Henry Lawson left town around October, 1892. He was sent ‘bush’ by Brady and Archibald at The Bulletin, ostensibly to get him away from the booze. This is not credible. There was, of course, plenty of drinking and less of other pursuits in the outback, secondly, he had just finished telling the world how he hated the bush and, thirdly he was far too interested in what was happening in Sydney. He may have been seen by some as impressionable and perhaps learning habits which would damage him professionally, even damage ‘the movement’ politically, but it was not the drink which was the problem. His drinking mates included the most militant of the activists, Holland, Petrie, Ernie Lane, Andrews and Brady and he chose their company when he could. But, as with Brendan Behan and Ernest Hemingway, the drinking was part of the context which energised his emotions and provoked his strongest efforts. A poem called The Bastard from the Bush, attributed to Lawson, and a slightly sanitised version published over his name, The Captain of the Push, describe in vivid language a meeting between a Push leader and a “stranger from the bush”, including:
Would you dong a bloody copper if you caught the cunt alone,
Would you stoush a swell or Chinkee, split his garret with a stone?
Would you have a moll to keep you, would you swear off work for good?’
What? Live on prostitution? My colonial oath I would!
Replacing ‘cunt’ with ’blank’ in the published version was part of a censoring process which shifted the poem’s focus from the ‘bush bastard’ to the ‘push captain’. So much has been made of the editing of his work by Stephens and others it is probably not possible to delve much further than to note that where it was deemed necessary to replace ‘cunt’, it was OK to leave in ‘chinkee’, ‘moll’ and ‘swell’, and the references to stoning a policeman, and breaking windows. The vulgarism and the attitudes are essential parts of the same world in which Lawson made close observation of the clothes worn by a ‘beau-ideal’ of ‘the fancy’ in the same poem:
E’en his hat was most suggestive of the city where we live,
With a gallows-tilt that no one, save a larrikin, can give;
And the coat, a little shorter than the writer would desire,
Showed a more or less uncertain portion of his strange attire.
That which tailors know as ‘trousers’ – known by him as ‘blooming bags’ –
Hanging loosely from his person, swept, with tattered ends, the flags;
And he had a pointed sternpost to the boots that peeped below
(Which he laced up from the centre of the nail of his great toe).
And he wore his shirt uncollar’d, and the tie correctly wrong;
But I think his vest was shorter than should be in one so long.
As the attached illustration showed, the ‘tattered ends’ of his ‘bags’, the ‘uncertain portion of his strange attire’, were spectacularly re-born as ‘flairs’ in the 1960’s. It also showed how differently attired a push might be from its peer groups, and yet no study has been done of these various ‘costumes’.
Andrews similarly refused the collar and tie, signs of a wage-worker’s slavery he called them, but Lawson says they were ‘correctly wrong’. His critique is rounded off with the plaintive thought the vest was shorter than perhaps it should have been – SHOULD have been!!!. Against the longing of that, the idea that ‘the (hat’s) gallows tilt’ is suggestive of Sydney is brutal.
His drinking problem was relatively minor in 1892. It became public property only after his aspirations, personal and political, had been irrevocably blighted. Of the two, the political, specifically the failure of ‘the movement’ to practise what it preached, had the deepest impact. His neglected 1894 ‘despair and disillusion’ poems show this clearly. His probable drinking mates – Petrie, Ernie Lane, Brady, Holland, Andrews, Dodd, Rosa – were among the most militant activists, and rebel politics their most likely discussion topic, along with sex.
Around Burke he painted fences, drank with the locals and swagged for six months. One of his two road companions was Ernest de Guinney, a ‘self-confessed Russian Nihilist’ and published writer. The other was ‘socialist’ Jim Grahame (Gordon). Rose Summerfield also left Sydney around the same time, ostensibly in her case because her AWU projects with Petrie had wound down. She may have ‘gone west’ with Lawson as they re-appeared in the same place. Lecturing in Bourke in October her enthusiasm helped to establish a branch of the ASL, a Cooperative Laundry and a Women’s Division of the AWU. In Melbourne from approximately January to March 1893, she worked with Fleming among male and female bootmakers. By mid-1893 Lawson was back in Sydney where he re-connected with his old crowd which now included Desmond: (Cantrell p.8)
I edited the Worker a while gratis, on the understanding that I should get the permanent editorship…But that mysterious inner circle, the trustees and their friends, brought an editor from another province.
He wrote no political commentaries, at least none were published. Sydney’s street-life was all-consuming, yet his ‘interpreters’ have dismissed it. Andrews was also in the thick of it and he wrote commentaries but on Queensland where civil war continued to be predicted, he had nothing to say, another indicator of how absorbing the local dramas were. His 3rd and 4th civil war flash points, both in Sydney, came in 1893. On 7 January 1893 he was featured with a photograph and a long article in the Bulletin, and an item in the AW the same day previewed a long article by him for the next week. Also in the AW for 7 January and Truth for 8 January are reports of a three-day Anarchist Conference, 1 to 3 January. The location was not named, suggesting that the Central Cumberland group had left Smithfield, perhaps for Sydney. A ‘US delegate’ [WW Lyght]reported on the US situation and explained the objects of the Order of the Gallows, a fraternity commemorating the Haymarket martyrs, membership being indicated by a badge. Reports were also heard from English, Irish and Scottish groups, while it was said the short notice had prevented all local groups from attending. Correspondence including greetings and congratulations from Comrades Merlino and Most (New York), Lucy Parsons (Chicago), Louise Michel (London) and La Revolte (Paris) were also received and discussed. The Truth report had the meeting conclude with the singing of Andrews’ translation of ‘The Marseillaise’ and the French ‘Carmagnole’. A verse of one version of the latter reads:
Dance dynamite, dance quickly
Let’s dance and sing.
Let’s dynamite! Let’s dynamite!
An optimistic yellow placard stuck on the Queen’s Statue that week read, ‘Anarchy is Liberty – Read News from Nowhere’ while a long, detailed warning from Andrews, was being ‘privately’ circulated but reaching broad audiences as regional newspapers reprinted it in full:
It is the intention of the Government acting in conjunction with the capitalists to deliberately exasperate or even trap people into violence to afford a pretext for a deadly and decisive coup … The programme of the intriguers and their pimps includes a dynamite outbreak, a bloody collision between the crowds and the forces, and wholesale charges of armed, revolutionary conspiracy, proclamation of absolute military law, and reckless executions. After months of maturing the plot is about to be attempted.
He warned against violence under any circumstances unless absolutely necessary in self defense: ‘If you would overthrow capitalism and coercion gather up all you have and go with your families into the trackless country…resolved to live there without buying, selling, wages, prices, money or conforming to laws.’ Referring to the sudden January resignations of the State Governor, Lord Jersey, and of the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Cabinet member, Sir Julian Salomans, he asserted: ’The ‘mysterious resignations’ proceed from a fear of being caught up in the murderous plot’ and signed off with: ‘the concurrence and approval of the Associated Anarchists of New South Wales, January 1893’. When interviewed, Salomans listed differences of opinion he had with ‘the Government’, including a provision within the new Electoral Bill to give a vote to the police and the military.
This appeared after the arrest on 24 January of picketing bootmakers outside Taylor and Co’s works (‘Seth Snyders’) and as unemployed bootmakers from Melbourne were being imported. Andrews believed that the unprecedented nature of the boot makers’ arrests, for merely being pickets, threatened a government crackdown or a sting. Warrants to charge the pickets with ‘conspiracy and intimidation’ appeared similar to those taken out against the BH union leaders. They were taken out by the factory owners ‘on the advice of counsel,’ who was relying on the same George IV statute used against the 1891 union leaders. Late in February, the Attorney-General, Barton, decided not to proceed against them. The Australian Star agreed with his action referring to the statute aa ‘obsolete’, and ‘a wretched Act’ which had caused ‘needless annoyance and irritation.’ The Star had to explain to its readers that the Broken Hill unionists had been charged under ‘common or unwritten law’ which made it a punishable offence to restrain anyone from pursuing their lawful occupation. The government argued that actual violence did occur or that ‘probably serious threats of actual violence’ were made and that this was the major difference they remained in jail.
When that potential flash-point was passed, Andrews’ attention turned to Desmond, probably at the McNamara’s ‘guest house’ at 221 Castlereagh Street. Andrews was not alone in according Desmond retrospective significance. Vance Marshall who claimed close association with Lawson in the period 1918-20 before going to England to live and to write, claimed in 1921 that ‘for six years…[Desmond’s] finger was traceable in every decisive movement associated with the [Australian] working class’. Born in 1887, Marshall must have had this assessment from the older Lawson who in late 1893 was the only public figure prepared to openly defend Desmond. Len Fox, labour scholar, in 1968 thought Desmond was ‘surely one of the most mysterious figures in our history’. The editor of the (Brisbane) Worker in 1920 echoed George Reeve and called him a ‘remarkable New Zealand literary genius’. The Bulletin journalist still hidden behind the nom-de-plume ‘Baarmutha’ reminisced in 1926:
In the early days of the political labor movement in this State [NSW], associated therewith as a molder of its platform and policy and tactics was a remarkable, spectacular character, Arthur Desmond, author of Might is Right one of the greatest books ever written.
J.T. Lang, and ‘Billy’ Hughes were other contemporaries strongly impressed by him, albeit for different reasons. Annie Dwyer, women’s advocate, thought him ‘no good’ and ‘one of those people that does all the nice talk and takes all the honour and glory, and gets other people to do all the work and take all the responsibility’.  While in Sydney, he fostered an aura of mystery about his background, after he left wildly divergent stories made him impossible to track, adding to the mystique.
Andrews’ accounts are only concerned with Desmond’s role in the ‘bank smashes’ of 1893. In Andrews’s reconstruction, ‘Esdaile’ (Desmond) wanted to prevent overseas financiers profiting from the ‘bank smashes’, and local Tory politicians from gaining an advantage in their struggles with the labor movement. The context, Andrews argued, was that certain of the largest banks financed from overseas were prepared to take their chances in a major social upheaval, that they had their agents spread rumours of dynamite ‘events’ in order to make matters worse and to make resources cheaper. Andrews said that he came round to Desmond’s view that the key financiers were best confounded by having the banks collapse sooner rather than later, but refused to help bring this about because he saw the poor and least powerful suffering the most. Desmond argued that the end, ie exposing double-dealings of bank shareholders and other large companies, justified the means. In Andrew’s version, Desmond succeeded in precipitating a number of bank failures and thus prevented the overseas financiers from taking over the country and then turned on each other to save themselves from the ruin they’d helped bring about.
There is no doubt about the extent and depth of the financial crisis nor that the local lenders were in trouble. The relevant question, here, is whether Desmond was in a position to effect the course of events?
The retrospective, Australian academic literature disagrees about the influence of local factors in what was a global crisis. The northern hemisphere literature emphasises the collapse of the Argentinian economy from falling wheat prices in 1890 and the subsequent closing of the London banking firm of Baring Brothers, the same year. The connection is the flow of capital and its volatility. A speculative property boom, especially in Melbourne, had been encouraged by aggressive banks and pseudo-banks borrowing, largely from the UK, at rates of interest which were unsustainable when asset prices fell, and when returns on infrastructure building declined. Before the collapse, financial institutions were free to do largely as they liked. There were few legal restrictions on their operations, there was no central bank and no government-provided deposit guarantees. The size and speed of the crisis when it came to eastern Australia meant boards of directors and governments scrambled together to change the rules, often towards greater regulation and centralised control. So, while it is fanciful to imply Desmond played a major role, local politics were significant when it came to the point of deciding what to do.
More experienced bankers had begun warning about a possible bust in 1887 and attempted to curb lending but it was, apparently, already too late:
To those who cared to think, it was plain in 1889 that a continuance of the low prices for wool and other exports would soon stop high spending and make the liquidation of public and private obligations over-sea heavy work.
Melbourne’s Premier Building Association suspended payments in December, 1889 owing numerous British depositors a circumstance which meant Australia’s credit rating immediately withered, money began to flow out of other institutions and the snowball was away. Twenty one land and finance companies ‘went down’ in Melbourne between July, 1891 and August 1892. The first genuine bank to fail closed in August, 1891, the second in March, 1892. The Federal Bank failed on 30 January 1893, the Commercial Bank of Australasia on 5th of April, the ES & A Commercial Bank on 12th, the AJS Bank on 20th, and the London Chartered on 25th April. These were all in Sydney. The Victorian government closed all that State’s banks for a week in April. By 17 May, 11 commercial banks across the country had suspended trading.
Despite his alleged central role and the arrests of numerous others, Desmond was charged only once, and that in March for writing ‘Gone Bung’ on a government proclamation posted on the outside wall of the Savings Bank of New South Wales. After the build-up this fact is so farcical one smells something fishy. Only later is it learned that Fosberry was a Trustee of this Bank, Dibbs, Snr, was a shareholder, and Dibbs’ son, Thomas, was its manager, and chairman of the ‘Associated Banks’ which had already been forced into issuing a number of ‘proclamations’. Was Desmond’s arrest a ploy, perhaps, to allow him to make contact with his masters after months of living ‘underground’? Numerous plain-clothes police just happened to be in the vicinity and quickly responded to what may have been an invitation to take him in. This likelihood turns on the same question – his importance in the larger context.
In April, he was fined 3 Pound, paid in AJS notes and left the court, whereupon the (Sydney) Worker announced that five months before he had predicted ‘the failure of every banking institution that has shut its doors’ since. No details were given as to how he had made the predictions nor whether the predictions had been kept in a sealed envelope or how they had been made known. Andrews says Desmond then played a master-stroke. He had two hundred dodgers printed which he posted to the city manager of every bank, and to every member of parliament. The next day, 3rd May ‘the Manifesto was reproduced in all the papers with a Government notice offering a large reward for the discovery of the author’:
Whereas on the night of the 2nd May instant certain persons unlawfully conspired to print and publish the following, false, malicious and defamatory Handbill with intent to excite alarm and distrust in the public mind, to defame the administration of the Government in this colony and to injure certain banking institutions:
More Bank Smashes!
Look Out. Government in the Swim.
English Depositors withdrawing Gold by the Million!!!
Parliament throttled. Government Acting Illegally.
Newspaper Proprietors hold Shares and Suppress Facts.
Reconstruction a Subterfuge for Those in the Inner Circle to Unload.
They Want Time to Sell Out. Beware of Promises.
Demand Your Gold.
This is Published by a Financial Expert and One Who Knows.
Notice is Hereby Given that a Reward of £100 will be paid by Government for such information as shall lead to the apprehension and conviction of the guilty persons. In addition to the above Reward, His Excellency the Governor will be advised to extend a free pardon to any accomplice (not being the person who actually composed and wrote the said Hand Bill) who shall first give such required information.
George R. Dibbs Colonial Secretary.
The (Sydney) Worker cheekily recommended the prosecution of the government for ‘wilfully and maliciously publishing this seditious handbill …the fines might be placed in a Trust Account pending reconstruction of the Government’. The Wagga branch of the ASU had published one section of The (Brisbane) Worker until March, 1893 when six other N.S.W. Branches agreed to join in, and the plant was removed to either 1 Palmer Street Woolloomooloo or 217 Palmer Street, Sydney, with J. A. Ross as Manager, Walter Head and Arthur Rae doing most of the editorial work. This is important to know, since the reward was never claimed, because the first Hard Cash appeared on 22nd May and because
J.A. Ross has claimed responsibility for initiating, setting and printing Hard Cash. Carried out, he said, in his Paddington lodgings, it is unlikely to have been done without Arthur Rae and Walter Head knowing all about it. Despite special police duty and extra detectives being brought from Melbourne and New Zealand it continued to appear until September, five issues in all, each showing arbitrary dates and volume numbers to confuse pursuers. The press used was easily moved, drop-off spots for copy were varied and distribution was a strictly guarded affair. The printer’s name, ‘Alfred Evans’, was, Ross said, his second name and his family name. Difficulties with his story are that he says it appeared fortnightly, that the first was numbered ‘4’ and that there were six issues all told.
The content of Hard Cash was not revolutionary, but bank ‘insiders’ were no doubt disturbed that banking details were being leaked to the public and that alarms were being raised about a flight of gold from the country. ‘Baarmutha’ suggested Desmond had access to the State Parliamentary Library, while Andrews notes him studying Government Gazettes. It is possible to argue that Hard Cash had no effect on the course of events and may have assisted Dibbs to put through his legislation legitimising bank reconstructions which favored shareholders and trustees. A further bill, concerning the issue of legal tender, proved more difficult, and Desmond later claimed credit for its failure. Acclaimed later by the commercial bankers for his handling of the crisis while himself a bankrupt, Dibbs was accorded a blatant quid pro quo of £3,000 by ‘commercial men’ at a mid-day meeting in August after his first tranche of legislation had passed. The (Sydney) Worker, reported the meeting and that Dibbs had held up a copy of Hard Cash saying, ‘this thing has cost us £3,000,000. What is the detective force of this city doing?’ This is a good question as is the question of how the quotation was collected by the very paper involved with the clandestine printing.
The adolescent ‘Jack’ Lang has claimed involvement but this is unlikely. ‘Bill’ McNamara would have been among the inner circle, while Lawson was at least well-informed. He had returned from the west in mid ’93 and was either staying at 221 Castlereagh Street or frequenting it. George Reeve has written of Desmond reading a draft of his virulent manifesto, Might is Right, to Lawson who, it was said, was mightily impressed. Shortly after, Lawson was shipped off again, this time to New Zealand.
Hard Cash was not the only broadside delivered from Desmond’s pen or from his agency, nor was it the only ASB activity of significance. Secretly, a number of plots were fermenting, both among the forces of law and order and the opposition. A lack of informers indicates the Hard Cash operation was well-organised. The police do appear to have come close to finding the press on one occasion but its removal to another place was successfully carried out. In frustration, the authorities prosecuted ‘socialistic newsagents’, Rosa, McNamara, Schellenberg, Bear, Beasley and Routley, charging them with being publishers of the paper, while others continued to sell it unscathed. These unlucky men were known to police and were no doubt targeted, but they were not all ‘newsagents’ in the usual sense. A network of free/cut-rate services was operating, for example, in October, Schellenberg was shown as ‘restaurateur’ of 151 Liverpool Street. Rosa’s court papers show he had been under more consistent surveillance than the others and that nothing of consequence had been discovered indicating that he was not involved with the defensive plotting or with Desmond. The day after he appeared in court and was bailed, a Sr. Constable Musgrove, who could write shorthand, was asked to attend the Domain the following Sunday ‘in plain clothes’ and ‘take careful notes of any disloyal, treasonable or inflammatory language uttered by the Socialists‘. His subsequent report was used against Rosa. The trials lasted well into 1894, Rosa was given three months jail, McNamara six months and Schellenberg, who offered himself up, ten months. These three refused to feel penitent. Bear and Routley were given a week only. Rochaix was the principal detective in all cases which achieved, and may have been designed to achieve, the removal of the best-known activists. The effectiveness of the jailings can only be assessed by looking at who was left and how important secret activism was to the bigger picture.
Elsewhere I’ve written at length on Australian secret societies and their importance at certain key times of community stress, such as during the 1880’s and ‘90’s. The total of such societies was enormous, their memberships huge and their place in all strands of civil society acknowledged. That they have all but disappeared from the ken of today’s public is a result of conflict between Orders for pre-eminence, for members and for scarce resources. Although most were federated throughout the 19th century and subject to ‘Head Office’ control to some degree, the direction taken by individual lodges, tents, or assemblies was dependent on its internal dynamics and its involvement with local affairs. [See They Call Each Other Brother, Newcastle, 2010 or ‘Secret Societies and the Strange Slow Death of Mateship in Australia, 1788-2010’ on this web site]. The fact that fraternal and benefit, ie ‘secret’, societies were operating on the east coast of Australia during the ‘Great Strike’ period, and that their memberships were present at all the major political events of that time does not, by itself, mean that any particular society was necessarily revolutionary or seditious in its intentions.
Before Desmond and the Active Service Brigade achieved notoriety in 1893, one other immediately-relevant secret society, the Knights of Labor, complete with rituals, passwords and signs had begun operating in Sydney, probably in 1892. In other States and in New Zealand, the Knights had been intermittently open and public since 1887 but not at all in New South Wales. While no memoirs have surfaced, membership lists for the ‘Sydney Assembly’ have. Neither Desmond nor the arrested paper sellers appear, but the papers do show William and Ernie Lane, Arthur Rae, George Black, Frank Cotton, Peter McNaught, Lawson, WG Spence and Petrie, who is shown as ‘No 59’.
No connection between Desmond and ‘New Australia’ has come to light but while Desmond was saving the banks by ‘smashing them up’ both Ernie Lane and Petrie assisted the pre-departure organisation with fund-raising. The financial viability of New Australia was being damaged by delays instigated by Customs, Health and Marine Board officials. In March 1893 Petrie attended a GLU/AWA Conference at Wagga, but sometime afterwards he told Ernie Lane that he was off to blow up a non-union ship.
On Sydney harbour, fuming ‘New Australia’ emigrants who had wanted to get away on 1st of May speculated about the genuineness of reported ship bombings. None of the known ‘attempts’ had caused any property damage or injury. Cartridges with lighted fuses attached had allegedly been found on the SS Sydney and the SS Burrumbeet before any explosion could occur. Immediately, the Government produced a special Gazette offering rewards of £250 and cabled other colonial and the New Zealand administration about them. Later reports indicate these two ‘bombs’ – found on the same night in Newcastle Harbour – were not worthy of the attention they received. One did ‘explode’ after being found and plunged into a bucket of water but it caused only the bucket to shatter. The Melbourne Argus commented that ‘the matter [of the exploded bucket] has been kept very quiet so as not to defeat the ends of justice’.
When the SS Royal Tar did get away, on 16 July, one account of the departure appeared signed ‘No. 40’. This is perhaps by Mrs A.J. Rose-Soley, the probable source for Mrs Stratton in Wm Lane’s Working Man’s Paradise. What her connection was to any of the other participants in this drama is unknown. Ten days later, on the night of 27/28 July the SS Aramac was approaching the Brisbane River when it was damaged by an explosion. Petrie’s presence on deck immediately afterwards, especially since the companionway was blocked with debris, aroused suspicion, and he was taken into custody.
He had been tailed from Sydney despite having booked his passage under the name ‘Howard’, one of his Christian names. The ship’s Sydney agent later referred to two detectives on the Sydney wharf receiving ‘information’ and watching the boat closely until it left. ‘The funny thing was’, Petrie told Andrews later, ‘that the moment the bomb went off my first and only thought was to save people’s lives’. Fortunately there was no need to save anyone. A pillar of flame shot through the roof of an unoccupied cabin and one man and two women nearby were slightly injured.
This, the period’s major ‘revolutionary’ event, could have signalled a disciplined, concerted attack on property. It was nothing of the sort. Neither was it the action of an isolated psychopath. Petrie was well regarded in ‘the movement’, albeit not as a leader. His was the anger borne of an ideal, impatient with reformism, seeking meaningful change quickly. For some years he had been more inclined to advocate force ‘to ensure an earlier emancipation of Mankind’ than Andrews and had been more consistent in his views than others influenced by the Haymarket events. He was not an anarchist but an impulsive and impatient democrat. He wanted a replacement of ‘all existing forms of government’ with ‘a government of the people, for the people’ informed by public opinion ‘trained to a higher moral standard’:
We are credited with a passion for destruction but I should like our opponents to note what we would destroy … theft, slavery, misery and starvation of body and mind.
The significance of the Aramac explosion can be seen in the variety of uses to which it was put. A handbill circulated in Sydney in August read:
Beware! Labor leaders, etc. The secret police are paid by the Government and Banks to plot your ruin. Larry Petrie said to be arrested for Aramac explosion. Foul play going on. Look out for ‘plants’ and search warrants. No.21.
The Sydney Morning Herald referred to ‘placards’ plastered up around the city headed ‘Warning to Passengers by Steamers’, which emphasised dangers of inefficient, that is, non-union, crew, and editorialised: ‘[In] some circles it[the explosion] is held to be the death-knell of unionism in the colonies.’ The Brisbane Courier went on at length, including:
When they [the labor leaders] have helped us to arrest one single miscreant of this kind we shall begin to believe that these execrable atrocities are not an accessory of the labor propaganda.
Sam Smith, secretary of the Federated Seamen’s Union, attributed the event to ‘anti-unionists’ and ‘irresponsible persons’. Intriguingly, the only item in the (Sydney) Worker and the only one in the Bulletin appeared on the same day with the same photograph of Petrie. Almost at the same time, Dibbs was privately insisting that the police force be armed, in order, he said when the new policy was announced, to ‘suppress the larrikin gangs.’ This bizarre development is taken up below.
Petrie remained in jail while the Brisbane police awaited ‘further information’ from Sydney. Remand followed remand. He let it be known that if the Queensland Premier would come to see him, he, Petrie, would tell him who was responsible for the blowing up of the Aramac. The Premier came to the jail, only to hear Petrie tell him that he and his Cabinet colleagues were responsible through their un-democratic attitudes. On 23 August, Robert Fitzpatrick appeared in court in Brisbane to testify that ‘Howard’ had tried to obtain explosives from him in Sydney. Arthur Rae, Rose Summerfield, Ernie Lane and other ‘friends’ raised money for Petrie’s defence and engaged well-known lawyer Marshall Lyle. The accepted version of what happened next has been that Rae was able to prove to the Queensland Attorney-General that Fitzpatrick must be lying and threaten a public exposure of police malpractice. The Attorney-General filed a ‘No-True Bill’ and Petrie was discharged. This was Ernie Lane’s version in Dawn to Dusk but no background to Rae’s proof is given there. In Andrews’s versions, Fitzpatrick’s proven perjury was in bringing charges of intimidation against Robinson (‘King’) in Sydney, the fraud being discovered by ‘Britten’ [Rae ?] and a policeman overhearing Fitzpatrick’s alleged witness deny he knew anything of the matter. Petrie’s visits to the quarry where Fitzpatrick worked had occurred eighteen months before, that is, May 1892, when according to Fitzpatrick, Petrie was already organising for something called the ‘New Australia Laborers Union’. Petrie admitted knowing Fitzpatrick through MLA Houghton but supposed Fitzpatrick was influenced against him ‘by the large reward’.
He was in prison for ten weeks and his health had deteriorated by the time he came out on 10 October. He was immediately interviewed by The (Bris) Worker which editorialised that the evidence pointed to ‘a put up job’ and then quoted Petrie:
I know absolutely nothing of the cause of the explosion … I was astonished to hear that a tin cannister was found in my trunk. I had at no time either in my trunk or luggage anything of the kind of any explosive. Had I such a thing I would not be at liberty today… My one arm should have shown them that I couldn’t carry about heavy explosives without being detected by some person.
In prison, he said, officials had tried intimidation, a bribe of £250 and a free pardon, and solitary confinement on bread and water to try to get information from him. He thought a ‘forger’ put in with him and who urged him to accept the bribe was a detective. There is no reference in the court papers to any cannister found in his trunk.
He appears to have had no further involvement with either formal labour politics or with secret societies. Heading south to Melbourne he missed selection for Secretary, Riverine (NSW) District Council of the ALF, and to the Committee, on the way. Deciding to go to ‘New Australia’ he undertook an epic journey of two years to arrive at Cosme in 1896. In 1898, fed-up with Lane’s authoritarianism, he left the colony and joined the Paraguayan railways. One day in March 1901 he jumped onto the line to push a child out of the path of an oncoming train and was killed. His body was claimed by Mrs Rose Cadogan/Summerfield. When his death became known Andrews, in Melbourne editing The Tocsin and ‘J.D.,’ who is probably John Dwyer, reminisced. ‘JD’ may have had the last word on whether Petrie was framed: ‘He [Petrie] long afterwards calmly told [the writer] … that he expected the vessel to become a total wreck’ but that the device had failed because of a lack of weight on its top side.
Petrie’s brief ‘free time’ in Queensland before heading south had coincided with the appearance in that State of a leaflet signed on behalf of the ‘Active Service Brigade’, 9 November 1893. It is especially blunt and does not reflect a contemplative or a disengaged Petrie, and it is addressed directly to bush workers:
Bushmen, mates…You must put the fear of hell in the minds of your oppressors, make it impossible for squatter or manager to live comfortably in the bush…
Andrews later told how after the Brisbane arrest, a group ‘had first banded together as alarmed men’ and then had moved to organise a barracks where they could prepare a ‘last resort’. This was the ‘Active Service Brigade’ [ASB], which Andrews called the ‘War Contingent’, and which became known in Sydney only after the last Hard Cash and before the first Standard Bearer replaced it, that is, in the period September-November, 1893. Andrews implied that each of the core Brigade radicals had his own loyalists, akin to the ‘push gangs’. Later evidence asserts that the ASB core members were Desmond, Dwyer, Dodd, Yewen, McNamara, Rosa and Henry Tregarthen Douglas. This last man was the alienated son of a wealthy English family, who had been a seaman but had met ‘the anarchists’ when he began keeping poultry at Smithfield.
There is a sense overall of at least two clusters of radicals, one being non-English, older emigres from European conflict zones, like Schellenberg, who understood anarchism as communal and personal, sometimes called ‘life-style anarchists.’ Andrews, and perhaps Sceusa, acted as a bridge from these men to younger, English-speaking activists who are not anarchists in any sophisticated sense. Brady has asserted that ‘the Smithfield group’ came to Sydney to print Andrew’s Handbook of Anarchy and the newspaper Justice, and while the core-ASB members probably visited the commune they were all party-politically oriented, so well-connected with ‘the movement’ but also the un-organised and very disparate ‘street politics.’ Andrews was certainly no fighter and no firebrand, either. Letters from him in the press show a Sydney address after Petrie’s arrest, thus it’s possible ‘his group’ were in the city well before either his Handbook or Justice appear in 1894. The glare of publicity which the ASB produced meant ‘Anarchism’ was even more widely publicised, often with his name attached, his actions are of diminishing relevance. His failing health and the dependence of his message on written words becomes more obvious and readers begin to pity the man while acknowledging the depth of his social critique.
The melodramatic nature of his phrase ‘last resort’ (above) is worth noting. His descriptions of previous events back to August 1890 can be verified from other sources, but the ASB does not become a refuge or bolt-hole, but rather develops in quite a different direction. This suggests the phrase was Desmond’s and that while he was a bridge between ‘the movement’ and those urging physical responses to government, his rhetoric was the reason his influence within the ASB also quickly waned from this point. His need to see himself as an heroic figure is apparent in his ‘Might is Right’ published much later. When the ‘Brigade’ [ASB] made its public debut in Sydney in September it proved explosive but in totally unexpected, and totally public ways. Its original ‘banding together’ was probably on the basis of a secret society, with internal discipline sworn to by members, signs and countersigns, and designated positions within a cell-structure. I say probably because the evidence to this effect is sparse and may have been more in Desmond’s mind than real, since his communications are the only source for them. On the other hand, the situation was one where a secret society was likely, and there do appear to be two different versions of the Brigade’s objectives.
John Dwyer (1856-1934) is the only proven member of the ASB. His membership card into A Division was countersigned by Desmond. It lists on the back:
The objects and aims of this strictly disciplined organisation are:
To work upon purely business principles and in grim earnest for the resumption of the People’s landed Inheritance and other property;
To surround thorough-going democratic champions and to defend them from illegal intimidation and violence;
To extinguish by lawful means treacherous, cowardly and corrupt politicians;
To prevent the manufacture of spurious public opinion, protect free speech, and preserve order at public meetings.
The declaration, also handwritten for Dwyer to sign, was:
I hereby enrol myself a member of the Active Service Brigade and subscribe to its objects and aims as set forth upon ticket of membership.
I also promise to assist in electing its Supreme Directing Council and when duly elected and installed to obey their lawful commands without question.
A later Constitution of ‘the ASB Social Programme, Adopted in Convention Assembled, 1893’ set out fifteen points:
The election of administrative or legislative officers by direct, adult suffrage.
No agreements to any law, tax or impost, until discussed and ratified by the people.
Education free for all, compulsory, secular and industrial, higher as well as elementary.
The vote for every adult, male or female.
Military training for the democracy, but no standing army.
The right of every elector to vote once at any election in Parliamentary or Municipal matters, irrespective of the district in which he lived at the time his electoral right was issued, but no plural voting.
The entire abolition of fees or charges for the administration of justice.
That the production of commodities should be for use and utility, not for individual profit only, or speculative purposes.
The placing of such production under the control of the democracy.
That the means of transit by land and sea be owned and operated by the democracy.
That peaceful social reform and economic progress is desirable, necessary and practicable.
That the democracy (being workers and wealth producers) have the right and, being the vast majority, the power to change the present competitive system into a co-operative and social system.
That organised efforts private and public must be instituted to that end.
That it is necessary to sink fiscalism, commercialism, churchianity, and sectional differences, and establish a free, social and democratic republic
or commonwealth of free communities for the development of Australia and true advancements of the best interests of her people.
That the lands of Australia, agricultural and pastoral operations, water works, gas works, electric telegraphs, telephones, lights, trains and power, steam or other forces, the highways and lines of traffic, by land or water with all their equipments, that mines, machinery, mills, factories, agencies of production or distribution must and can be worked and operated for utility and use by the delegates of the democracy for the ultimate benefit of the whole community.
This second agenda shows greater concern for individual integrity, personal freedoms and participatory democracy than that being debated within ‘the movement’ at the same time. Still within the period Andrews refers to it as ‘semi-revolutionary’, the Brigade also developed a definite proposal for the unemployed to take possession of cultivable land, whether owned or not and whether the military were sent against the idea or not. For putting this proposal on behalf of the ASB to an unemployment meeting in October at the Queen’s Statue, ‘Tommy’ Dodd, ambitious push-member, received a rebuke. ‘Ringleader No. 27 and Press Secretary’ pointed out that not only was he un-authorised to speak on behalf of the Brigade, but there were ‘politicians, Domain tribunes and clergymen upon its volunteer roll of platformists’, and these were to be the public voice of the Brigade. The letter writer spoke of the members of its Supreme Directing Council as ‘in every case silent and unknown men’ and its seal ‘a draped skeleton with a raised hand’.
How much of this Rochaix knew at the time is unknown. That Dibbs chose this time to arm the Sydney force as a larrikin-deterrent seems incongruous but perhaps a directive from London Head Office had arrived and he, Dibbs, was fashioning it to local circumstances for maximum political advantage. At the beginning of the year, Belfast policemen on night beats were issued with revolvers. In NSW in June, the latest in a long line of legislation designed to curb ‘unruly ruffians’ failed to get to the second reading stage. Coincidentally, some said provocatively, a gang kicked to death a man called Pert supposedly because he was an informer. All of those arrested subsequently claimed to have jobs, as labourers, carters, printers, etc. After ‘conferring’ with Inspector- General of Police Fosberry, Premier Dibbs announced on 4 July his intention to ‘Deal With the Pushes’ by recruiting more police, training more plain clothes police, and by arming certain of their number. Indicative of the political heat generated by the Pert killing was that on 7 July an editorial in a Newcastle paper spoke of possible vigilantes and the Sydney Lord Mayor convened a gathering ‘to consider ways to suppress larrikinism’. Top-heavy with local government officials and politicians, it was hamstrung at the outset by His Worship beginning with a warning about potentially explosive sensitivities and a hope that ‘politics’ would not be introduced into the debate. The meeting finished with a whimpering resolution that parliament would be asked to come up with something.
It was not until August that it became apparent that Fosberry’s initiative amounted to a kind of ‘flying squad’ – hand-picked, armed police making lightning raids on trouble spots. They were quickly labelled ‘the light brigade’ after the heroic Crimean cavalry charge. The SMH had a ‘special reporter’ join the force for a number of night forays in August. His first report began by quoting a senior detective to the effect that there were no larrikin pushes, ‘in the sense of regularly organised gangs’ and that the incidence of street harassment and violence had diminished greatly anyway. The more aggressive had found work, preferably indoors, as ‘welchers’ in billiard saloons or as ‘security guards’, the more skilled had left Australia for the USA where limited-round fights were legal, and some, like Foley, became boxing instructors at respectable gyms.
Desmond, according to Andrews, was responsible for the idea of using the Castlereagh Street group’s augmented numbers to intervene in certain public meetings and force the election of a chairperson suitable to those in attendance rather than have one foisted on them by a meeting’s organisers. In attempting to expose the long-standing ways in which public meetings had been manipulated and reports of their outcomes falsified, the conspirators produced a press sensation. Their place in ‘movement’ politics became very public and the Brigade and its backers were exposed very quickly as having no ideological cohesion, no sense of group loyalty and no decisive leader. The broader political scene was deficient in the same ways so it’s not surprising, but singular anomalous figures like Desmond and Andrews suffered the most as parliamentary politics assumed the ascendency.
The first meeting ‘simply taken charge of’, and the date from which the ASB became known to the public, was on 7 September 1893 at the New Masonic Hall, opposite McNamara’s bookshop. As in 1891, the politician under siege was McMillan (‘Scott’). The next day’s Truth [Traill ???] provided the texts of two handbills circulated at the meeting, with a letter from Harry Holland denying that he and ‘Harry’ Douglas had organised the disturbance. He pointss out that after McMillan and entourage had fled, nine-tenths of the crowd had ‘remained and listened attentively’ to speeches by Holman and themselves. While the ‘respectable’ press railed about the interdiction of McMillan’s speech, Truth pointed out they only reproduced one of the two hand bills, the one by Holland and Douglas asking for support of a ‘Democratic Labor Party’. The other sounds more like Desmond-speak. Truth carefully separated him from ‘the Socialists’, though outside the hall a second, impromptu meeting was addressed by Desmond, Rosa, Yewen and others. The SMH described this meeting as ‘anarchical’ which it clearly wasn’t, in style or in content. Truth described as ‘anarchical’ a feeling said to be abroad ‘among a certain section of the unemployed’. The unnamed author said that many chance acquaintances admit to being uneasy and in sympathy with attempts to blow up ships.
Dibbs instructed Fosberry to send enough police to McMillan’s next meeting to ensure that he was heard. McMillan protested saying he would prefer that ‘the people’ should provide whatever safeguards were required. Dibbs responded by saying that he’d become aware that McMillan had arranged ‘friends and supporters’ to be in the hall to control the meeting and that he couldn’t stand aside when a riot was in the offing.
So, when McMillan tried again on the 19th September, he persisted with a chairperson prepared to go through the motions so that favorable reports could appear in the newspapers regardless of what actually occurred. He issued tickets to his supporters who entered the hall early by a side-entrance, while his opposition held a meeting outside. The Evening News estimated there were 700 of McMillan’s supporters and police already inside when the front doors were opened and ‘the public’ rushed in, but the result was the same. Victorious a second time, the ASB held a further meeting outside the hall and again ‘anarchical’ Desmond and Rosa proposed and seconded, respectively, a very wordy anti-McMillan motion which had supposedly been ‘lost’ when put inside the hall. On the third occasion, on the 25th, in the Protestant Hall, McMillan conceded defeat and allowed Fred Flowers to be elected chairperson by the meeting. McMillan was then listened to quietly, and at the end Flowers waited for the customary vote of confidence. No one was prepared to so move, so Dodd moved a vote of no confidence, specifically ‘that McMillan, by his address, had proved himself an enemy of democracy, of civil liberty and fair play and had thereby forfeited the confidence of the electors of East Sydney’. McNamara seconded the motion which was carried by a large majority and the meeting broke up quietly after cheers. McMillan subsequently tried another electorate, was successful but soon left party politics altogether.
Andrews’s account implies that all the anti-McMillan activists at these meetings were ASB members, ie, in addition to the core, Batho, McNamara, Holland, Holman and Flowers, and therefore candidates for unallocated pseudonyms in his fiction and for leadership of the various ‘cells’ of ‘Electric Invincibles’ which he concocted. Charles Hart, previously a director of the AW, may be ‘his’ bankrupted revolutionist who went to South Africa. I feel sure that either Holland, often described as a ’beardless youth’ though married with two children, or Holman was ‘Vermont’.
A one-page ‘Supplement’ appeared between the last Hard Cash and the first Standard Bearer. Dated 22 October 1893, it has an illustration closely resembling another attributable to Andrews. It contains an attack on conservative MP Bruce Smith and other ‘legal and anointed robbers of the poor in the NSW Parliament’, and a satiric ‘Proclamation’ over Barton’s name closing down Hard Cash. The printer is named as ‘Thomas Cobham, Windsor, Melbourne, which is no doubt false. A long, friendly article in Truth by ‘John Bull’ on 22 October 1893 announced Andrews’s farewell to ‘the Domain’ and an assertion that he intended to politicise the tramps and to give them a chance to survive better without being forced to become wage slaves. A letter from him in Mudgee later described his attempts to demonstrate ‘communist anarchy’ to his travelling companions – sharing his food and insisting on joint efforts at getting food, firewood, etc – and insists that: ‘The result was a vivid awakening and extension of practical communism in their mutual relations…, the development of a keen instinct of solidarity and of resentment towards any tendency to…selfishness, the growth of mutual confidence, frankness and good will…’ It is probable that he has despaired of even his immediate ‘comrades’ adopting the tenets of ‘practical communism.’
Despite the evidence for all the above, neither conspiracies nor bare-knuckle debating in public halls made it into Nairn’s biography of Holman:
(In) 1893 he enlarged his…reputation for precocious intellectualism by a series of notable public lectures on Marx, Henry George and Boehm-Bawerk. He revealed a flair for grass-roots organizing…At a unity conference in November 1893 Holman proposed that the executive’s pledge for parliamentarians be accepted and it became the basis of a successful motion, helping to unite the party for the 1894 and future elections…
Holman was certainly engaged with the Brigade in late-1893 and probably assisted Dodd (‘Rigby’) to wrest control of the ASB away from Desmond. Those two appear to have worked with Rosa and Sceusa on the subsequent LEL platform. Sceusa had become an Australian citizen in 1892 and had gone back to Europe in mid-1893 for an International Socialist Conference in Zurich where he insisted on being acknowledged as the Australian representative, and as the first ever. At the gathering he urged 1st May be celebrated universally, a theme he emphasised in a London interview before returning to Sydney where, in November, he was welcomed, specifically by Holman, with an illuminated address and a meerschaum pipe. Strongly anti-anarchist and strongly pro-the parliamentary path, he was nevertheless held up by Table Talk as a violence-prone ‘Brigader’. Table Talk (Sydney), over three long articles in November and December, with quotes from ASB documents as proof, also named Desmond, Douglas, Dodd, Andrews, and Rosa as anarchists, and architects of ‘the impending danger’. In November and December the very upset Australian Star attacked ‘reckless doctrinaires’, philosophical anarchists, Georgeites and theoretical socialists, for setting in motion forces whose object was the ‘utter destruction of society’. These people were all ‘scowling communists’ and ‘red-handed’ anarchists. The ‘Bird’ attacked Dodd by name, and its cartoons displayed ASB members literally armed to the teeth.
Nairn was especially misleading when crediting Holman with the ‘executive’s pledge’ motion. Four ‘labour’ MPs – Kelly, Fitzgerald, Sharp and Johnston – had enraged their colleagues in 1892, when they had first voted to condemn the Government with regard to the Broken Hill strike, but then supported that same Ministry five minutes later on an Opposition ‘lack of confidence’ motion. Their four votes had been the difference in the failed attempt to bring down Dibbs, the result of which was the Dibbs Dictatorship had endured a further twelve months. The Labour Conference, 10th-11th November, the most representative to that point according to Markey, and involving 200 trade and other delegates from around the State, met to debate policy. The LEL Central Committee directed proceedings and the Daily Telegraph reported:
…The conference seemed to be composed almost exclusively of socialists and members of that noisy band of larrikins known as the active service brigade…the labor movement will have to rid itself of these…
A motion urging the healing of the ‘unhappy breach’ between the Labor Leagues and the four MPs was amended to declare ‘undying hostility’ towards them. It passed almost unanimously despite intense argument, and they were expelled from the Party. Both Andrews and ‘Baarmutha’ believed that Desmond moved the amendment.J. Normington-Rawlings in a 1963 letter to Roth denied any Desmond claim outright, another scholar, Fitzhardinge, has credited Dodd and another activist, Ferguson, while Truth at the time gave Dodd the honour of moving and Rosa that of seconding the amending motion. ‘Price Warung’ in his book on the conference does not mention the resolution at all, while George Black’s only reference to it is to describe it as ‘childish’. Kelly’s response included:
If I am turned out for being a protectionist and a labor man, then I would rather have the ‘undying hostility’ – it is their phrase – of McNamara, Rosa and Hepher than their undying gratitude. I can’t see how it is that Rosa should represent the East Sydney Labor Electoral League when, as a fact, he resides in Newtown. The fact is, in my opinion, the socialists are trying to capture the labor party.
The long-running battle for the Party, in Markey’s view, was now between the city-dominated LEL’s and the rural based ASU, soon to be the AWU. Markey has contended that the expulsion motion was less important than the November follow-up which re-affirmed the need for all MP’s to pledge adherence to Party policy as determined by platform and caucus decisions. The MP’s in attendance, outvoted, complained the Conference had been ‘stacked’ and that the pledge imposed ‘unrealistic restrictions’ on them. The ASU initially agreed but became less supportive when delegates returned to their constituencies, mainly because of ‘the city’ wanting an eight hour day, considered unreasonable in ‘the bush.’ His demarcation can only hold if the ASB/activist socialists were aligned with the LEL’s – Watson, Holman, Hughes, et all, and were acting on their behalf.
In parliament on the 16th November, Kelly attacked the agitators leading the unemployed in daily parades. He asserted to the House that money was being made from desperate workers by the ASB, this being the only reason the protests were being kept up. Dodd, in the visitor’s gallery, was incensed, cried out ‘Liar’, whereupon he was detained for a time. Dodd then re-organised ASB unemployed protests into pseudo-religious pilgrimages. A meeting and procession with crucifix and rag effigy representing Christ would move from the Statue to a nearby church where Dodd called upon clergy to help the dispossessed in the name of the Galillean reformer. Newspapers of 25 November noted two meetings on one day: the first at St Andrews Cathedral of sixty people shadowed by police but where the service was not interrupted. The second had three hundred marchers and the bloody effigy on a crucifix, labelled IHS, behind which they moved to Centennial Hall. Here police seized the effigy, the procession entered the service and Dodd offered up ‘blasphemous’ prayers until he was interrupted by the clergyman.
At a branch meeting of the Licensed Cabmen on 22nd November, Kelly, who was campaigning for a vacancy on the city’s Transit Committee, brought his own ‘muscle’ and ejected an un-named ASB ‘leader’, probably Robinson (Robertson) often known as ‘Hard Kash’ because of a top hat he wore labelled to indicate what he was selling. Kelly had organised a Catholic Irish gang, euphemistically called the ‘Mosquito Club’ to protect himself from ASB visitations, but he eventually lost the vote to a cab-driver. Robinson who was arrested for ‘riotous behaviour’ outside the hall, appears to have assisted Desmond with Standard Bearer and to have taken over responsibility for it when Desmond left town in December. A Standard Bearer column in November headed ‘Active Service Gazette’ called for a ’21-gun salute’ for ‘the traitors’, ie, the four labor MPs who refused to sign the pledge. Thus Desmond who was, I believe, ‘No. 27’ and ‘Press Secretary’, nursed his disappointment at being superseded, by emphasising the need for movement solidarity with a military metaphor. He, presumably, also wrote in Standard Bearer in December:
The Headquarters of the ASB is in New Zealand, but the organisation there bears another name….The result of the last N.Z. elections is a distinct victory for us and shows that a few thousand silent, determined men can work wonders if they have the money to work with….
Elsewhere he described New Zealand as twenty years, politically and morally, ahead of Australia where public affairs is a huge joke not ‘war to the knife for cash and land’ as across the Tasman:
Democracy can never triumph until it is in deadly, bitter, savage earnest, until it is ready … to wade through fire and blood … to regain its own property.
An alternative approach had taken form in the ASB. It mobilised supporter numbers in the hundreds who were strongly motivated when asked to defend a space. The Dibbs Government lost another vote on 7 December and Ministers Barton and O’Connor had resigned. The following day, 8 December, Dibbs prorogued Parliament, rather than close it and go to an election. On the 11th December, a West Sydney LEL meeting had Kelly, Fitzgerald and others on the platform to explain their actions in parliament. Douglas, the first ‘Brigader’ to interject, was thrown out ‘in parachutist style’. Dodd, active in the audience was quieted when threatened with ejection. Fitzgerald asked thebully-boys to leave him, Dodd, alone as he was ‘only the tool of people without the courage to do their own dirty work’. O’Reilly, another newsagent and ASB member, pulled a small gun on an ejector, J J Hynes, the police moved in and arrested him, the gun disappearing in the fracas, apparently by way of ‘Hard Kash’ Robinson.
Also on the 11th, the first cabled news of a major bomb attack on the French Parliament made headlines. On 12 December, hired muscle led by ‘Mick’ Dooley enabled Parkes to obtain ‘the chair’ of a meeting intended to give Reid, the newly-installed opposition leader, a forum to attack Dibbs. Parkes, his colleagues and a contingent of police sat and watched Dooley beat up a vociferous 63-year old drunk who despite having only one good arm put up stern resistance within the general melee. ‘Truly, we have had enough and more than enough of Mr Fosberry’ the Star editorialised, hoping the thugs’ ‘aiders, abettors and organisers’ would all be flushed out in an enquiry:
(North Sydney voters) do not understand free-traders coquetting with socialists, and still less some of those whom we have been accustomed to style the honorable members of Her Majesty’s opposition allying themselves with the grossest forms of blackguardism, and engaging gangs of bullies and larrikins to coerce and insult free citizens assembled in public meeting.
Towards the end of the meeting, Desmond put a motion saying that while the resignation of Barton and O’Connor was the result of an unconstitutional action of Premier Dibbs and must be condemned as further evidence of his dictatorial attitude, nevertheless it was a blessing because the crisis had stopped the passage of a Bill intended to make the Bank Notes Bill permanent. Holland and Dodd supported him to attack ‘Reid the Wriggler’, and the motion was easily carried. A week later Judge Addison dismissed the cross-summonses of John Allen, the old man, and Dooley without hearing Allen’s witnesses. Dooley was allowed to argue that he was there by chance and the judge appeared to want to see the end of the case as quickly as possible. Kelly led a delegation of ‘Mosquito Club’ members to the Minister for Justice to ask for Allen’s case to be heard. Their request was denied, and the Mosquitoes readied themselves for the next round. The ASB, however, was splintering and the authorities were ramping up their pressure.
By late-November early-December, the ousting of Desmond by the pragmatists was complete. Dodd received a second, disguised rebuke in December from the same Ringleader No. 27 as ‘a most indiscreet subordinate member’ of A Division. A Barracks and Free [labor] Registry for the ‘large numbers of men unable to pay the ordinary charges for decent board and lodging’ at 221 1/2 Castlereagh Street was in place despite Annie Dwyer’s suspicions of ‘the Tommy Dodd set’, with Dwyer as manager, Dodd as secretary, and Douglas as treasurer. Ironically, the ASB received more police harassment rather than less with Desmond away:
… the premises were haunted by police pimps, offering to procure dynamite or asking for assistance to burn down the city.