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Frederick Theodore (Fred) Farrall (1897–1991)

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This entry is from People Australia

Fred Farrell, with his wife, 1973

Fred Farrell, with his wife, 1973

Australian Women's Weekly, 3 October 1973, p 5

Frederick Theodore (Fish Fingers Fred) Farrall (1897-1991) upholsterer, clerk, trade union official, Communist and mayor 

Birth: 17 September 1897 at Cobram, Victoria, son of native-born parents William Robert Farrall (1860-1939), general carrier, later farmer, and Emma Janet, née Hamann (1867-1944). Marriages: (1) 26 September 1923 at St John’s Anglican Church, Rockdale, New South Wales, to Sylvia May Case (1899-1988); they had one daughter. The marriage ended in divorce. (2) 1937 in Melbourne, Victoria, to twice-divorced Dorothy Louise, née Palmer, formerly Byrnes, then Watts (1891-1979), active unionist in Clothing Trades Union and militant. Death: 26 December 1991 at Melbourne. 

  • Educated at Dullah State School, near Ganmain, NSW, where he worked on the family farm.
  • Was a farm hand, and gave his religion as Church of England, when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 11 December 1915 at Galong, NSW. He was wounded in action (gunshot wound in the left knee), serving with the 55th Battalion on 1 September 1917. Returning to Australia in June 1919 he was discharged in Sydney on 10 January 1920.
  • After World War I, he worked as an upholsterer at Meadowbank, Sydney, joining the union and the Australian Labor Party.
  • Increasingly radicalised, he joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in January 1930 and ran as a CPA candidate in the NSW elections in October 1930. Active and arrested in unemployment struggles, and involved with the Friends of Soviet Union. In 1937 was detained by police for selling radical literature on Sydney Domain without a permit.
  • In 1938 moved with his second wife to Melbourne where unemployment problems worsened — finding work finally as a bank cleaner he joined the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. Active in communist circles, Prahran and community affairs, including St Kilda Football Club.
  • Secured work as clerical assistant with Commonwealth public service. In 1941 joined Federated Clerks’ Union, elected vice-president in 1944. Sacked from clerical job because of political activities, existing for much of rest of life on pension.
  • Featured in celebrated Cold War episodes—allegations of rigged/burnt ballots in Clerks Union elections in 1949. His house was used for binding of first copies of Frank Hardy’s Power without Glory in 1950.
  • Joined Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) in 1970. Increasingly involved in municipal politics, from 1968 as councillor, Prahran Council, successfully addressing problems of pensioners by rebates and in 1973 was elected Mayor of Prahran.
  • Attracted sobriquet ‘Fish Fingers Fred’ for insisting on eating fish fingers rather than more expensive fare served at Council functions.
  • Active in Henry Lawson Society, Melbourne branch of Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, SPA, East German Democratic Society and St Kilda and Prahran historical societies.
  • Cause of death bronchopneumonia, cardiac atherosclerosis, cerebrovascular accident and urinary tract infection.
  • Fellow CPA member Roland (Rowley) Farrall, of whom he disapproved, was a cousin.

Lois Farrall, The file on Fred: a biography of Fred Farrall (Carrum, Victoria, 1992); Recorder, October 1971, October 1973, October 1979, October 1987, October 1988, April 1991, February 1992.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Farrall, Frederick Theodore (Fred) (1897–1991)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

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