John: Can you tell me a bit about your mateship with Paddy Troy?
Graham: Well Paddy Troy was one of the ones sent to jail. He was not a full time worker for the party. He worked on the waterfront in the Docks, Rivers and Harbours Union and that became a branch of the Painter and Dockers Union. Paddy came from the Goldfields where he'd been a militant in the struggle there. He was a great man Paddy Troy a really outstanding person, Irish of course. Escaped Catholic. With these outstanding individuals. The effect they had in an atmosphere. The soil was ready if you could say so. People couldn't get jobs and the Labour Party didn't seem to have the answer.
John: What did you think of the Labour Party at that time?
Graham: I thought they were capitalist serving and opportunist. During the illegal period I joined the Labour Party branch in the district I was living in. They had all sorts of people with the different ideologies like the Henry George League. They had some idea I never really understood. They had all these different types in the Labour Party but they had this opportunist streak which was very evident. I used to move motions through the branch but they never do much about it. They didn't have that real total dedication. If you became totally dedicated in those days with Communist Party you faced the question of jail. Even your life because there were these basher gangs who used to attack us personally. They came after the War when Churchill started the Cold War and the leader of them was an ex‑member of Mosely's New Guard [British Union of Fascists] in England and the name of this fells was Cushier.
John: He came over to Perth did he?
Graham: Yes he was an immigrant from England and there was quite a few blokes who had jail records and a publican who used to fill them up with grog and send down to bash up our Esplanade meetings. I became a regular speaker down the Esplanade we had quite good crowds there. There were other stumps with different ideas. I developed a speech which I explained the nature of socialism and how it could solve all the problems of mankind and it was a very popular speech actually. During the War we were enormously popular, membership of the party leapt ten‑twenty fold but then it started to shrink again after the War and then there was the Miner’s Strike which we since considered a great mistake. The party should have never given support to it while there was still a Labour Government in office. It split the country in half the Miner’s Strike. There used to be a lot of people come to the Esplanade to hear about the Miner’s Strike. Anyhow during this period in which there was a drive to make the party illegal again and in which the Chifley government was defeated largely a result of the Miner’s Strike. Menzies was put back into power and there was an atmosphere created by Menzies of virulent anti‑communism and the usual political stunts of blaming the communists for everything which they pulled out of the bag again. They were very good at it. So there were continual attacks on us in the paper, radio and this publican in the main street of Perth. He organised this gang of thugs. There was about a dozen of these blokes. One Sunday they attacked. They used to come along and heckle. And every Sunday they get more vicious until they charged the stump.
A stump is a sort of a platform and you go up about three steps and then you've got a rostrum/table top to lay your papers on. You stand on the stump and talk down to the crowd. So their idea was to rush the stump and tip it over which they tried. In the meantime we organised a defence squad and we had some pretty tough fellows. There was a chap called Jim Kelly an ex‑seaman. He was about six foot four. He only had one eye and could fight like a thrashing machine and there was a Dr Jolly who had a doctor’s practice out in Midland Junction. A railway workers town. He was a great boxer too. These two Kelly and Jolly organised from among the workers a gang of twelve or so who would be trained in fighting and defence. So every time the blokes attacked which was nearly every Sunday they got done.
John: You'd start off and they came at you.
Graham: There's the stump and I'm standing on it introducing the speaker. Our fellows formed a semi‑circle. There was a tennis court or bowling green, it had a wire nets about six foot high so we used that as a backing. Then there was the big lawn of the Esplanade 20‑30 acres or lawns that led right down to the Swan River. Perth is a beautiful city. It has the Swan River just at the foot of the business area is all this lovely water. It's a tidal river. We had this background of the fence which was very handy because they couldn't get behind the stump so we just had a semi‑circle of the defence squad with their arms folded and then the speaker would be on the surrounds the stump. And all these bloody fascists would be shouting and yelling, every now and then they'd charge and get repulsed. Knocked back.
It worked to a crescendo. I think they were all filled up with grog by this publican. They would finally get themselves so worked that they would charge. They never overthrew the stump. They never got through our defences but they came pretty near to us. Some good fighters amongst them. I hate violence and hate fighting and it took a lot of courage for me to take part in this. Thank goodness they made me the chairman so I didn't have to take place in the fighting.
What would happen then was the police would be there and they would stand back. It was a Liberal state government in office and they backed these bastards. So the whole of the state was on the side of these drunks and criminals. The police would stand off until the fascists looked like being nearly defeated. It was every time just about. We used to get huge crowds of two thousand watching.
John: How many fascists were there?
Graham: Well you know, people like a bit of violence. They started coming along to see the scene and in the meantime they got good lectures from me on socialism, good talks from Paddy Troy and various other speakers and we were protected by the semi‑circle. In the end it became almost a pattern every afternoon the fascists would rust the stump.
When I say fascists they were fascists. When they looked like being defeated the police would step in arrest the leaders from both sides and take them away and charge them with creating a disturbance. The first time they did it they put them all in the same paddy wagon.
John: That would have been fun.
Graham: So they had a terrific fight inside the paddy wagon bashing into one another. So the next Sunday they bought along a red paddy wagon and a black one. They put the communists in the red one and the fascists in the black one.
The bloody fascists were wandering up and down tearing their bloody hair out, absolutely furious. Finally they went and hired a boat and they started rowing out towards us.But they must have decided they didn't have enough men so they rowed back ashore and put a couple more in it, this row boat. By this time we talked for about an hour and a half. What the people did not know was that the boat had a motor in it. It was anchored. Paddy Troy being a seaman was in charge of all that.
As these blokes came closer and closer with their row boat. Obviously intending to board us and tip us out into the water. The tension mounted up you see. With perfect timing Paddy Troy pulled up the anchor, I was speaking at the time and he said well thank you ladies and gentlemen for your attention and started the engine, it was inboard he must have just had to press a button and away we went. The bloody roar that went up from the crowd was tremendous because no one expected that would happen. For all they knew it was a row boat we had because they hadn't seen it arrive and it was only a small boat but it had a inboard motor. It was a great triumph.