Thursday, 2 March 2017

March Lecture 2017 - Tom Glynn: A Galway Born 1916 Rebel in Australia

Tom Glynn (1881-1934) is notable as one of the ’Sydney Twelve’ charged with treason in 1916 (though convicted of the lesser charge of seditious conspiracy) for opposition to Australian participation in World War and to conscription. Another of the ‘Twelve’ was Peter Larkin, brother of ‘Big Jim’.

We are delighted to welcome back lecturer Dr. John Cunningham, Dept of History, NUI Galway. John has been an esteemed contributor to our talks and JOTS over the years and this lecture should prove equally engaging. A former editor of Saothar: journal of Irish Labour History, John's research interests include Irish local history, the moral economy, and global syndicalism and his numerous include St. Jarlath's College, Tuam: 1800-2000 and ‘A town tormented by the sea': Galway, 1790-1914.

Born in Gurteen, Co. Galway, to a family with strong Monivea connections, Glynn emigrated at 17 with a brother to join uncles in Kensington, Melbourne. He subsequently became a trade union activist and was imprisoned in South Africa in 1911 for his role in organising two tramway strikes.

Returning to Sydney, he was the founding editor of the Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW) Australian newspaper, Direct Action. On the outbreak of World War One, Direct Action became an outspoken and provocative opponent of  ‘militarism’, frequently breaching censorship laws. In its pages, Glynn drew on his experience as a teenage soldier to denounce war. As the conflict advanced, his IWW union was the left-wing of a broader movement against conscription which included Archbishop Mannix and feminists like Adela Pankhurst.

A consequence of Direct Action’s outspokenness was the proscription of the paper and the incarceration and deportation of many of the IWW’s principal agitators. The travails of the ‘Sydney Twelve’ in prison, were described by one of them, Donald Grant, in Through Six Gaols (1921).

Glynn was among the ten of the ‘Sydney Twelve’ freed in 1920, following a vigorous campaign by a Release Committee. Head-hunted by the nascent Communist Party, he was the first editor of its periodical The Australian Communist. Soon disenchanted by the fractious Communist milieu, however, he became a supporter of Jack Lang, a member of the Labor Party, and a writer on economics on The Labor Daily.

Glynn suffered from poor health in his later years, attributed by his family to ill-treatment in prison. On his death, aged 53, in December 1934, the Labor Daily eulogised a ‘steadfast fighter who served the Australian Labor Movement staunchly and selflessly during one of the momentous periods of its history.’

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 @ 8pm
Tuam Library, High Street.
All Welcome!