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John Brennan (1923–2005)

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This entry is from People Australia

John Brennan (1923-2005) seaman, trade union leader and Communist 

Birth: 26 August 1923 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, son of John Brennan (b.1899), able seaman, later labourer, born at Castlebar, Mayo, Ireland, and Margaret, née Dignan (1904-1964) born at Renfrew, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Marriages: (1) 21 June 1966 at the Registrar General’s Office, Sydney to a divorcee, Helen, née Crooks, late Alexander (b.1926), a clerk, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The marriage ended in divorce in February 1972. (2) 16 June 1972 at the District Registrar’s Office, Newcastle, New South Wales, to native-born Elaine Mary, née Rothery, late Thomas (b.1935), clerk, a divorcée. Death: 13 October 2005 in his usual residence at Tirriki Street, Charlestown, Newcastle, NSW. He had no children. 

  • Had arrived with his parents in Sydney by 1929.
  • In 1949 was elected assistant secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia (SUA), Sydney. 1 February 1953 moved to Newcastle as branch secretary. Remained there until his retirement in 1987.
  • Executive member, Newcastle Trades Hall Council, from 1953 to 1987, senior vice-president from 1955 to 1987. Secretary, Newcastle Waterfront Group, for 33 years.
  • Instrumental in many community campaigns in the Hunter region — establishment of cancer oncology unit, maintenance of Stockton ferry. Member, Newcastle Workers Club executive. As SUA official ensured Flag of Convenience campaign was conducted energetically in the port of Newcastle.
  • In 1957 defeated Broken Hill Pty Ltd’s local demands to reduce manning levels on bulk carriers.
  • Supporter of E.V. Elliott and part of general SUA instigated improvements in conditions of shipboard life, remuneration and leave.
  • Communist Party of Australia member. First trade unionist to visit Afghanistan. Peace activist.
  • Cause of death: astrocytoma brain.

Seamen’s Union, December 1987, March 1988; Brian Fitzpatrick and Rowan J. Cahill, The Seamen’s Union of Australia: a history, (Sydney, 1981).

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Citation details

'Brennan, John (1923–2005)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


26 August, 1923
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England


13 October, 2005 (aged 82)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (brain)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Key Organisations
Political Activism