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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Alan Frank Cross (1922–1991)

by Bob Sharkey

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

Alan Cross, n.d.

Alan Cross, n.d.

Friends and comrades, we are here this afternoon, together with his family and relatives, to say farewell to Alan Frank Cross, and to pay tribute to his contribution to humanity.

While it is a sad occasion to lose a well loved relative, a respected friend and comrade, it should be remembered that Alan lived a full and rich life not rich in monetary sense, but rich in the positive things he achieved rich in the fact that his attributes were recognised by those who knew him.

Alan was born on December 17, 1922. He came from a working class family and he remained loyal to the working class for his entire life. It was more than loyalty for he was dedicated to improving the conditions of working class people.

He could have gone the same way as many who are or were born into the working class but achieve a comfortable life style and forget or ignore the social injustices that exist. But Alan’s principles and beliefs led him to continue to fight for improvements for the working class not only in this country for Alan was an internationlist.

After completing his intermediate certificate at Sydney Boys High School Alan began work as a clerk in a brewery.

He had grown up in the great depression of the 30s and from his early working life began to understand that there were faults in our system and that inequalities and injustices existed.

His early working years were restless times — war was imminent and Alan was keen to join the army but he was not of age. He spent some time working at an experimental farm (a dairy farm) in the Hunter Valley and he also had a few preliminary fights at Leichhardt Stadium.

Finally he reached the age to enlist in the army to fight in the war against Fascism. This period was to have a great influence on his later life.

He saw active service in the Middle East and later in New Guinea and the islands of Indonesia. He served with the second first machine gunners and was involved in several battles including Balik Pappan.

It was during the war years of the 40s that Alan became a dedicated socialist and joined the Communist Party.

Alan clearly understood that rampant capitalist greed had spawned Nazism and Fascism.

His conviction that Socialism was a better alternative to Capitalism were strongly forged and remained with him. His experiences in the war also convinced him that working people paid a heavy toll while a few people profitted.

He campaigned for peace as he saw that peace was in the best interests of working class people.

He was not a pacifist as he believed in the rights of people to struggle, to secure their independence.

He supported the Indonesians in their struggle to be independent when the Dutch were intent on moving back to what they considered was their empire as the Japanese were being ousted.

I am more than suspicious that Alan gave material help to the Indonesian independence fighters.

At the end of the war Alan studied under the retraining scheme and gained his matriculation and a teachers training scholarship.

He completed his BA with Honours and his Diploma of Education.

He was active in the University Labor Club and the trainee teachers. Alan was a leader in the first strike by trainee teachers which won a better allowance.

It was also during that time that Alan, married to Sylvia, with David newly born worked at other jobs to supplement his meagre income. One of those jobs was in a factory producing fibro.

He often talked about the conditions under which the men worked in that factory — about the air being thick with dust. It was there that he breathed in the dust which many years later developed the asbestosis which took his life.

After completing his teacher training Alan began his teaching career — he loved teaching and he was a fine teacher. He commenced that career at Kandos.

Those cold war years would have been a difficult time for a communist in a small country town. Indeed at the start of the Korean War he was threatened. However, he won support from the local community, he helped establish a sports and recreational club and he was elected to the Urban Committee of the Local Council.

In conjunction with a colleague he wrote a text book on modern history which was for several years used as a text for the Leaving Certificate in NSW and interstate.

Side by side with his love of teaching was his strong union beliefs. He was active in the NSW Teachers Federation, a union of which he was proud — and which honoured him with Life Membership. He wore that badge with pride.

After moving to Sydney Alan and his family settled in the Sutherland Shire. With his family he moved to a home in Gymea Bay where he remained for the rest of his life.

Alan became a foundation member of two organisations which benefitted from his wisdom and involvement. These were the Trade Union Club and the Sutherland Teachers Association.

Alan worked for the establishment of the club, not only as a place where unionists could relax and enjoy social life — but also where unionism and the policies of the broad Labour movement could be pursued. His contribution was recognised by the Award of Life Membership of the club.

Alan was also awarded Life Membership of the Sutherland Teachers Association. That Association stands as a legacy to Alan where he played the major role of building it into one of the best and strongest branches of the union.

He encouraged members to participate and helped us to learn about campaigning for public education. An academic who wrote a most recent history of the Teachers Federation, and who was not one of Alan’s close supporters, commented that the Sutherland Teachers Association was well organised and highly influential within the Federation. We who knew Alan know that was true because of Alan’s work.

Alan served as Association President, was on Federation Council and a member of the Federation’s Executive for some 20 years. He also served for two years as a full time Federation official as Senior Vice President.

Alan never pushed himself forward for these positions — he usually had to be convinced to stand as he was a modest man.

I must relate this story as an example of Alan’s dedication. Alan was defeated in a postal ballot for Senior Vice President. A team of three inexperienced and almost unknown members were elected. While most Federation activists turned their backs on these three Alan did not. Although naturally disappointed, he spent hours with them, explaining their duties and what was expected of them and advising them who to consult. He maintained that the interests of Federation members came above his personal feelings and that he had a duty to the members to ensure that they had an understanding of what they had been elected to do.

To the end Alan remained a convinced socialist. He maintained his membership of the Communist Party and when that disbanded he worked for the establishment of a New Left Party.

He was critical of the crimes of Stalin, many of the actions of the USSR and China, yet he stood firm in his beliefs.

The reasons are quite simple. Alan was a very honest person. He also believed firmly that humans do not have any right to exploit other humans.

Alan’s firm convictions were made clearer and re-enforced in my mind when I viewed a tape of a speech made in March of this year delivered by Arthur Scargill, the Leader of the British National Union of Mineworkers. I discussed this speech with Alan and he agreed completely with Scargill who stated:

“It is still wrong for a few to own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange. It is still right to work and strive for social ownership”.

To those who run for cover and do not wish to be identified as socialists because of events in Eastern Europe, Scargill said:

“Imagine if the Church had taken the same decisions as a result of the Spanish inquisitions, if they had said Christianity doesn’t work as appalling crimes have been committed in its name”.

A Christian would argue that what people did in the name of Christianity should not be allowed to besmirch Christianity.

Likewise Alan believed that if the name of Socialism has been smeared it is not that Socialism is wrong but that people have done appalling things in its name.

Alan’s beliefs will live on comrades and friends. Alan is remembered as a fine teacher, a humanitarian, a fine person. A little of him lives on in all who were close to him. Farewell Alan Frank Cross.

* This is an edited version of the tribute delivered by Bob Sharkey, at Alan Cross’ funeral on October 8, 1991.

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Citation details

Bob Sharkey, 'Cross, Alan Frank (1922–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012