995); Tribune, 22 July 1970, 14 July 1976; information from Bev Symons, 2001.

Additional Resources

  • interview, Tribune (Sydney), 22 July 1970, p 7

Citation details

'Wilson, John Richard (Jock) (1884–1976)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/wilson-john-richard-jock-32687/text40598, accessed 1 December 2022.

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