The Goulds, O’Hallorans and Conlons
How my Irish ancestors and relatives, the Goulds, the O’Hallorans and the Conlons, got to Australia as part of the great wave of Irish immigration in the 19th century. What happened to them here and how they got caught up in the political upheavals of their times.
On my father’s side, my grandfather was an Irishman from Goold’s Cross in Tipperary, who came here in the early 1880s. Family anecdote has it that he was a member of one of the rural resistance groups against landlordism and a supporter of the Land League of Michael Davitt.
One Sunday afternoon, a hated Irish bailiff, who had been involved in a bitter eviction on behalf of his British landlord master, came into the second storey of a small pub where a number of young men used to drink. A blue ensued and the young Land Leaguers threw the bailiff out the window. The bailiff broke some ribs, the police came looking for the perpetrators, and half a dozen more young Irishmen shot through to Cork to emigrate to North America and Australia, with the police on their heels.
My grandfather arrived in Sydney and went to work for a couple of years driving drays for his distant uncle, Butty McMahon, who owned the Argyle Bond. Butty McMahon was a notable and successful Sydney Irishman, and was the grandfather of the reactionary Liberal Prime Minister, Billy McMahon, who committed the unforgiveable crimes, in Irish Catholic circles, of crossing over from the Labor side in politics, changed his religion to Anglicanism and joined the Masonic Lodge and the Liberal Party, and ended up Liberal Prime Minister during the latter end of the Vietnam War.
In the Vietnam times, therefore, I was organising demonstrations against a Liberal government led by a reactionary distant relative. Later I met McMahon, after he was defeated as Prime Minister, at a book launch, and I described our distant relationship to him.
He was a bit knocked over by the story and initially rejected it, but eventually he caved in, and acknowledged the possibility of such a relationship. Billy McMahon was the black sheep in our family!
My grandfather, after saving some money, took up land as a free selector, under the Robertson Land Act, at Clybucca on the Macleay River near Kempsey in northern NSW, which was fairly unusual for a Catholic Irishman, because the north coast of NSW had fewer Irish Catholics than the rest of NSW, and more Presbyterian Scots.
However, Clybucca and other hamlets nearby had a vigorous little community of Irish dairy farming families who had come from the same part of Ireland. My grandfather then paid for the passage of his fiancee from Ireland.
They had 10 kids and adopted two. My father used to say that he couldn’t speak Gaelic, but that he could sing all the old rebel songs like Napper Tandy, and Rise Up Johnny Boland in Gaelic, and that he could say “kiss my arse” in Gaelic, because when he was a kid, these Irish exiles would occasionally have a party, and when they got a bit merry, they would have the kids up on the table singing the old rebel songs in Gaelic.
Grandfather Gould gets three months jail for sedition against Queen Victoria
During the Vietnam War, another fascinating anecdote about my Irish grandfather emerged. One Friday night I was arrested at a demonstration, attempting to chain myself to the roof of the guardhouse at Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney.
This was flashed all over the television and the newspapers, with my name mentioned. The next morning, my Santamaria-supporting Grouper relative, Auntie Eileen, rang up very early, in a rage, demanding that I change my name so as not to embarrass the family. When my father heard about this, it produced a defensive outburst from him. He used to find his sister a bit irritating sometimes anyway, and he said: “Grandfather Gould would be proud of you. She likes to forget some of the family history.”
He then went on to remind her very forcibly that in the tense atmosphere during the Boer War, of religious sectarianism and Protestant, Catholic conflict, grandfather Gould was involved in the following incident.
He drove some cattle down to the cattle sale at Grafton, which was his frequent practice, and after the sale he and some other Irish dairy farmers adjourned to the pub. They got into a blue about Irish independence, the Boer War, religion and politics with some other people in the pub, a dispute erupted, and he, in the course of the dispute, said abusive things about Queen Victoria.
He was arrested and, in that area, all the magistrates being Orangemen, he got three months jail for sedition, which I presume he served in Grafton jail. They took politics seriously, my ancestors.
My father’s siblings scattered at adulthood all over NSW and Queensland. One of my father’s brothers was the Labor mayor of Babinda, in Hanson country near Cairns, in the 1930s. One of his sisters, Auntie May, married a Catholic sheep farmer, Michael McNamara, whose father had been a free selector at Merriwa in the Hunter Valley.
At a book fair once, I discovered a history of Merriwa by an establishment woman from the oldest squatting family in that area. She obviously had a very jaundiced view of the Robertson Land Act and free selection, and implied that most free selectors were ne’er-do-wells and that free selection was a bad thing, but she recognised grudgingly that some free selectors were all right and she lists some who made good, including my uncle, Michael McNamara’s father, also named Michael McNamara, of Springfield.
My Irish ancestors and relatives made quite extensive use of the Robertson Land Act to satisfy the land hunger that they had carried over from Ireland, and set themselves up as small farmers.
When my father turned 15, he went off cane cutting in Queensland, and when the cane in the first season cut out he lobbed into Brisbane and got a job on the trams a week before the start of the famous Queensland tram strike, which turned into a general strike. He was involved in it from start to finish.
He got his baptism in labour movement politics at the age of 15. He also became a bit of a boxer, and he used to claim he was the featherweight champion of Queensland.
On my mother’s side of the family, other ancestors were called Conlon and Worley, and both those names came from the Limerick-Tipperary area in Ireland. My cousin, Neil Brown (a Catholic priest, who teaches theology at the Australian Catholic University at Strathfield) has researched this side of the family, and traced all of them back to Ireland, except for one ancestor, Wild, who appears to have come from nowhere, and who was possibly part Aboriginal.
The Conlon side of that family became quite prosperous and had a business as general carriers in Glebe, and also owned a pottery. One of the Conlon women, Evelyn, was wooed and won, in the early years of the century by a dashing young New Zealander, Dick O’Halloran.
At different stages of his life, this Dick O’Halloran was a bank manager, an unsuccessful small business entrepreneur, and later in life a public servant. His father in New Zealand was an Orangeman from Ulster, but Dick himself was a bit of a left-winger, in the style of that time.
He had an early involvement in the Labor Party and used to frequent McNamara’s Bookshop, the main centre of radicalism in Sydney. He had no objection to his wife’s desire that his two children, my mother and her brother Terry, be brought up as Catholics. Intermarriage between Protestant and Catholic Irish was not uncommon in those days.
The First World War
The lives of all my ancestors were profoundly affected by the upheaval of the First World War. My father, as he put it later, was young and silly, in that he volunteered to go to the war. He was cutting cane in Queensland when the war started, and stayed until the end of the season, when the cane cut out.
As he used to put it, he arrived in Brisbane three months after the start of the war. The story then was that the war would only last six months. He and a number of other young canecutters decided they had therefore better join up to see the world.
After training, they were shipped to Egypt. He boasted that he left Australia a sergeant and arrived in Egypt a private, due to indiscipline. He then landed in the first week of the Gallipoli landing, was on Gallipoli until the evacuation, and survived that battlefield unscathed, though some of his fellow canecutters were killed there.
His unit was then shipped to the Western Front. He participated in the widespread mutinies and upheavals in the Australian Army on the Western Front. He always said that the mutinies and turmoil were partly caused by the bitterness felt by Australian Irish Catholics in the front line about the suppression of the Easter Rising in Ireland.
He claimed that the Australian Army was impossible to control for about three months, and that senior base officers couldn’t go near the front for all that time. He was rather proud of the mutinies in the Australian Army. He always asserted that the majority of the front-line soldiers voted against conscription in the two referendums, and that the slight majority among the soldiers for conscription came from soldiers a fair distance from the front line.
He also used to point out that the Australian authorities weren’t game to shoot even one Australian soldier over the mutinies, although about 100 were shot in the British Army, and many hundreds in the French Army. I have half a letter home from him home, thanks to Johnno Johnson, the Labor MLC, who found a letter from one of his own soldier relatives in the Kempsey newspaper for 1916, and the top half of a letter from my father was at the bottom of the next column.
The Goulds and the O’Hallorans in the momentous year 1917
As we all now know, weariness with the brutal war of the Russian Tsars produced the Russian Revolution in 1917. It also deeply affected the lives of many of my ancestors and relatives.
One feature of 1917 was the bitter General Strike that started over a time and motion study in the railway workshops at Randwick, and ended up in a defeat for the strikers. One of my uncles was a tram conductor who lived in Glebe and worked at the Pyrmont Tram Depot.
He was a quiet man, a solid Catholic layman and a staunch unionist. He participated in the strike, was sacked and was only re-employed in a lower grade at the end of the strike some months later. He was one of the “Lily Whites” who refused to scab, and for the rest of his life he cherished his tram union button proclaiming that he was a “Lily White”.
Like all the victimised strikers, his seniority was only restored when the newly elected Lang Labor government stood over the management of the Railway and Tramway Departments in 1925 to restore the men’s seniority.
Dick O’Halloran stands for parliament
When the Labor Party split, my grandfather, Dick O’Halloran was a bank manager and an active member of the ALP in the Murray electorate in the Riverina. He was a strong anti-conscriptionist, and he was chosen by the ALP in that area to stand in the state election against the local Labor member of parliament, who had joined the conscriptionists.
Recently I discovered at a book fair, a rare little book, a very interesting account of the labour movement between 1910 and 1919 in NSW, by J.P. Osborne, called Nine Crowded Years. Osborne, the first Labor state member of Parliament for the inner-city seat of Paddington, which he held from 1910 to 1919, was a pretty moderate Labor parliamentarian but he stuck to the ALP over conscription. In his book, he says:
The following day I journeyed to Hay in support of our candidate [Dick O'Halloran], political fledgeling. This electorate has long been held by us, but the sitting member, Bob Scobie, had followed his leader into the National camp. We had an excellent meeting at Hay, but the Murray electorate covered an enormous area – greater in extent than the United Kingdom. If “one swallow doesn’t make a summer”, neither does one town constitute an electorate, and with the short time at our disposal it was apparent that our candidate could hope to cover only a small portion of the district. This experience of speaking in opposition to an old colleague like Scobie was far from a pleasant one, but the exigencies of the situation demanded it. He was a charming old character, most likeable, and had long been regarded as a stalwart champion of the workers. His intense patriotism led him to become a confirmed conscriptionist, and doubtless this feeling was further contributed to by the loss of his son on the fields of France. Despite his change of front in politics, he carried altogether too many guns for us, and was re-elected with a large majority of votes in his favour. In districts such as this, personality exercises considerable influence, and no one could deny the attractive mannerisms of Bob Scobie.
Despite Osborne’s view that Dick O’Halloran was a novice, and Osborne’s overindulgence towards Scobie, the conscriptionist, Dick O’Halloran actually did pretty well in the election, considering it was a country seat, and got 40 per cent of the vote, compared with Scobie’s 55 per cent as a Labor candidate in the previous election.
No doubt Dick’s name, O’Halloran, helped him quite a lot in this electorate, which had and has still quite a large Irish Catholic component. Dick O’Halloran’s 40 per cent of the vote is the best any of my ancestors or relatives have ever done in standing for public office.
In both the federal and state elections following the conscription split, Labor was defeated, but it received a bit over 40 per cent of the vote, and re-established itself as a substantial opposition despite the defection of the conscriptionist Prime Minister and Premier of NSW, and the majority of their cabinets.
A year or two later, Dick O’Halloran returned to Sydney and my mother remembers, as a little girl, her mother and father trailing her along to a meeting in the Domain to listen to Percy Brookfield, the courageous independent labour socialist member for the Barrier at Broken Hill, who was responsible for the release of the 12 IWW men framed in 1916, by the use of his balance of power in the State house between the Storey Labor government of 1921 and the conservative opposition.
Secret police files exist on four generations of O’Hallorans and Goulds
When Drew Cottle, a historian friend, recently applied on my behalf for my ASIO file, I had the rather inspired idea of asking him also to apply for any file on my father or my grandfather. The most amazing thing popped out of the ASIO archives. In their catalogue of files, there was an entry for Dick O’Halloran, cross-referenced to my father, Steve Gould, who was included in a file on Lang Labor.
The amazing thing, obviously, is that in the ASIO archive, these files were cross-referenced despite a 20-year-odd gap between them. These were old military intelligence and state Special Branch files, and despite being in the catalogue, they haven’t been able to actually locate either of them yet.
The catalogue entry for my grandfather’s file had a note which read, IWW Symp, which was a bit summary considering he was always a member of the ALP, but quite astute because he did have some emotional sympathy for the IWW. I’m rather proud that, in their different ways, both my grandfathers were politically active on the side of the oppressed.
Military intelligence, special branches and ASIO have been spying on my family for four generations, it would appear!
Some intelligent historian ought to apply to ASIO, say, for the military intelligence file on the redoubtable Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Such a file would certainly have existed and would make extraordinary reading and be very useful to a historian of the political conflicts of the time.
Dick O’Halloran marriage to my grandmother was initially a great love match, but there were some difficulties later on. Dick O’Halloran was not a very good providor, and he had entrepreneurial ideas a bit before their time, such as building flats at Bondi in the 1920s, when it was still sandhills, and he went broke in that venture. While he and his wife remained friends, they eventually split up.
The years 1917 and 1918 echo down the years in the Gould family
The most traumatic effect of the years 1917 and 1918 on my ancestors and relatives, was on my father. He was literally blown up by a shell on the Western Front, on April 23, 1918. He woke up in a military hospital six weeks later. He had lost his left arm. He had one leg shorter than the other, and he had five pieces of shrapnel in his body, which he carried until his dying day, at 80.
His two mates had been killed by the same shell. He always said he only pulled through because of the ministrations of a particular English nurse who looked after him day and night. She advised him to refuse amputation of one leg, saying that she could save it by the use of a saline drip, which she did. (Unfortunately this wonderful nurse, Nurse McDonald, was killed in an air raid on the military hospital just before the end of the war.)
In due course my father was repatriated to Australia, gradually recovered, and, under the repatriation scheme, trained to become a school teacher at the old Blackfriars Teachers College in Chippendale. He became a one-armed school teacher, and later on a one-armed sportsmaster.
He learned how to do almost anything with one arm. In later life he became quite a famous one-armed golfer. He even managed to mix and lay concrete with one arm, and use a rotary hoe in our small market garden. I take great pride that he was blown up and left for dead in the first monstrous imperialist world war of the 20th century, and he beat the system to live a reasonably full life, and last until 80.
The main effect of the war on my father was that, being blown to bits and the carnage that he saw, and the ruthless repression of the Irish rebellion, all combined to propel him into labour movement politics, which was a natural family progression anyway, but his terrible war experiences drove him to the left.
My dad had a curious attitude to Anzac Day. He always wore the returned soldiers badge because he said that he had earned it, and his friends had died for it. Nevertheless, he never went to the march, because he said that the first march he attended sickened him, watching all the base officers and military brass who had sent his mates out to get killed, up at the front of the march.
He became a bitter opponent of war and conscription, an attitude that he transmitted to me, and which prevailed throughout the rest of his life, although he always said he wasn’t a pacifist, and that he would fight in some wars. You just had to choose your war carefully, and assess the class interests involved.
Later on he was expelled from the ALP, along with Lang, for opposing conscription in the Second World War, and he vigorously defended my activities against the war in Vietnam, particularly against Auntie Eileen, the severest critic from within the family.
The big election. Tabulam swings to Labor
Steve Gould did his teaching country service in Tabulam, a small village between Casino and Tenterfield in the early 1920s. One of his wonderful stories (my father was an extraordinary raconteur) was one election in this little hamlet. On election day they came to him and said, “You’re the school teacher, Mr Gould. You’ll fix up the voting, won’t you.” He replied: “Do you want me to be the returning officer?” They looked at him blankly. They didn’t know what a returning officer was, and they said: “Oh, no. The school teacher always does the whole lot.” Not one to interfere with local tradition, my father did what he was required to do, and this little hamlet, which had for the previous 50 years delivered 23 conservative votes, delivered 23 Labor votes.
After his country service, he came to Sydney and threw himself into labour movement affairs and the ALP during the turbulent rise of Lang to power in alliance with the left. My father, in this period of his life, was a kind of Marxist Catholic.
He was elected to the ALP executive as one of the Lang faction, and ever after he stuck to Lang. He was one of the leaders of the Lang faction in the socialisation units, and he is mentioned in Bob Cooksey’s book on the socialisation units as one of the Lang faction team that took over control of the units towards the end.
For four or five years he was the secretary of the Glebe ALP, and the leader of the Lang faction in Glebe. He used to tell colourful stories of the battles in Glebe Town Hall between the Lang faction, led by him, and the Communist Party faction in the ALP led by Stan Moran, who was also a pretty colourful and effective floor leader. According to my father, they had enormous meetings split down the middle, about 500 a side. Politics in Glebe were colourful, in those days.
The boarding houses of Glebe Point Road
In these turbulent times my old man lived in a boarding house which was one of the many boarding houses that occupied the stately old homes in Glebe Point Road. Up until the 1950s, Glebe had an enormous working class population, a much larger population than now, one of the reasons being that many of the old mansions had become working class boarding houses.
My grandmother, Evelyn O’Halloran, lived in a small cottage a bit further down Glebe Point Road. She had a young daughter, Ethel. My mother was a strikingly attractive, dark-haired girl, much younger than my father, who by 1930, when they met, was 35 years old. She was 17. My father, the handsome one-armed ex-digger from the First War, active in the labour movement and public life in the area, and a fellow Catholic, was obviously a slightly romantic figure to my mother.
One can surmise that the fact that he had something in common in the sphere of labour movement activity, with her father, Dick O’Halloran, may have increased his attraction.
My father also, having a secure job as a teacher, was a bit of a catch in those tough times, despite obvious disabilities associated with his one arm, and the age difference. My mother, in her own right, was an independent, strong-willed young woman, who owed an adequate education, including typing skills, to the nuns of St Scholasticas.
Normally they only taught primary, but were so certain my mother and one or two others would do well at the Intermediate that they set up a special tutoring group for them. My father wooed her very determindely, and they were married finally in 1934, during the political turmoil of the Lang period.
Like Dick O’Halloran and my grandmother, my mother and father were a considerable love match. Later on they had some conflicts and difficulties, but they loved each other very much and developed a quite extraordinary division of labour and partnership in a number of quite complex family ventures: rebuilding a house, running a market garden at Beverly Hills, later adding three new flats to a small block of flats, and even turning the sandy backyard of these flats at Bondi into a small, commercial market garden, growing gladdies. They stuck together like glue, until my dad died at 80 in 1974, 40 years later.
I have often considered the enormous impact that the years 1917 and 1918, the years of the Russian Revolution, the conscription referendum, my grandfather standing for parliament, the great strike, and the year my dad was blown up in the first great imperialist war, had on the future lives of everyone concerned, including their descendents, such as me.
Frank Hardy used to make great literary play of the fact that he was born in 1917, and what an enormous impact that had on his life. I feel that way too, though I wasn’t born until 20 years later, in 1937, the worst point of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, which had started out with such wonderful hopes and prospects in 1917.
With a tribal and family heritage like mine, it’s hardly surprising that labour movement politics and history, and religious and cultural arguments and conflicts, Australian, Irish, Russian and international, have dominated my life also.
It has always seemed to me that the accident of my father with his history and political involvement, moving into a nearby boarding house, brought him to my mother, whose family history also embodied Australian working class history. I feel kind of awed to be the heir to the family history that I’m describing here, and that I am trying to locate in the general context of the evolution of Australia, the working class and the labour movement.
Jack Lang and my father
A little after I was born, my parents moved to a flat in Bondi. Throughout the 1930s my father was involved deeply in the political upheavals and particularly in the Inner Group circles in the Labor Party around Lang.
Steve Gould taught for all that period and into the middle of the 1940s at the Fort Street Primary School, at Millers Point, an old and colourful labour movement enclave in the city. Towards the end of the 1920s, judging by the curious and heterogeneous collection of pamphlets and other political material that he had in the shed when I was growing up, he had been, for a period, in the orbit of the Communist Party.
He was a founding member of a leftist ginger group in the Teachers Federation, called the Workers Educational League, the dominant personalities of which were Leicester Rodd, Kylie Tennant’s husband, who was a close associate, and Sam Lewis and Frank Leslie and others, who later moved over from Langism into the Communist Party.
My father didn’t go with them, but stuck closely to Lang, for whom he had a considerable kind of hero worship. This was a bit strange because my father was in most things a witty, rather sceptical, rather critical kind of man, but he exempted Lang from all scepticism and criticism – the only exemption that I am aware of in his intelligently critical outlook on the world.
He wrote prolifically in the Labor Daily on the socialisation of credit, and he was probably the resident ideologue on that topic, being a school teacher and therefore a bit of an intellectual.
Many labour movement old-timers have told me that my father was an extraordinary demagogic and colourful orator. He was nicknamed, for obvious reasons, “Wingy” Gould, although his given name was Steve. He used to tell a story about addressing Friday night meetings which were often broken up by the semi-fascist New Guard.
One Friday night he had to speak at a Langite meeting near the War Memorial on the highway at Belmore. As he told it, they were outnumbered by the New Guard, but he turned the meeting around by a vigorous verbal attack on them, pointing out that he had lost his arm fighting for the right to free speech, and his mates over there on the War Memorial who had died, had fought for that too, and he wasn’t going to be shut up by a bunch of fascists.
According to my dad’s version, after a while, they slunk away with their tails between their legs. He used to also describe, with relish, the famous New Guard meeting at Darlinghurst, when the young men from the North Shore were silly enough to park their motors in the bottom streets of Surry Hills, and march up to the meeting.
As described both by my father, and Kylie Tennant in her wonderful novel Foveaux, while they were marching up the hill, the proletariat of Surry Hills wrecked all their cars, and when they got to Darlinghurst, the masses of East Sydney, including the police (in East Sydney, even the police were Irish Catholics and hated the New Guard), thoroughly defeated them in the inevitable battle, and when the New Guard retreated, they had to do it on foot.
On the other hand, he used to say cynically about the famous meeting in Moore Park, at the height of the Lang dismissal crisis, just before the election, attended by half a million people, at which he was one of the speakers, that: “They were yelling for guns but they couldn’t use pencils”, referring to Lang’s subsequent election defeat.
As the Lang machine lost momentum and finally lost power in the ALP, he remained one of the dogged Lang loyalists, and he was one of the Lang floor speakers and one of the defeated Lang ticket at the Newtown Unity Conference in 1939, at which Lang lost control of the party.
He was one of the Lang activists expelled by the executive of the state Labor Party in 1940, and I later read the details of his expulsion in the minutes kept by the grandfather of one of my own political associates, who had been one of the ALP state executive who expelled him (and in his turn was expelled as part of the Communist Party faction, the State Labor Party, when it was thrown out of the ALP in 1941).
When the CPA-led State Labor Party was excluded, the Langites went briefly back into the Labor Party, but again, Lang, my father and a few others, were expelled in 1943 over articles in Century, Lang’s paper, opposing the Curtin government introducing conscription for overseas service during the Second World War. My father, the one-armed wounded volunteer from the First World War, was thus expelled from the ALP for opposing conscription in the Second World War.
During this whole period my parents lived at Bondi. For recreation one of their favourite pastimes was the card game solo, which was in those days a kind of cult. They belonged to a Bondi solo school or club. Another member of the same solo school, equally a solo afficianado and fanatic like my parents, was Eddie Maher, an active figure in the Plumbers Union and a leading Stalinist, later an organiser of the Communist Party.
Eddie Maher and my parents disagreed pretty sharply about politics, but in those days solo was a great leveller, and when I became acquainted with Maher later, he remembered my parents with affection, despite their political differences, as they did him.
Steve Gould stands for parliament
During the course of this political turmoil, my father stood for parliament once, in the federal election in 1940, when the rump Langites stood against the Federal ALP and in which the Federal ALP made considerable gains.
In this election my father was the Lang candidate for East Sydney, against Eddie Ward, an old personal friend, who had only crossed over from the Langites to the Federal Party at the very last possible moment. Ward was a charismatic figure with enormous popular support in East Sydney.
Another candidate was Diana Gould, a leading member of the Communist Party, and the wife of the well-known Stalinist theoretician, L. Harry Gould. She was one of two or three strikingly beautiful young women who spoke for the Communists in the Domain.
My father always claimed that the CPA put around the story that she was his estranged wife. (They were not related.) In the event, Ward romped in, Diana Gould got 2 per cent and my father got a very respectable 11 per cent, considering Ward’s prestige in the labor movement. (Not as good as Dick O’Halloran’s 40 per cent in the conscription election in 1917.)
Generally, the Langites didn’t do too badly in these elections. Official Labor won most of the Labor seats, but four Langites beat the Official Labor candidates, including Jack Beasley, Dan Curtin and Dan Minogue.
Immediately after the election, the split between the two Labor parties was ended and the Langites rejoined the Federal Labor caucus. When, a few months later, two independants, Cole and Wilson crossed the floor to unseat the UAP government, and elect the Curtin Labor government, Jack Beasley, one of the Langites, became a minister in that government.
I have a very distinct memory from that period of being dragged along to an enormous Langite meeting in the Australia Hall in Elizabeth Street, and crawling around the floor during the speeches. This must have been in 1940 because my father was one of the speakers, and I must have been about three or four at the time.
The Australia Hall in Elizabeth Street was an amazing place, and was, among many other meetings, the venue for all the Langite mass meetings. It was also the venue for the first Aboriginal meetings of the 1930s, which is why the Aboriginal community have succeeded in having it National Trust-listed, which it thoroughly deserves as a significant site both for Aboriginals and the labour movement.
Recently, when I bought a box of rather old secondhand books, I discovered a catalogue of the Sydney Catholic Central Library, which was the centre of Catholic culture in the 1920s and the 1930s. The address on the catalogue indicates that the ibrary was right next door to the Australia Hall. Obviously, in addition to occupying the high ground, as they were reputed to do, the Tykes also occupied the strategic addresses, like the one next to the Australia Hall.
In my own later life, after I had broken away from an adolescent involvement with the Communist Party and become an anti-Stalinist, I was constantly haunted by the L. Harry Gould connection! I have been asked hundreds of times by people on the left whether L. Harry Gould, the author of the didactic high-Stalinist Marxist Glossary, the educational bible of generations of members of the CPA, was my father.
L. Harry Gould, in his own way quite a serious intellectual, was that rare item, a Jewish Irishman, who had been born in Dublin and lived a long time in the United States. But he was certainly no relation, which I had to explain many times.
Interestingly, although he had been perhaps the major Stalinist ideologue in Australia in the 1930s, by the middle of the 1960s he was thoroughly disillusioned with Stalinism, and being a man who took Marxism seriously, he started to write a major work trying to make a balance sheet of the Stalinist phenomenon.
Unfortunately he was killed in a car accident while this work was in progress, with only a little of it published. L. Harry Gould and Diana were also quite well known for another typically exotic Sydney cultural phenomenon. Diana inherited a little money, and to earn a living during the harsh period of the Cold War they started a riding school in the Blue Mountains, which became very successful and continued for many years.
Its success depended partly on the exotic quality of such an enterprise being run by a couple of Communist intellectuals. Several years ago John Percy, the editor of the semi-Trotskyist Green Left Weekly told me that Diana had been for some years one of their subscribers, from the Blue Mountains, in her 90s. I wonder if she is still alive.
Terry O’Halloran and the Second World War
When Darwin was bombed during the Second World War my mother’s younger brother, Terry, joined up and talked his way into the Air Force, which was unusual for a working class Catholic from Glebe.
There being only two children in the family, my mother and her brother Terry, were very close, and I have seen some fascinating letters from him during his Air Force training. He had a cool eye, Terry O’Halloran, and he describes in these letters the class and religious bias against workers and Catholics from Glebe in the Air Force, and in quite an amusing way, how he took pride in overcoming this religious and class bias.
After his training, he was sent with the RAAF to Britain and he was one of the Australian airmen (a navigator) used up by the mad Bomber Harris in the militarily counterproductive saturation bombing raids over Germany.
The luck of the Goulds and the O’Hallorans held, and he was one of the fortunate Australian air crew who survived the British tour of duty, which had a very high casualty rate. Terry O’Halloran was a fairly intensly religious Catholic, but he also became a rather urbane man of the world.
Dick O’Halloran’s genes came to the fore very sharply in Terry O’Halloran, who became very successful in the business world. On the basis of his service in the Air Force, he went back into the Texaco Oil Company, where he had been an office boy before the war, and managed to rise to an executive position. Hitherto, like many big-end-of-town concerns, the executive level of Texaco had been a completely Protestant preserve, and Terry was the first Catholic in a management position.
He moved up through the 1940s and the 1950s in the ranks of Texaco and later, its successor company, Caltex, as an oil company executive, being the manager for Caltex in Fiji, then the state manager for Victoria in Melbourne, and later the state manager of Caltex in NSW at the time of the introduction of tied-house petrol stations.
In Terry O’Halloran’s case the family tradition worked itself out in defiantly asserting his Catholic religious allegiance in a predominantly Masonic and Protestant executive environment. He was also in one of the ways available to a socially conscious and conscientious Catholic layman, an enthusiastic activist in the St Vincent de Paul Society, visiting and helping families in need.
However, he became fairly right wing politically, and was a vocal supporter of B.A. Santamaria and the DLP at the time of the Great Split in the ALP, and he and my father used to argue quite vehemently at family gatherings about politics.
Terry O’Halloran sharply disagreed with my activities during the Vietnam war, and he and I used to have rather vigorous arguments about Vietnam. Despite all this conflict over politics and religion, family solidarity remained quite strong. There was a kind of unwritten compact that whatever differences we might have had to be respected, and a considerable family tribal loyalty prevailed.
Unfortunately Terry died comparatively young in 1975, in his middle fifties. He was a good man and an intense man, who lived and died keeping to schedules, and he collapsed and died of a heart attack (his first) at St Michaels Golf Course, playing an evening game of golf, after a long day in his executive job, followed by a couple of hours squeezed in on his St Vincent de Paul activities, before going to golf.
June 2, 1999