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Lucy Harriet Eatock (1874–1950)

by Hall Greenland

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Lucy Harriet Eatock (1874-1950), political activist, was born on 7 June 1874 at Springsure, Queensland, and registered as the ninth child of Scottish-born parents Alexander Wakenshaw, a bushman and later pastoralist, and his wife Jane Lindsay, née Cousins. On 18 November 1895 at Springsure Lucy married with Presbyterian forms William Eatock (1869-1943), an Aboriginal stockman; they had nine children.

By 1908 Bill was working in the abattoirs at Brewarrina, New South Wales. Finding living with a large family in tents and humpies too onerous, Lucy and Bill later separated. Two sons stayed with their father while Lucy brought one daughter and the younger children to Sydney. With work difficult to obtain, Lucy took a series of domestic positions in rural districts and boarded the children out—principally at Bowral where, the children were later to claim, they went to school with (Sir) Donald Bradman.

Lucy was able to gather her children together and live for a few years in relative comfort in the 1920s, with her sons Richard Alexander (Alec), William Donald (Don) and Adam labouring in brickyards at St Peters, Sydney, Roderick (Dick) apprenticed to an electrician, and daughter Lindsay at a nearby umbrella factory. The young Eatocks became active unionists and, with Lucy, members of the Communist Party of Australia. In 1929 the party adopted an ultra-left line and regularly clashed with police in street demonstrations, which Lucy attended—large and stately, impeccably dressed as a suburban matron, wearing a hat and gloves and often carrying an umbrella. This respectable attire did not save her from a public whipping by a police inspector in St John's Road, Glebe, on 27 October 1932, when a gathering of the unemployed, protesting against harsh dole regulations, was broken up. 'Old Mum Eatock' became known for delivering mutton or blackberry pies to families of the unemployed.

Earlier that October Alec had been sentenced to two–and-a-half years imprisonment for his part in resisting the eviction of a group of communists and unemployed men occupying a sandbagged house in Brancourt Avenue, Bankstown, in June 1931. He received by far the harshest sentence for this clash. After an affray between police and unemployed outside Glebe Town Hall, which left a police sergeant badly injured, Lucy's youngest son Noel (aged 20) and Thomas Sharpe, a former soldier who had been wounded in World War I, were tried for assault in 1933. Despite stronger evidence against Sharpe and testimony of witnesses that Noel was not present at the incident, Sharpe was acquitted and Noel convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years gaol. Both Alec and Noel had young families and served nineteen months of their sentences.

In the course of these trials, Lucy became convinced that the Communist Party leaders did not commit enough resources to her boys' defence; her anger was compounded when these same leaders denied material help to the families of the imprisoned men. Left-wing communists at Glebe and Balmain shared her disillusionment (especially over the case of Noel) and this was a major contributing factor in their split with the C.P.A. and the formation of a Trotskyist group in Sydney. Embittered by his time in gaol, Noel left Sydney soon after his release. His family never heard from him again. Adam was killed in a bicycle accident in January 1935.

In the following years Lucy lived with various of her children. Predeceased by her husband, she died on 12 February 1950 in Brisbane Hospital and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. Two daughters and three sons survived her. With the exception of Lindsay, who remained a communist to the end of her days, they retired from politics. When, in a time of reawakened pride for indigenous Australians, Lucy's grandchildren and great grandchildren reclaimed their Aboriginality, they also suggested that Lucy's mother had been Kitty, an Aboriginal woman employed by the Wakenshaws. Neither Lucy nor any of her children is known to have made such an assertion.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Johnson, Bread & Roses (Syd, 1990)
  • H. Greenland, Red Hot: The Life and Times of Nick Origlass (Syd, 1998)
  • J. de Cressac, Delusions of Grandeur (Alice Springs, 2003)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 1931, p 6, 13 Nov 1931, p 6
  • N. Wheatley, The Unemployed Who Kicked (M.A. thesis, Macquarie University, 1975)
  • L. Mountjoy, My Life (manuscript, 1982, privately held).

Citation details

Hall Greenland, 'Eatock, Lucy Harriet (1874–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Wakenshaw, Lucy

7 June, 1874
Springsure, Queensland, Australia


12 February, 1950 (aged 75)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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