Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Grandfather was a wharfie.

What value should the family historian place on snippets of information passed along by relatives who preface their contribution with "I have always been told ..." or "Everybody knew that ..."?

From a very early age, I "knew" that our 2xgreat grandfather, Thomas Henry SUDDABY (who died a few years before my birth) had worked on the wharves. There were also vague references to his having been a "grammar school boy" with the unspoken suggestion that there must have been some financial catastrophe (or even a scandal) to explain such a fall in social standing.

In this case, there was more than a kernel of truth in each of the tales. However the implied connections that everyone was far too polite to make explicit could not have been further from the truth.

Reporting on T H Suddaby's time at Maryborough Grammar School and the loss of the family fortune must wait for another time. But this photograph shows him with a few of his wharfie mates at the Waterside Workers Federation National Conference circa 1912.

I suspect that Tom (dapper with his panama hat, front row) did not feel that he was slumming it in this company.

At the time Andrew Fisher (immediately behind Tom) had already served as Prime Minister of Australia and would do so again.

William Morris (Billy) Hughes (to Fisher's left in the paler suit) was also a member of Parliament but yet to attain the highest office.

In Australian English, a stevedore who manually handled cargo onto or off ships was known as a wharf-labourer, a wharf-lumper, or simply a wharfie.

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