Archive number: 2300
Preferred name: Joe
Date interviewed: 08 June, 2000
You are listening to the interview audio
NB. This transcript is of an interview filmed for the television series, Australians at War in 1999-2000. It was incorporated into the Archive in 2008.
Can you tell me where you were born and where you grew up?
I got to answer - West Wyalong.
What year were you born?
1900 - 22nd May 1900.
And what were your family doing at West Wyalong?
Well, at the time there was a gold rush in Wyalong, West Wyalong, and people went there for that purpose to make money and also to make
a success of their life. Now my parents, they went there and opened up a small business – shoes and accessories – but during the time there was a very big problem health wise, there was no sanitation in the area
and the people were getting sick, taken to hospital and it was an epidemic of typhoid. Unfortunately, my family, they were there at the time when there was nothing they could do. The people got sick and there was
no health services. And from time to time, unfortunately at that time, the business side, I don’t know what happened, the business, there was no record of that, because there was so much activity and nobody seemed to be interested in anybody. The people, they were lost, more or less.
I think they survived as far as the epidemic went until my mother - but, I’ll tell you another story. My mother died when she was only twenty-eight. That’s six months after I was born and I think from there probably that
was the end of the business and they just, family drifted, my father, I suppose he had Bill, a younger brother at the time, he’d be about two, I think, when I died, and I think it was left to my grandparents or some relatives
to take care of the two children. And from there on, quite honestly, I don’t know what happened because I was too young to know. But anyway, I was finally with a carer, or the grandparents, and I struggled on until I was able to say, ‘Oh well, here
goes, I’ll have a go on my own.’ Which I did and I thought, ‘Well it’s just a case of you got to do something for yourself.’ People, I’d been to people and parents, not parents, relatives from time to time and I suppose they had their own family to look after and everything and so anyway I took
myself out, I did what I wanted to do. Go, I wanted to go anywhere. I wanted to do things I wanted to do and, and from time, I just kept on, I was fortunate, I was able to … health was good; I never had any health problem.
Can I just take you back, just to your schooldays - can you tell me what you remember of being at school, what school was like?
Yes, first of all I went to a school at North Parramatta. I think probably some of the Hardies or somebody was probably with them or boarding with, I don’t know. Yeah, I went, that’s Parramatta, North Parramatta, and at the time I was able to …
in those days you had what they called a Leaving Certificate and you carried on until you got that certificate, something like a Qualifying Certificate, or something. Well, when I reached that age, or stage, I would say about sixteen, so I took off. Still didn’t worry any more
I …I joined the railway
Can I just stop you there and just ask you. When you were at school were you taught about Empire, or did Empire mean anything to you in those schooldays?
I remember election time, when there was a lot of activity, you know as a child, I think the school was, it was a new school, it was open in 1913, I think, but of course,
not about the Empire, I don’t know if that was … don’t think I thought too much about that. I got other ideas - sporting wise.
What sort of ideas?
Well, at an early age I was always interested in some activity in sport, not professionally, just, just to be in it, and
enjoy it. We had, we used to have our competitions and the likes of that and from the time I got more involved in sport because I enjoyed it. Enjoyed being involved. And I could pretty well mention any type of sport that I wasn’t involved in, you know,
I got, from time to time I just got interested in racing, horse racing, that was about the end of me I think. Because I got involved with the active part of it, you know, bookmakers, trainers, and of course I grew up and, I suppose, like it’s
hard, because a lot of things could happen in racing, you know, things not so good. You know, people that did the wrong thing, probably, gambling in those days was as it is now. It’s still all … it’s after is profit. That’s all they … But I got into it and I was involved with a
chap that had his stables at Rosehill, near Rosehill Racecourse. So I used to do a bit of exercise, horses, and I got very much involved. Used to go to all the meetings …
Was this while you were still at school?
I beg your pardon?
Was this while you were still at school? Did you go to the track while at school?
No, no, I’d finished school.
Did you ever do any training, military training, when you were still at school?
You know, there was compulsory training?
Yes, what they called compulsory training. Yeah, we had, more or less; I would say a sort of a conscription. When you’d reached a certain age you had to attend sessions, where they had, the military were in charge. You had to do a course, and compulsory it was, because if you didn’t attend when you were supposed to
night-time training or anything. But I kept going with it and I finally … I remember at one time when we, when we were doing the compulsory training, there was a lot of stirring up amongst the people involved. They, more or less, just took objection to being forced into it, yeah,
anyway, in time we grew out of that. And, this is about the time that I was on the railway.
Sorry, I was just thinking when you did that military training at school you were saying, people… this was when you were at school there was trouble?
Yes, I mean the boys themselves, like myself, we objected to being forced into it and doing things that we didn’t want to do.
But anyway in time, that expired, and we reached an age when you didn’t have to prepare or didn’t have to attend any more.
Did you object, did you object because of your personal beliefs, or because you didn’t like being told what to do?
Well, I’d put it that way, yeah. We didn’t want to be forced into it. I remember, just trying to think about that …
… I think there was a little bit of an uprising amongst the cadets, we were called the cadets. And they, it was only minor, just fizzled out. They thought they’d be in the … But I think we had to go to camp and there was so many days you had to spend in camp, two weeks, or something.
and, well at that stage, a flu epidemic … it started and they disbanded the camp so we didn’t have do more camp work, I was free again.
You were lucky.
Well, it didn’t appeal to me, at the time.
Can you remember where you were when you heard the war
had broken out in Europe? Do you remember hearing about it?
It was 1914, wasn’t it? Yes. Yes, I remember that activity. A lot of people were, I would say, were unc- they didn’t know what the future was. It just was something happened in their life. People was just, more or less, they
they were shocked more, you know what was going on. How it was going to develop, how it was going to affect the people, the population. And my experience, well, I survived that. When I was made a permanent employee in the railway it was something that you either
stopped with it or grew with it. You either went … you liked it or otherwise. You know the railway life appealed to me. I did a lot of travelling to different places. At one stage I was, what they described as a relief employee.
We might come to that a little bit later. I just want to go back to the outbreak of war. Did you, you
wanted to enlist at that time. Can you tell me why you wanted to enlist?
Well, I imagine that there’s people around about my own age or probably older. They were all getting involved. You know, it was something affecting everybody’s lives. And I was one of them. Yeah, Bill, my brother, he’d already gone. He’d gone and already served
his time in Australia and he went overseas and was actively away serving and I was, wanted to be in it too.
So you did it for the money or for the adventure?
Adventure. Yeah, adventure, nothing else. Yeah, I was that keen to be involved that I put my age back on the application
to join. Enlistment form as it was described, down in Victoria Barracks, in Sydney. And anyway, that got back to the Department of Railways. And of course at that time they were … we were described as a protective industry. They had to agree to let the people leave the service
and join the ser- the military, or army, or whatever it was. And, of course, they got down to my application somehow, and it was forged. And I remember there was something on it, in the first place, when it went to the … not to go to encampment until the date of my … sixteenth birthday, I think.
Yeah, something. Anyway that was all scrubbed. The Railway Department got hold of it, finished, you’re not going. You’re stopped. You’re stopped. You’re staying.
So how old were you when you tried to enlist?
Sixteen. Going on seventeen.
And you put your age up to eighteen?
Yeah, but that didn’t mean anything. You had to have proof.
So, you, you forged your proof. Is that,
can you tell me what you did? You forged … You forged your mother’s signature or you forged a signature?
Parents. Auntie or something. One of my uncles or something, one of them. Anyway I was … I mean from, somehow I just bounced along and kept going. I didn’t have problems, I didn’t, I didn’t worry about anything.
I was just living, enjoying life. Had a lot of friends, my own age. And we were happy.
Can you tell me about the Railway Union, tell me when you joined the union?
Well, I’ll come to that. Yeah, well, it’s very important that employees … they encourage you, or force you to become a member of the union.
And, it didn’t worry me, I think it’s only probably a few shillings to join, or pay an annual subscription and I was very active in the union movement, used to attend all the meetings, and that. And we had at the time a chap named Dr Lloyd Ross. He was a very strong …
opposition to the way the railway employees were being treated and he was building up- he was a doctor by, oh what can you describe it, probably …
By law or something, yeah.
Not medicine. But he was a very clever man and he was a union secretary for quite a long time. And that little badge, did you see it?
Well that’s the badge we got issued with. It’s strange that that turned
up amongst my stuff.
So why did you join the Uunion. Did you have to?
Well, partly because I wanted to. All my friends they were active in the union. They used to have meetings and gatherings. Marches.
But why did you think the union was important in Australia at that time?
Well, I suppose, we got that
feeling about it. It was important. It was something that was for the good of the people. Rather than being stood down or stood over, we were the force. I’ve been a unionist all my life.
And how many years have you been a unionist?
A unionist? Well, say when I joined the Railway, 1916.
I went from one union to another. Went from the Railway Union, the Waterboard Union and kept my union membership going. It was never unfinancial.
Just going back to the reason why unions were, you thought
unions were necessary at that time? Did you think … What was your idea about class in Australia? Did you think there were different classes of people?
Yes, yes, I think that’s the case that people were elitist and even in those days. And I say if you didn’t know somebody or in with a group well you’re out, you’re just, nobody wanted to be bothered with you. We had to stick.
And that’s what unionism is all about. Unionism is strength.
Could you just repeat that again, what you just said? You said unionism is strength. Could you
just repeat that for me?
Yes, because, I thought well, you couldn’t do things alone, you know to have the force to do something to have some bearing on it or somebody that they’d listen to. Not one person. It would have to be a number of people and made up of all types of ages in the union, in the
Australian Railway Union. And at that time there was a breakaway union. A union that encouraged people to go on strike. And, of course, that suited the heads of the department and they were more or less giving favourable treatment to a union rather than a unionist. What I mean by that is promotion. So,
well here’s a person belongs to a national union of railway men, that’s a breakaway union. And of course, we didn’t call them that, we called them another name.
Can you tell me how you would describe Australia at the time? Do you think it was a fair country, I mean, how would you describe Australia to somebody who didn’t know what sort of country it was?
Well, I should say that I was happy with
the condition that I was living under. It was becoming… I was doing all right. I was … always had a job. Money was coming in, and it depends on your age because you get an increment. I was never short of money.
What about, just in thinking about what
sort of country Australia was. Do you think things like, you know, was it a, were we tolerant of other people, like Chinese people and tolerant of immigration. Do you remember those times, particularly with the union? Like other workers coming in and perhaps taking the jobs?
Well at that time it didn’t interest … it didn’t worry us much because they didn’t … people, I would say, other countries,
Asian or European, they didn’t take our jobs. They were, more or less, had to be skilled to hold a job down. You couldn’t just phone in and say oh well you can do menial work. You had to be someone that was useful to the department.
Was there a fear though of immigration at all? You know fearful
of other people coming here?
I would say, I would say, young as I was, I didn’t like them. I wasn’t friendly with them.
Do you remember why?
Well, I mean, colour I don’t know. But a different class of people. Wasn’t, wasn’t our class. We were just on our own. We were happy.
So, did you think …?
We got into a lot of trouble. We had our… Getting back to, you know, don’t know whether this interests you or not. But, I say, we were living in an area where there was a lot of Chinese gardeners. They came in and were making a living and we didn’t like them. We tormented them. And they chased us.
Couldn’t catch us. But, I say, as I was saying we know that they were their class and not ours and we didn’t go along with them.
What did you say to them when you said you tormented them? What did you say to them?
Oh well, don’t put that … ‘yellow-belly green guts’.
And there was one … they had a tin... they lived in a tin shed. And people that owned the property and we knew at a certain time there’d be one of the favourite people used to come at a certain time to visit, to pay, and as soon as they, these people,
you know, bad type of people come in, they got in, we pelted the corrugated shed, or whatever, dwelling, so to disturb them and out they’d come with a hose.
To chase you away?
Yeah. I don’t know, they weren’t too good. We used to pelt them or, you know, or used to cut him. Or if they go past we used to sneak down the drains and we’d cut them with a rock.
That’s part of life, you know. The … we enjoyed making trouble like, you know, at that time. They used to send for the police. Police come and say, “Oh well you been doing wrong thing.” and we’d, “Oh no no we were playing down there,
we weren’t there at all, we were just playing.” Anyway that was that part of life.
Can I just ….
Getting back to sport.
Sport was something I’ve been always interested in. No matter what type of sport it was. It was league or soccer. Tennis, anything at all. Although not
actually involved in active competition. But certainly we got in a group, at different times, you know, in Southern Districts, tennis club and that, the likes there.
A lot of sportsmen went to war. Like a lot of footballers went in, you know like a team would sign up or the Manly surfriders would sign up. Did you ever, did people ever harass you because you weren’t, you hadn’t signed up?
Like, did girls give you white feathers [sign of cowardice], that sort of thing?
No. No. I think as far as that, we were concerned, we were a group we didn’t interfere with anybody. People, I know, at our age, they were able to join up and enlist, I suppose,
and joined the odd group and that was their life. Friends, like we had …
What about, what did you think of girls who gave white feathers to boys who hadn’t enlisted?
That hadn’t? Well, it didn’t bother us.
You didn’t mind that the girls, you know how girls would give white feathers to …?
Well, we know that that did happen, but, I say, we survived that part of it.
Did it bother you that girls would do that to boys?
Yes. We didn’t think much about it. We thought it was something that probably they were happy to do it. I thought it was a pretty mean trick.
Why is that?
Oh, because, I say, it’s, more or less, some people had been afflicted and there was no possibility of being able to enlist,
or go to war. And they were threatened with, more or less, do this or otherwise you’ll be sorted out and probably the larrikins in the group, you might have a punch up. You know, we got over that.
Your brother enlisted. Did you remember talking to him about
you know, about when he was going to enlist? Do you remember discussing that?
Oh yes quite a lot.
Can you tell me about that?
Well, as far as he was concerned he, he was doing all right. He was, he had a job, and people of his own age, or around about, they were all going to war, and he was in it. He wanted to go to war.
And he joined the light- what they call Australian 7th Light Horse. He was always into riding horses and afterwards, his life, he joined the now Liverpool at the one time there, out of the army camp, hundreds of people from all walks of life, country, city. And I think he,
he accepted the way of … war .. he accepted the life as a … in the military and he grew up in it and he never objected to being put around or … He didn’t get anywhere really, only, he never got a commission, but, they were pretty hard, they were for the leaders, the commission.. But he stuck with it.
He saved all those years and at the end of the war he, I think, the only promotion he got was a corporal. And, of course, that was pretty well looked upon, pretty high up, a corporal or a sergeant. They were somebody
who knew all about military life. And he was, he was one of those.
When you say it was very hard to get a commission. Did you think that was a class thing?
Yeah, very much so. Yeah. Because we knew people. That if they, them or their families were in some way involved in, in some way … Apart from the ordinary people. People might
have been, they grew up in the family and the young people, and if they got preference over, say people the same age or just from a lowly connection.
Did your brother …
There’s always been a class distinction, to my knowledge. Yeah, it still exists.
Somehow it didn’t go down with me. Wouldn’t be hard to pick a fight.
Interviewee: Allen McKay Archive ID 2300 Tape 334
I just want to talk to you, Joe, about the union movements response to [Prime Minister] Billy Hughes’ announcing conscription.
Well, Billy Hughes, was a Labor man, as you know, in history,
and I say as far as Billy Hughes … he used the Labor movement to his advantage. He looked after himself of course and it comes to the time that he’s changed his views on politics and it served him better to rat on the party [betray it] which he did and of course that was the people became
hostile for many years. If he was ever a favourite, there had been a time when he was prime minister of Australia and of course, he knew things would be better for him if left the Labor Party as a lovely party. He wanted
to be well thought of at the time.
What did you think of him before the war, before he announced conscription? What sort of wartime prime minister was he before he announced conscription?
He came before [Prime Minister] Stanley, didn’t he?
Yeah, well another Melbourne aristocrat. He used to wear spats. Did you know that?
Oh, he was a real …
Billy Hughes used to be president of the Waterside Workers Union.
Yes, that’s right. That’s the sort of , type of person he was. Yeah. And of course I suppose you could see this was no good for Billy Hughes. You know, no problem in changing me colour and away he went.
Same thing happened in the Labor movement of the Premier of New South Wales, Billy Holman, who was another rat who did alright on the workers’ back and then when got enough he had- it suited him to change his colours and away he went. But they all got their desserts. Probably my views
might be a bit strong, stronger than others but sometimes you can’t do much about that, you’ve got to accept that, that’s the way of life.
What was your personal view about conscription?
Well, I don’t know, to be honest. I wasn’t affected. I wasn’t conscripted and I wasn’t
interfered with, I just … life went on. I was saddened I suppose when some of the boys that I was very good friends with, that they had to go … probably quite a number of them never came back.
Can you tell me what the railway’s response, the Railway Union’s response was to conscription?
Oh, hostile to any matter in which they
tried to interfere with employees’ conditions. Like, for argument’s sake, they say, well probably they can work another four hours a week and they didn’t take long before they sorted it out, that it was law. They seemed to probably have a law … or the department … well, that’s where the union stepped in. They fought against them.
Just, sorry, just still on conscription, did the union … do you remember the union organising any strikes at all, any protests against conscription?
Yes, of course there was, the officers in the union, I say that’s what they were there for, they had a job to do and they did, they organised, they demonstrated to the people who were not
unionists. They say well, this is where you come in, they say if you’re with the force, you’ve got a chance otherwise you’re a non-entity. Nobody wants to know you.
But were they strikes and demonstrations about conscription?
Well, I suppose that was part of it but there were other
things they objected to, you know, conditions being forced on them that they didn’t agree to.
Were they … because it was wartime, was it much harder for workers generally?
Well, I’d say the workers accepted it. They had a job to do. And I think they did it. There were some very good men in the union movement.
They weren’t hostile to being told what to do, they just do it. And that was just carried on. I don’t think there’s any time that I remember that they were completely hostile against conscription because they were aware that there were people that had enlisted, there was no reason for them to be conscripted, they joined
and they wanted to express their loyalty to the … not only Australia … you’d say the Empire.
What about … just going to the union strikes themselves. Can you tell me about the big railway strike?
1917? Well, that started over a simple matter. It was
something … there were so many different departments in the railway. There was a locomotive, construction, traffic – all those different sections. Well, there was one section, they – was the start, was the wagon works, where they build wagons and repaired wagons and the like, they employed a lot of people. And they forced on them
what they called, described as a card system where they had to explain every hour or hours on the railway, the time they did and what they did and all that and that’s where they took opposition to it. Those people who had their own union could say, entice or might have
been enticed, might have just been the fact that they want to join them against the system. They objected to the system and then of course, it blew up. It went from bad to worse and of course, the railways finally come to a stop.
And what effect did that have on the community?
Well, it had a very great effect because the people had no money, no
work, it just stopped, in all departments. And, of course, finally, when they had to agree to certain conditions, it had an effect on the future life of every employee. They were never given … all they were given was bad treatment. Kept down.
Yeah, you’re one of the bad, you went on strike. You’re one of the goodies, you come back, you have to break the strike. And that went on and on.
So the railways were a protected industry and essential to the war effort so do you remember what pressure was applied for you to break the strike?
Well, that could be the case of- there would be a lot of people objected, they wanted to be loyal
so you say, and they had their own mind on whether they say what their thoughts were. Some were very broadminded and said, “Well, this is what happened.” and others that objected and others went along with it.
How do you think the strike affected the war effort?
slowed it down of course. People … there was no … the works closed down and all depots in the different areas in the state … just the fact that there was no production. Finally, it was resolved and of course, back to normal.
What did other people think of the Railway Union going on strike during wartime? Were people very hostile to
the union? What did they say?
Yeah, of course they were. Oh, they didn’t say it to me!
Well, what were they saying to people in the union?
Oh yes, they would be. There’d be a few orators, you know, spouting out in the Domain, addressing
a number of people and just going there for entertainment. Some people didn’t worry about it. They just brushed it off.
So can you tell me about the Domain? The Domain was a big gathering area for people who wanted to voice some sort of opinion. Do you remember…?
Not necessarily. People went there for entertainment, they just liked the spruikers, yeah, and they used to heckle them down
and then … I don’t think what they had to say influenced the people much. Their minds were made up, you know. But on the other hand, there was people objecting to the war. Why should we let people go and kill each other for no reason at all, no
objection to the person they were fighting against? Well, of course, that’s war right through, isn’t it? We don’t know but it’s something that’s taken out of the hands of the individual so it was law and it was people who agreed to go along with the war. On the other hand, there were people who took objection, “Why should they interfere with my way of life?”
That caused a big kerfuffle in Australia, that objection, the difference between patriotism and the people that were for the war and the people that were against the war. That really came to a head, did it, during the war?
Well, I suppose people might naturally have some sense of patriotism in them. Even if you express your objection to it. There’s still something there.
You feel that you might be doing something to help but not otherwise stops what’s being done.
Yes. You still actually weren’t against the war per se but you just had a different view of it. I guess that that’s what you’re saying. Even though you might have been against conscription but that didn’t necessarily mean you were against the war, I suppose.
because the war was on and it was on and there was no way of stopping it other than win or lose. And in this case, I’d say we won with a great loss to lives and otherwise … that’s history isn’t it? You would be concerned about every activity of the war. It’s a good story.
And how did it affect your family? All that loss?
Well, members of the family went to war. Some came back wounded. Some blew their leg off. Otherwise they were condemned to ill-health and it depends on what happened
during their service, whether they were able to more or less, whatever’s happening in the forces, the number of people, disease, and also health-wise. A lot of people died. They weren’t actually killed in the war but they died through it.
And when people came back from the war, how did they think about people who didn’t go to the war?
Was there any animosity towards the people who had stayed at home? Was there a difference between the soldiers and the civilians?
No, not to my knowledge. No. When they came back from war, they were rehabilitated, more or less looked after in some way or another, set up with farm settlements and jobs found for them. My brother, he came back and he, I think it wasn’t long before he was sent into a job.
And he worked in it until such a time the Second War arrived. He was always, he was the reverse to me, he was a very strong Liberal. Well, that’s him. We didn’t want to offend each other but …
That was his thoughts and that was his thoughts. He was a Liberal and he wouldn’t change. And I don’t think I’ll change, either.
So he came back from the war and the war hadn’t affected him at all? Do you think?
No. No. No. He was happy. He got settled into a job and the time
came that he joined up again. Some say, oh we’ve had some say, “He enjoyed the army life. He wanted to be in.” Well, that’s his idea.
So what did your brother think of you being in the union during the war years? And being
quite an active unionist? Him being a Liberal?
I suppose he’d be a union man. He was a union man. I think it had something to do with the construction or builders or something. And he was always, he had thoughts on it. I think he was satisfied with what my thoughts were. We never argued.
You never had an ideological argument about it?
No. Oh, we did on politics.
Yeah. Politics were very strong. He was very, the family wouldn’t have held the same as him. They never saw the …
Who did you think was actually making money out of the war?
Well, I suppose that’s what it was all about. Anybody can make money and they’d go about it in a way they thought best to make a dollar. I used to go to the races and I tried to make a dollar when I used to go to the races, backed a few winners.
Do you think there were some industries that were really profiting from the war?
What were they?
Yeah. Oh, well, they were probably, one thing they might employ non-union labour, for one thing. Pay them a lower wage. That’s one way of making money out of the industry, or as we know now, corporations, one big … yeah. It
all comes back to the point of the mighty dollar. That’s all they were after.
So you think that was what the war was about in some way, was the mighty dollar?
No, no, no. I don’t say so, not directly. There were quite a number of reasons why, well, we know
why the war started. Imperialism. Patriotism, which you might say was a fair description. Personally, and I imagine like a number of young people like myself, the war went on and that was it. We just carried on. We did our bit. Even when the Jap war
was close to our shores. We said, well, this is frightening but still we got to be in it, whatever they were doing to, the first thing they wanted to do, to blow up the Harbour Bridge and they made many attempts to disrupt the railways, talking about the Japanese war.
Just going back to World War I, and just thinking about who made money out of the war, I mean, do you think it was arms
manufacturers or wool growers or, was there any one group of people who were able to make a bit of a profit out of the war effort?
Yes, I’d say there’d be people who’d say, here’s a way, we do things this way, our way and there’s a chance that we’re going to improve our position, we’re going to improve the production in the,
whatever cause it was, and that should be a case of, it was not to the workers’ benefit, it was to their benefit, making a few bob.
Do you think the war divided Australia in any way? Say, conscription. Do you think the war or conscription divided Australia?
I just imagine that the way I felt, we just glided along, see what’s happening. There were things that were happening, we didn’t know, we might have objected personally but it was a case of having to accept it and that was it. We just went along.
You have very strong republican views. Where did
you first develop those views?
Well, I suppose it eventuated for the fact of the Labor movement. It wouldn’t come from the Liberal movement or National [Party] movement. So that’s how it started and I think it just automatically or just grew with it and I, I think I was on the right track.
People might say, object it. It’s my views but that’s immaterial to me. I just go my own way.
Do you think it’s good that we no longer, the whole idea of Empire has died?
Well, I think people who thought about it think of it as… it has not died but it’s dying.
People objected to the, what the great wealth people are enjoying in the, what they say, upper echelon and then there’s other people that are looking for somewhere to buy a feed or go to bed. Too much inequality and I think there are people still struggling and there always will be. And I
don’t think it’ll change because it’s too strong. The capitalists, the capitalist system is too strong and will all override the working class.
How does that make you feel?
Not good. But I can’t do much about it. I’m an individual or a cog in a wheel,
and nothing else. But I think Hazel is getting worried. Is this on?
Just one question. I just want to ask what did you think Empire meant? I mean, when you think about Empire, is empire about class or is it about, what’s your view?
I suppose Empire was instilled in us even at an early age, at school,
we’d see the flag raising and all the ballyhoo and whether it was good for me or otherwise, well I don’t know. Well, I didn’t worry much about the Empire. I was not actually objecting, but I still
didn’t go along with it.
Do you think now it’s when you look back on what Empire means, do you think it is about class, a lot of it?
Well, it was then and it always will be. Yeah. Class distinction. It will always be the case, the have nots and the haves.
How do you think Australia changed after the war? Do you think the whole thing of class changed after the war?
Well, Australia has changed remarkably because we’ve prospered. This country is a very good country and nothing, unless it would have to be a catastrophe or something, will stop it from … because I say there’s so much to offer. We’ve got everything. We’ve got, some people might have complaints to make
but there’s always some who complain even if they have nothing to complain about.
I just wanted to ask you very briefly, what do you think about Anzac Day and why we celebrate Anzac Day?
My answer, probably tradition. It’s something that’s happened, they want to, it doesn’t mean much to some people.
What’s it mean to you?
Not much. I’d go to the races on Anzac Day and the people would be marching. Well, that’s how they wanted it, it didn’t appeal to me. If people want to stop, prevent me from living my life,
well, they’ve got a job ahead of them.
Just one thing about, talk about Les Darcy [Australian boxer]. I just want to ask you one question about Les Darcy. Can you tell me about going to see Les Darcy?
I used to go to his fights. We used to go to the races in the daytime and the fights at night. And
probably didn’t go, quite a number of fights I went to see where he was a champion, he was a champion. And, of course, I followed his life right through. At that time, there was a, when they brought his body back to Sydney, there was a big procession through the city streets, thousands of people lined up, finally
to the wood coffin- the funeral directors and the body was on view and I was one of those that joined the queue to pass through his body and then, to see the casket and his body in it, life size and then I went on a special train, the railway put on a special train for his funeral at Maitland and I went with the
train and went to his funeral. There weren’t too many boys, at nineteen, went to Les Darcy’s funeral.
Can you tell me, he got in a lot of flack for not enlisting. Can you tell me about that? People were upset because he didn’t enlist?
Of course, yeah, that’s right. Well, that’s, I say … Something that, the story
goes that he tried. He tried to enlist. Finally, he joined the American Army. So it wasn’t, if he had only asked, made a request when he went to America. We know he did the wrong thing. He left Australia’s shores during the war when the raging and everybody was going, the young people were going to war, and he was leaving the country. He’s going to save his own people, make more money,
or his hangers on, not Darcy himself. And I say, all he wanted was, we understand, to have two fights and, win or lose, he was going to join the army. But in the meantime, he already joined the American Army. I don’t know what capacity, whether he was a recruit or whatever, but anyway that didn’t ever
His time came to an end and that was it, like other things that happened in America, you know, some not very, some difficult to understand, like Phar Lap [famous Australian racehorse] and, Les Darcy didn’t suffer from a poison infection, he died some other way.
Just for the record, could you just
say who Les Darcy was? And what he was famous for?
Only that, does legend cover that? Because he was a legend. He was a champion out and out because he proved it. He proved he was a champion, the world’s best. And I think nobody knows what would have happened if he didn’t die in America. He’d probably have gone a bit higher, so that’s it.