State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 32 December 1983


Tom Audley



Tom Audley

Tom Audley died on 31 December, 1982, aged 90. His warm regard for the La Trobe Library was known to many of his friends, not least his old comrade in the Labour History Society, Sam Merrifield. Both Tom and Sam believed that the Library should hold records of those institutions which working class people had built as expressions of their hopes for a better and more just society. Each in their own way have made substantial contributions to the Library to sustain its interest in the lives of ordinary people. Tom was an early member of the Friends of the La Trobe Library, joining in 1968 (two years after its formation). His support for any organisation that concerned itself with working class history reflected his strong belief that an accurate knowledge of the past was an essential precondition to building a better future.
Tom was born in South Melbourne on 3 January, 1892. His parents, Bridget (nee Brown) and Charles Audley, had emigrated from New Ross in Ireland. Tom was the eldest of their four children. The youngest was only two months old when their father died. Tom remembered vividly the difficulties that followed; particularly the occasion when, against his will, he had to go to court with his mother to be declared a neglected child so she would be eligible for privately administered charity.
While still at the local Catholic school, he had to take odd jobs to supplement the money his mother earned by taking in washing and cleaning other people's houses. As soon as he was old enough, he left school and found work with a wine and spirit merchant. However, he incurred the displeasure of his boss by joining a union and was promptly sacked. Although he was an abstainer, he took another job in the drink trade, this time as a barman. Eventually, he became a shop assistant and remained one for the rest of his working life.
As a young worker from a poor, Irish Catholic background, his growing political interests took a radical turn during the struggles which centred around the conscription issue in 1916–17. In keeping with the mood of the times, he found it an easy progression from the No Conscription Fellowship to the Workers' International Industrial Union, a slightly less radical cousin of the Wobblies.
Following the collapse of the Wiiu in the mid-1920s he turned his energies towards building up the weak and demoralised Shop Assistants' Union. He represented the union on the Trades Hall Council and played a prominent role in the formation of several wage boards. The union acknowledged its debt by conferring a life membership upon him.
Always a committed radical, Tom worked closely with members of both the Labor and Communist parties to win social justice for working people. He is fondly remembered by many Labor Party members in the Thornbury and Northcote branches for his help and advice. He was one of those honoured recently by the Alp with a medal for over forty years service.
In the early 1960s he joined with Sam Merrifield, Brian Fitzpatrick and several others to form the Melbourne Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. He served the Branch with distinction for more than twenty years as both Treasurer and joint producer of Recorder. He continued in both roles until December 1982, despite the failing health that he so stubbornly resisted. A few years ago the Society expressed its gratitude by electing him a life member.
Tom's attachment to the La Trobe Library was founded on the same impulse that attracted him to the Labour History Society; a determination to preserve and nourish a sense of the labour movement's history. As long
as the Library can continue to inspire the loyalty of working class people like Tom Audley, it can truly be called a public library.
Peter Love

Herbert Eric Rundie

The Friends of the La Trobe Library note with great regret the death on 16 June, 1983, of Herbert Eric Rundie, who had served continuously as their honorary solicitor since the Friends' formation in 1966. He had drawn up the original constitution of the Friends and from time to time provided advice on its revision. He also generously and promptly helped the Committee in all of its legal problems. Eric Rundie was also the Honorary Legal Officer of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and had served on its Council since 1962. One of his particular interests was the preservation of legal records.
Mr. Rundie was the owner of “Glenara” estate at Bulla, a district which owes much to his historical researches. But besides his professional and scholarly interests, he was a dashing and successful horseman. In the equestrian field his many offices included the Vice-Presidency of the Equestrian Federation of Australia and the Mastership of the Oak-lands Hunt Club. It was while leading the field that he suffered the injuries which led to his death.
The Friends extend their sympathy to Mr. Rundle's family and records with gratitude his many years of service.