Sydney’s burning: the real conspiracy

by

Ian Turner

There is no doubt that some members of the IWW were incendiarists or would-be incendiarists. Tom Barker says as much in his recently published reminiscences:

    warehouses and big places did go up in fire. It was very easy for anyone who got in with the stuff. After all, there was nothing new about fire-dope. It was just a mixture of phosphorus and calcium [sic] bi-sulphide. It was a well-known method of making fire, wrapping these components together in a wet rag and then, by and by, when it dried out, the phosphorus set up spontaneous combustion. There was no secret about it. It had a long history behind it in Ireland, where they called it “Fenian fire”. It had been used in Australia by shearers over many generations to get rid of faulty accommodation.[1] If the owner wouldn’t put in decent buildings and sleeping quarters, when the boys left to go onto the next station they took some of this stuff, rolled it up in wet newspaper or cloth, and about two days after they had gone something happened. When they came back next year there were brand new buildings waiting for them. That was a method of cajoling the cocky into doing what the law required him to do.We had many little groups amongst us who were doing various things, and those things were deadly secret and they kept them to themselves, so that you might be God Almighty in the organisation, but you wouldn’t know half a dozen things that were going on. There was a chemist, Scully, who ratted on the IWW, who made the mixture. Others, there was no doubt at all about it, had some knowledge of it.

This was known to the labour movement at the time. The People, the paper of the Socialist Labor Party, wrote on December 14, 1916, immediately after the conviction of the Twelve: “Once more the tactics of the Chicago faction of the IWW has led the members of the working class to jail.” Yet the labour movement came to the defence of the Twelve — at first only a minority, but gradually the defence campaign came to embrace the whole movement.

It was partly the belief that, as the People said, “Even admitting that these men were guilty of the act of which they were convicted, the penalties imposed were out of all proportion to the deeds alleged to be committed … It was partly that the labour movement believed that the Twelve had been prejudged by “certain sections of the Public, Press, Pulpit, and especially Politicians”, and crucified by war hysteria and the propaganda needs of the conscription campaign.

And it was partly the belief that the case against the Twelve was a frame.

Of this last, there can be little doubt. But how was the frame accomplished? And precisely who was framed?

Firstly, who was framed? In one sense every one of the Twelve, for, as Henry Boote wrote: “the evidence on which these men were convicted was rotten through and through”. But some of them were involved in incendiarism, or at least in preparation for incendiarism.

If we take the confessions of Scully and Davis Goldstein to Judd as bearing some relation to the truth, this is the picture: Grant: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. Larkin: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. King: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. Moore: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. Reeve: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. Besant: exonerated by Scully and Goldstein. McPherson exonerated by Goldstein. Beatty: exonerated by Goldstein. Glynn: exonerated by Scully. Fagin: incriminated by Scully. Teen: incriminated by Scully. Hamilton: incriminated by Scully.

(Goldstein’s statutory declaration named only those whom he believed to be “absolutely innocent of the crimes upon which they are convicted”. The presumption was that he believed the others — that is, Fagin, Teen, Hamilton, and Glynn, against all of whom he had given evidence — to be guilty. Scully’s statement to Mutch and Connolly exonerated the six listed above and incriminated Fagin, Teen, Hamilton, Besant, and “Morgan [probably Mahony], and the others”. However, Besant was included in Scully’s list of those who “did it” in error, as Scully later pointed out; it is probable that the name should be Beatty, against whom he did give evidence. Whether Scully’s “others” was meant to include McPherson is unexplained, but it seems unlikely, in view of his comments about the way in which the evidence against McPherson was rigged.)

That leaves a hard core of Fagin, Teen, and Hamilton, and the possibility of some degree of participation or knowledge on the part of Beatty, Glynn and McPherson. The others are definitely out. And now we are getting closer to the truth.

How was the frame-up organised? I believe what happened was this. Detective Moore was the police expert on subversive activities. In July, he hired Joe Brown to spy on the IWW for him; early in August, Brown reported talk of arson in IWW circles. About August 21, Detective Fergusson was assigned to assist Moore — Moore said “in inquiries about the IWW”; Fergusson said “on military inquiries and German inquiries”, and denied that he was investigating “fires or anything like that”.

Despite Fergusson’s disclaimer, it seems likely that Moore told him about the whispers reported by Joe Brown. Fergusson thought of his friend, Mac McAlister, whom he knew to be a wharfie of strong left-wing sympathies (although he denied that he knew McAlister to be an IWW sympathiser). Fergusson asked McAlister for information; McAlister said that there were rumours around the waterfront about IWW incendiarism; Fergusson asked for more — and perhaps at this point offered to put McAlister on the payroll as an informer. McAlister was already on the IWW rolls, although he was unfinancial; but he was not a particularly active member, and was certainly not a trusted member of the inner circle. However, he liked grog and money, and, in Scully’s phrase, he was “tired of hard work”. He fell in with Fergusson’s proposal.

McAlister obliged with a story about a mysterious Russian named “Androvitch” who was allegedly the source of supply for fire-dope. (“Androvitch” was never found, and probably never seen, despite the police stories about hunting for him night and day.)

McAlister may also have said at this time, as he and the police claimed, that a man named “Andrew” had first promised him, and then supplied him with, some fire-dope. But this cannot be taken as established. So far as I can discover, there is no documentary evidence for the existence of “Andrew” before September 17; nor is there any document to establish the existence of the bottle of fire-dope which McAlister was said to have received from “Andrew” on September 4 before the Government Analyst’s report of September 21. Unfortunately, as discussed earlier, all the documents which might have provided contemporary support for these vital pieces of evidence had been lost.

Whatever the truth of this, the police certainly wanted more evidence, and McAlister set out to provide it. He produced the story of the drawing of lots, which introduced the fictitious character of Mahony. The police said that he gave them this story on September 7, but once again there was no independent documentary evidence for this — it was missing. However, the police provided confirmatory evidence with Detective Leary’s story of shadowing McAlister and Tom Moore away from the IWW rooms on September 7, and overhearing Moore say to McAlister that “twelve of the bastards must be let go together”. This story was concocted by McAlister and the police. There is absolutely no evidence to connect any one of the Twelve — or indeed anyone else `51; with any of the twelve unsuccessful fires which occurred between September 8 and 12. It seems unlikely that the successful fires of June, July and August and these unsuccessful attempts could all have been the work of the same men, for why should the arsonists have lost their skill? What then had happened?

The fact that, of all the business premises in Sydney, the police warned only four of the danger of arson, and that of these two were the scenes of unsuccessful fires, suggests that this whole series may have been a police provocation, designed to bolster a case that was still lacking in substance. However, Mr Shand argued persuasively before Mr Justice Street that this would have involved a grave risk of serious fires, and provocation could therefore not be considered.

The evidence of Harry Scully suggested another explanation. He claimed that Joe Fagin had told him that fifty or more lots of fire-dope had been distributed among trusted members of the IWW on Sunday, September 3. It is possible that this was a defective batch of dope, and that the dope so distributed was planted without effect on various premises the following weekend. (It is also possible that McAlister’s concoction about “Androvitch”, and perhaps “Andrew”, was designed to provide an acceptable explanation for a bottle of fire-dope which he had acquired with guilty intent on September 3.)

However this may have been, the forgery case gave the police their first real lever.

Davis Goldstein financed the forgeries and the police had evidence of this. He had been an official of the IWW and was still a supporter; he was well known to and trusted by the leading members of the organisation. His brother Louis was not a Wobbly, but could be used to put pressure on Davis. The police let it be known that a deal was possible. Louis cracked easily; he was ready to give evidence, but knew nothing. However, he persuaded his reluctant brother to talk. Davis provided the first solid evidence of incendiarism: he acquired a bottle of fire-dope from Jack Hamilton. (In order to strengthen his evidence on this, the police later concocted a story that Hamilton had handed the dope over in the street.)

By now, the conscription campaign was well under way. The Prime Minister had been informed of what was going on (that is, that arson was suspected, not that a frame-up was being prepared), and was pressing for quick action. So was the New South Wales Government.[2] The turning point seems to have been September 20, the day on which McAlister finally agreed that he would give evidence. It was on this day that McAlister’s evidence was tidied up — and perhaps “Andrew” was created, although the Crown Solicitor still had “Andrew” and “Androvitch” confused two days later.[3] On the next day, September 21, the police sent the McAlister-“Andrew” dope (which allegedly had been in their hands since September 5) and the Goldstein-Hamilton dope (which they had received on September 15) to the Government Analyst.

On the following day, the Crown Solicitor drew a warrant for the arrest of Hamilton (the only one against whom there was any strong evidence — but Davis Goldstein had not yet agreed to become a witness), Glynn (accused by Goldstein of confessing IWW responsibility), Moore (framed by McAlister), Larkin, Reeve and Grant (included presumably because they were prominent members of the organisation; the police evidence of demonstrations of fire-setting by Larkin and Reeve was concocted, and there was no other serious evidence against them); Morgan (no-one had ever named him as an arsonist; he was presumably in as a bail-jumper); and — for good measure — the fictitious Androvitch and Mahony (although not “Andrew”). The IWW rooms were raided the next day, and Glynn, Reeve, Larkin and Hamilton were arrested. Among the papers seized were the membership lists and the incriminating letters which Reeve had written to Morgan in 1915. McPherson was arrested on an entirely different charge, and Besant because there was some cotton waste about in the print-shop where he was working.[4]

Moore and Grant were picked up some days later. The cotton waste allegedly found in Moore’s box is of doubtful validity; it may well have been planted. Grant was arrested in Broken Hill; the indictment suggests that the police hoped to tax him with the burning of some wheat stacks.

On the same day that this warrant was issued, Davis Goldstein provided the police with their second strong piece of evidence: Fagin’s admission that he was involved in the fires, and that Scully had been supplying the chemicals.

Davis and Louis both reported admissions by Teen; Davis’ evidence may have been in part true, but there is grave doubt about Louis.

With Scully on the hook, the frame was almost complete. Scully was vulnerable because he was an accomplice in arson. He learned from his employer, Cole, that he was under observation, and he decided to turn King’s evidence. At the same time he warned Fagin of the danger they were in and tried to recover the phosphorus he had supplied to Fagin. The police picked him up on the morning of September 30, and he made a statement implicating Hamilton, Fagin, Teen and Beatty. (The police were already getting ready to move against Fagin and Teen: now they had a warrant issued for these two, and added Beatty.) But the case still needed expanding. An unidentified person was instructed to plant some fire-dope on Teen and Davis Goldstein was instructed to lead Teen to a spot where he could be arrested.[5] And someone was instructed to plant some dope in Fagin’s gladstone bag.[6] The dope was planted, the arrests were made, and the case was complete.

The conscription campaign was moving towards its climax, and it was important to get the case into court so as to secure the maximum propaganda effect. McAlister and Scully had already agreed to give evidence, but the Goldsteins were holding out. Louis Goldstein had been discharged on the forgery charge at the preliminary hearing, but Davis was still in jeopardy. Louis was demanding that the Crown should withdraw the proceedings against Davis, too, but the Crown wanted their evidence first. Finally Goldstein gave in several days after the preliminary hearing opened. The Crown rewarded him with a nolle prosequi.

In gaol, while the trial was on, Jack Hamilton blamed himself for the plight of his fellow workers. He offered to confess and take the whole responsibility. But solidarity triumphed, and the other men refused.

It was a good frame. The conscriptionists got their propaganda triumph (but they did not win their referendum). The Crown got its conviction. The prisoners got their five to fifteen years.

It was a good frame — too good for the defence to crack — and it would have stuck but for the consciences of Scully and Davis Goldstein. Neither was happy about his part in the affair. Scully had a grievance over the distribution of the reward. Goldstein had a grievance over Morgan’s bail and his failure in the Wyong pub.

Ernie Judd had been appointed by the New South Wales Labor Council to investigate the whole affair; when be approached Scully, Scully opened up. The case had been framed, and six at least of the Twelve were innocent. From there, Judd went to Davis Goldstein, who said that eight of the Twelve were innocent and provided more details of the frame.

Scully had also told Judd that his friend Detective Surridge was prepared to talk, and Judd actually interviewed Surridge (though without result). It may have been from Surridge that the police learned what was afoot, or they may have had Judd under observation.

They did a deal with Scully, and smuggled him out of the country. But Judd got wind of this, and spilled the story through Brookfield, in the New South Wales Parliament. The Government was caught flat-footed, and agreed to the Opposition demand for an inquiry, but limited its terms to the allegations against the police. They arranged for Scully to be brought back from San Francisco to Sydney.

Meanwhile, the police commissioned Louis Goldstein to find out what his brother was up to. Louis reported that Davis, too, had “sung” to Judd. So Detective Pauling went to work on Davis and, at the last minute, convinced him that he would have to recant. The impression one gets of Davis Goldstein is that he was afraid of the police, and it is likely that he was threatened with a charge of perjury if he did not repudiate his confession. However this may have been, the police pressure was successful. Before the Street Commission, Davis Goldstein repudiated every part of his confession, and swore that he had concocted it out of malice against the detectives and a desire for revenge. Similarly with Scully — just how and when the detectives prevailed upon him on his return from San Francisco is unknown, but they succeeded. He did not repudiate his confession completely but he qualified it almost out of existence.

Mr Justice Street found himself quite unable to believe that the police would frame a case — or even that they would embroider a good case to make it better. He ruled out completely the confessions of Scully and Davis Goldstein, and side-stepped all the other evidence of police corruption that the defence had so painstakingly amassed. The frame stood. Of the Twelve, three, perhaps four, had been involved in arson or preparations for arson (although the Crown case against the Twelve was largely faked and bore little resemblance to anything that these three or four had done); the other eight or nine had certainly not been involved and probably had no knowledge of what their fellow-workers had been planning and doing. But all twelve remained in gaol.

There is little more to tell. Davis Goldstein had left Australia before the Ewing Commission; after it, Louis Goldstein dropped quietly (and one imagines gratefully) out of sight. Harry Scully resisted further police pressure to leave the country, and finally succeeded in finding another job as a chemist; he died of meningitis two months before Charlie Reeve was freed. Henry Boote lived a long and honourable life as poet, labour journalist and radical propagandist; he died some years after the Second World War.

The dogmas which had hobbled Ernie Judd as a leader of the Socialist Labor Party, in the days before he was swept up in the great mass campaigns for the One Big Union and the Release of the Twelve, returned in even greater strength; he ended his days as a cantankerous stump orator, preaching the truths of De Leonism to a dwindling handful of the converted. Tom Mutch late in life became interested in history and genealogy; unfortunately, his papers in the Mitchell Library contain few reminders of the days when his world was wide. Jock Garden became a leading propagandist for Jack Lang in the hectic years of the depression and the “Lang Plan”; later, he was discreditably involved (when acting as secretary to a Federal Labor Minister) in a scandal involving timber leases in New Guinea. Tom Barker worked for some time for various Soviet agencies; eventually he settled in London. After World War II he became a Labour councillor in the borough of St Pancras (and, aged 77, still was at the time of writing). He was the only Lord Mayor to refuse to wear the mayoral robes, and on one occasion scandalised the Labor Party by flying the Red Flag over the St Pancras Town Hall. On the morning of March 22, 1921, while King and Reeve were still in gaol, Jack Brookfield stepped off the Broken Hill express at Riverton, where the train had stopped for breakfast. A Russian named Tomayev ran amok on the platform and fired off forty-one shots from a revolver, scattering the crowd. Brookfield and a police constable rushed Tomayev; Brookfield got two bullets in the stomach, and died that evening in Adelaide hospital. Tomayev later said — probably falsely — that he had been paid £100 to kill Brookfield. The poet Mary Gilmore wrote:

Tell it abroad, tell it abroad,
Tell it by chapel and steeple,
How, in the height of his manly prime,
Brookfield died for the people.

Of the Twelve, most had had their fill of notoriety, and were happy to abandon public life. They once more became workers, and probably active unionists, but they left no further mark on the history of Australian labour. There were three exceptions. A Communist Party was formed in Australia in October 1920, three months after the first ten of the IWW men were freed. Jock Garden was a leading member. The Communist International at the time was seeking to draw the syndicalist revolutionaries of the IWW into its ranks. Tom Glynn and J.B. King became Communists, and Glynn the first editor of the party’s paper. But the ideological differences were too great; a year later, Glynn and King broke with the Communists, formed the Industrial Union Propaganda League, and began to republish Direct Action. A temporary rapprochement followed a “unity conference” at which the Communists agreed to recognise the IUPL as the Australian section of the Red International of Labor Unions, a Comintern affiliate. But this did not last either, and Glynn and King finally broke with the Communist Party in March 1922. Their syndicalist venture did not prosper. King worked for a time in Russia, but returned disillusioned with the failure of the Bolsheviks to realise their earlier slogan of “industry to the toilers who work therein”.

Donald Grant, too, threw himself into revolutionary politics. Three weeks after his release from gaol, he was back on the Sydney Domain, preaching with all his old fire that he “hoped before long to establish a big organisation of rebels in the country, an organisation that would revolutionise the present social system”. He said Mr Justice Pring, Mr Lamb and others were true to their class but the workers were not. … “A class war would have to be fought the world over, and it would have to be fought to the bitter end, even if the streets of the cities of the world were drenched with the blood of the workers”.

He continued to agitate for the revolution for some years, but finally he made his peace with parliamentary politics, and became a Labor Senator. The last of the Twelve, Donald Grant, at the time of writing was living in quiet retirement in Sydney. There was still the clear blue gaze into the future, the Scots burr and the fiery turn of phrase, the pride of bearing — that made him a hero of his time, but his voice was no longer raised.[7]

What made the men who played their parts in these extraordinary events — the police and the Wobblies — act as they did?

It is almost impossible to dig through a pile of police documents to the minds of the individual men behind them. Policemen are trained to report in formal officialese, and there is little in the police reports of anything else. In the IWW files, those reports which concerned political activities showed little sense of discrimination about the finer distinctions of political ideas and organisations. There were only the broad divisions — the conservatives, who were beyond observation and above suspicion, for it was only change which was suspicious; the Labor Party, whose public propagandist activities sometimes came under police survey and some of whose members might fall into the category of “doubtfuls”; and the radicals and revolutionaries, who were one big bundle of sinister and dangerous elements who must be watched. The reports lacked human understanding, they were not concerned with situations or motives, but with acts.

None had the slightest touch of humour; they were all deadpan.[8] What then does emerge from these files? A conservatism that was quick to suspect radical agitation and anti-“patriotism”, and to associate these with moral turpitude and crime. A moralism that was quick to denounce criminality in conventionally loaded phrases. It is no wonder that the police were alarmed and affronted by the IWW.

How did this conservatism and moralism get along with the corruption and malpractice which undoubtedly existed in the force? Once again, there are no direct clues. One must assume that many members of the force applied a double standard — that they thought of themselves not only as law-enforcers for the community at large, but as law-makers for themselves. For even when they were clearly in the wrong they showed no sign of recognising it. And, with a strong sense of solidarity, when one was accused his fellows covered up.

Perhaps this came from a sense of embattlement, of the law-enforcers in continuous war with those who break the law. War is a dirty business: the opponent respects no rules; so he must be fought with his own weapons. If he is guilty, then he must pay — even if his guilt cannot be established by untainted evidence. And if a crime has been committed, but no guilt can be established, then someone must pay. There is a potential criminal for every crime. The preservation of society demands no less. The police are forced by their situation to do wrong that right may come.

Nevertheless, to frame a complicated case demands careful thought and meticulous planning. This is not something that can be done every day — it must be kept for important occasions, as was the trial of the IWW Twelve. Here personal distaste and political environment combined to encourage the police to act. The hope of personal gain was probably not a major motive; rather this was seen as a job that, in the situation, had to be done.

Between the police force and those who supervised and directed their work in the Government and those who judged it from the bench, there was a complex relation. It was the job of the police to do what they had to do and then conceal it; it was the job of their political and judicial superiors to pretend that this was not done. But this was an unacknowledged agreement. Law enforcement is based on violence; it almost necessarily involves malpractice; and many of those who take part in it are touched by corruption. Yet none of this can be admitted by Government or Bench, because to do so would be to undermine an institution on which the power of judges and politicians depends.

Between the police and the Wobblies, there was that strange love-hate relationship of which Dostoyevsky wrote. They were in such close contact, they knew one another so well, each side was preoccupied with the other’s plans and motives and actions: this very intimacy made hate impossible. Yet they started from opposite premises, they served different gods. And so there was a nexus between them which could not be dissolved, for there is nothing more central to thought and emotion than one’s closest enemies. Each man destroys those whom he loves — and loves those whom he must destroy.

What of the Wobblies? Like the police, they were their own law-makers, but from more clearly defined premises. For the revolutionary, society is something that is external to him, operating against him in an oppressive and exploitative way. The law has no sanctity in its own right; it is not divinely ordained, and anything that is made by man may be unmade. Yet most revolutionaries live within the law — perhaps because they fear the personal consequences; perhaps because they accept that even an unjust society is better that no society at all, and that change must come by persuasion rather than personal defiance.

But some do not, and among these were the Wobblies. They made contempt for the law a way of life; for them, this kind of direct action was the essence of revolutionary behaviour. Yet it was still a long step from striking, or speaking from a street corner soapbox or selling newspapers in defiance of the law, to the physical destruction of property or life.

What makes a man a nihilist? — for there was a handful of nihilists in Australia. Anger, impatience, lack of faith — whatever it is, it bites deep into men’s souls, and leads them to destroy the symbols of injustice they see around them, believing that by destroying the symbols they are destroying injustice itself.

Yet they were not ordinary criminals. They destroyed not for themselves but for all men, not for greed or spite but for a dream. That is why men came to their defence — even men who knew that they were wrong — for beneath their error and their destruction were human hearts. The tragedy of the Australian nihilists was that what they finally destroyed was themselves and the cause they sought to advance.

The Wobblies harboured this element of nihilism because they were a loosely disciplined organisation with an undeveloped ideology, because they repudiated the law in theory and could not see why it should be respected in practice, because the syndicalist Utopia they preached had much in common with anarchism, and because the “propaganda of the deed” has always been one part of anarchism.

The Wobblies had been born of violence — the naked, brutal violence of the war of the American classes. They had lived under the torment of injustice and bitter hate. And a few of them had come to live by violence and hate. But their movement was much more than this, and although it was as abhorrent to respectable trade union leaders and Labor politicians as to employers and conservatives, it was enormously attractive to many. Its members had a courage, a dedication, and a humour that were rare in the labour movement. Its promise of a future in which working men ended their exploitation and alienation by taking to themselves the industries they worked, and deciding among themselves the distribution of their product, gave hope to many minds and hearts. So that when entrenched conservatism and the whole power of the State sought to crush this movement by assimilating it to the actions and plans of its tiny nihilist minority, there were tens of thousands who came to its defence. Conservatism, by over-reaching itself, succeeded in doing what nihilism was unable to do — to convert criminality into the class war; for what radical spirit could resist the cry from the depths of a movement whose members sang as if they meant it:

When the Union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?
But the Union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left for us but to organise and fight?
For the Union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that have never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn,
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold,
We can bring to birth the new world from the ashes of the old,
For the Union makes us strong.

Notes:

1. The ingredients were common enough in the bush: phosphorus was used for poisoning rabbits, and carbon bi-sulphide in tanning hides. As evidence that the tactic of incendiarism was not unknown in the bush, compare this couplet from a bushranger ballad of the 1880s: “If poor Dan Morgan is cold in the clay, He has two friends called Bryant and May”; and this description of “the present social system of pastoral Australia”, from Joseph Furphy’s Rigby’s Romance: “a patriarchal despotism, tempered by Bryant and May”.

2. There is some-though not very satisfactory-evidence for this. Demanding an inquiry in Parliament in July 1918, T.D. Mulch said: “The trials were hurried on; and I ask that the Royal Commission shall … ferret out the telegrams which passed between the State Crown Law Department and the Federal Attorney-General’s Department with a view to bringing on these trials at an earlier period than would otherwise be the case. … we want produced the telegram that Mr Hughes sent, and the telegram which, I understand, the Attorney-General sent.” The Attorney-General denied any such exchange. Mutch retorted: “I have it on the authority of a man who is in a public office. … I am informed that telegrams did pass between Sydney and Melbourne.”

And Davis Goldstein, in his statutory declaration of July 18, 1918, said that, when he had expressed doubts about the wisdom of the projected raid on the IWW headquarters on September 23, 1916, “Turbet … replied that instructions, coupled with requests from Melbourne, were to the effect that the raid was to take place immediately and that “something must be done”.

I did not discover any such exchanges or instructions in the New South Wales files I examined; this, however, does not prove conclusively that no exchanges took place. Goldstein denied that Turbet had told him about any instructions coming from the Commonwealth Government; however Mr Boyce, Goldstein’s counsel, recalled that at one conference — probably on September 25 — Goldstein had complained “that the police bad acted too quickly; that if they could have waited a little longer they would have bagged the lot”.

The Prime Minister’s interest might perhaps be established by an entry in Detective Leary’s diary for October 1: “Interviewing the Prime Minister who was desirous of communicating with the Inspector-General of Police”. Leary said in evidence that his visit to the Prime Minister had nothing to do with the IWW case — but it was recorded in his notebook in the middle of the pages dealing with the case.

3. The fact that the first mention of the name “Andrew” seems to have appeared in some of the detectives’ diaries a couple of days before this does not necessarily invalidate the suggestion — all the detectives agreed that they often wrote up their diaries days after the event. On the other hand, “Andrew” was first mentioned in Fergusson’s diary on this day.

4. Besant was suspected of participation in the forgeries. Perhaps he was picked up because the police had been unable to make this stick.

5. This could have been done by Davis Goldstein, Tom Pope, or one of the police.

6. This could have been done by Tom Pope or one of the police. (I should make it clear that I am not accusing Pope of framing Teen or Fagin; I am merely stating that, on the face of the evidence, it was a possibility which bore investigation. To the contrary, Pope’s demeanour before Mr Justice Street was that of a genuine members of the IWW, and it was he who took responsibility for supplying the prisoners with their meals while they were awaiting trial.)

7. After this was written, I learned from Messrs W. Sutton and J. Harris of the Queensland branch of the Labor History Society that Bill Beatty was also alive and living in Brisbane. Messrs Sutton and Harris recorded Bill Beatty’s reminiscences; these appear in Labour History, November 1967, but add little to this record.

8. Almost the only exception was a side comment in Detective Leary’s notebook, dated October 9, 1916: “Good stuff for a novel.”

From Sydney’s Burning (Alpha Books, Sydney, 1969)

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