Fremantle Stuff > People > Tom Edwards

Tom Edwards

edwardsTom Edwards was a lumper who killed by police on Victoria Quay on 4 May 1919. His killer was never identified, let alone charged.

May of that year [1919] will long be remembered, by the occurrence of the most serious labour trouble in the history of the town. Following the strike of waterside workers in 1917, a number of volunteers, who were non-unionists, were employed on the wharf. Their presence created a deal of friction that culminated in a demonstration by unionists to bring pressure on the Government for the removal of the free labourers. That was followed by an interference with the free labourers at their work. On Sunday, May 4, the police were strengthened to uphold the law and they met with violent opposition. On their arrival the excitement grew to fever heat; stones were thrown and the ugly tones of angry men and women were raised against the police. The Riot Act was read by Magistrate Dowley and the clashes between the police and the mob were frequent, many of both sides being injured. One lumper, Tom Edwards, was killed. Hitchcock: 83.

Tom Edwards was born in Lockwood, Victoria, and in 1901 married Sarah Jane in Bendigo. Tom gave as his occupation as “striker” – a worker who sets off explosions in the mines. He came to Western Australia in 1910 and went to work as a lumper (a worker unloading cargo) in Fremantle. A riot – which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” – erupted on Victoria Quay on 4 May 1919 between members of the Lumpers’ Union and police.
During the riot, Tom went to the rescue of the union’s president, Bill Renton. He suffered a severe blow from the butt of a police rifle and died three days later. At the time of his funeral, industry throughout the State stopped for three minutes’ “reflection”. Bill Renton, his head still bandaged, led the funeral procession on horseback from Fremantle Trades Hall to Fremantle Cemetery. The route from the Trades Hall to the cemetery gates was completely clogged with mourners.
Sarah Jane continued to live in the rented house at 14 Howard Street with her three daughters. She received donations of food from land farmed by members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Later she moved to a shop and residence organised by the Tom Edwards Trust. In 1936 Sarah Jane married William John Kent, but on her death she was buried in the same plot as her first husband. Tom Edward’s headstone is among some 1200 graves sponsored by the Fremantle Lumpers’ Union. MCB.

edwards memorialA fountain was sculpted by Pietro Porcelli and erected as a memorial to 'working class martyr' Tom Edwards. It stood outside Trades Hall in Collie St until that was sold, and was moved to its present position in St John's Square in the early 1980s.

References and links

Hutchison, David 2006, Fremantle Walks, Fremantle Arts Centre Press: 56-58.

Hutchison, David 2012, '"Bloody Sunday" revisited', in Paul Arthur Longley & Geoffrey Bolton, Voices from the West End: Stories, People and Events that Shaped Fremantle, WA Museum: 210-249.

Oliver, Bobbie 2017, ‘Fremantle’s Bloody Sunday: The finest exhibition of solidarity in Western Australian history’, Radical Perth, Militant Fremantle, Black Swan Press: 35-42.

Williams, Justina 1976, 'Storm on the waterfront', The First Furrow, Lone Hand Press, Willagee: 71-77.

Fremantle Workers Club page about Tom Edwards including original newspaper clippings.

Photo of Don Whittington showing cemetery tourists Edwards' grave.

Photo of and text about the memorial fountain.

Wikipedia page


Garry Gillard | New: 15 June, 2015 | Now: 1 May, 2020