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Edward Conrad (Ted) Englart (1897–1982)

by Claude Jones

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

The death in Brisbane on February 26 of Ted [Edward Conrad] Englart, at the age of 85, reduces the ranks of the great trade union fighters who did so much to lay the foundations for communist influence in unions in the '30s and '40s.

Ted, along with Bert Field of the Metal Workers Union, Frank Wiegel of the Moulders, and rank-and-file communists in the tramways, railways, building, shearing, sugar and other industries, worked against massive odds with real tenacity and guts. This generation owes them a great debt.

Ted was born of pioneering farmer stock in Toowoomba in 1897. His grandfather migrated from Germany in the 1840s and worked as a shepherd for £12 a year plus tea, sugar, flour and meat.

On leaving the farm, Ted worked as a laborer, and finally joined the Waterside Workers Union in 1919 and the Communist Party in 1928.

These were bad days on the waterfront — dangerous gear, heavy hand trollies, manhandling cargoes, long shifts, pick-ups at the gate, bull gangs, stand-over men and slings to the foremen to get a start.

Ted was in the thick of the 1928 strike. He was a relentless pursuer of scabs. When the strike was broken, he and loyal unionists were savagely victimised.

He and his wife Kate faced several bitter and difficult years raising and feeding a family of six children. But they never lost their humor or enormous capacity to resolve difficulties.

Some of Ted's exploits in outwitting debt collectors, creditors, landlords and hay and feed merchants ("a man's got to feed his bloody cow so he can feed his kids ....") and retaining his house with payments as low as possible and few and far between, are hilarious gems of working class humor and ingenuity. 

He was one of the small band in the industry who worked to get Jim Healy elected as federal secretary of the WWF in the '30s. Jim set out on a long-range policy to unite all workers on the waterfront as a prelude to humanising the shocking conditions of work.

At first this was hard for Ted and his mates to grasp. Ted's hatred of scabs and their so-called union, the P&C, was deep-seated and, on many occasions, physical.

After long and often emotional discussions, Ted saw the correctness of communist policy and, typically, plunged headfirst into the battle. He never budged an inch and, bit by bit, one by one, he won over the doubters. In the process he built an active party branch, sold the most papers and collected the most money for the party.

Sensing corruption in the union leadership at that time, Ted led a campaign to clean it up. Despite threats, and being leaned on by "heavies", he finally won through. He was elected Vigilance Officer in 1938 and Brisbane branch secretary in 1942. He was defeated by the NCC in the cold war period of the '50s, and "took up the hook" again.

The Brisbane wharfies were a powerful force in all the struggles of the early post-war years. They threw their weight into every major struggle, including the cause of Indonesian independence, the 1946 meat strike, the '48 rail strike, the '49 miners' strike, and many others.

In 1948, Ted, along with others, was arrested for his role in the rail strike (see photograph). Even in jail he was irrepressible. On being released from the cell each morning, the prisoner had to salute the "screw". Ted always managed to have his "piss tin" in his right hand as he saluted.

Ted has his faults and failings but, above all, he was a courageous and compassionate person, filled till his last days with an unbounded optimism for the future and a deep faith in the working class. Some have called him naive, with a blind faith or a foolish Utopian outlook. Some who said that went on to well-paid jobs and became more and more cynical.

Three weeks before he died I had a few beers with Ted and his son, Vince. We had a wide-ranging talk about socialism, Poland, imperialism, Reagan and the problems and difficulties in the communist movement. At the end of it he said, as I've heard Uncle Ted say for 50 years, "Yes, but things are going well despite it all and the workers will win".

That was Ted's life — that is his epitaph.

Original Publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Claude Jones, 'Englart, Edward Conrad (Ted) (1897–1982)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/englart-edward-conrad-ted-33600/text42028, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012