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Frith, Thomas (1850–1918)

from Newcastle Sun

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

A former Mayor of Wickham and Adamstown, Mr. Thomas Frith (68), met his death in peculiar circumstances at Throsby Creek, Carrington, this morning. His body is now at his home, 32 Robert-street, Wickham. An inquest will be held to-morrow morning.

A timber carter, driving across the bridge at Carrington, is said to have seen Frith fall from the bridge into the creek shortly after 8.30 o'clock. Mr. M. Shield, railway porter at Carrington, living at 73 Charlton road, Wickham, while cycling over the bridge, had his attention drawn to the circumstance by the carter, who advised: 'There's a fellow just gone overboard.' Shield saw a walking-stick and a hat on the bridge, then heard a man struggling in the water.

Being unable to swim. Shield ran with the carter to a boat which lay beached a couple of hundred yards away. No oars could be found, and two small pieces of deal board had to be utilised as paddles. Slow progress was made against a strong current by the two men in the boat, but when they reached the drowning man they found him practically unconscious, almost black in the face, through asphyxia, and about to sink for the third time. The men dragged him aboard, and with great difficulty paddled t0 the shore.

Frith by this time seemed in an extremely bad way. The rescuers endeavored to revive him by artificial respiration and sent for a doctor, who soon arrived and took the case in hand. But all efforts were useless, and Frith expired.

'I feel sure we'd have saved him, had we had oars for the boat,' declared Shield later.

Mr. Frith was one of the best-known identities of the Labor movement in the Newcastle district. He was born in Duckinfield, Lancashire, and married a Lancashire native, Miss Margaret Ann Etchells. A miner by occupation, he emigrated to Western Australia at the age of about 22 and prospected along the goldfields. Thence he found his way to Adamstown, where he was joined at the age of about 27 by his wife, who had remained in England. Practically continuously from that time he and his wife resided in the Newcastle district. They reared a family of three sons and two daughters. The daughters are Mrs. E. J. Mascord, of Corrimal, and Mrs. R. D. Jones, of Maryville. The sons are Mr. R. Frith, of Kurri Kurri (who is married and who recently returned from the front, where, on account of trench feet, he lost half of each of his feet, Mr. Thomas Frith, and Mr. Norman Frith. The deceased is survived by his widow.

Mr. Frith took his seat as an alderman of Wickham on February 14, 1895, and resigned on January 27, 1904. On February 12, 1902, he was elected Mayor of Wickham.

He was elected to the Adamstown: Council on February 15, 1888, and in the 1890-91 term was Mayor of the municipality,

At the time of his death he was a trustee of the Colliery Employees' Federation. At many a Labor meeting his voice has been heard. He was an eloquent speaker and one who commanded respect.

Mr. Frith was one of the 13 Labor delegates imprisoned in connection with the coal strike of 1909. He was released from gaol after serving a small portion of his sentence — two months' imprisonment, the default of paying the fine of £100. As showing his popularity, a pamphlet in which the described events preceding, during and succeeding his arrest was issued. In this pamphlet, really a reprint from 'The Morpeth Gazette' of April 22, 1910, Mr. Frith said:—

"I was a delegate of the Hetton Miners' Lodge and on the delegate board. I voted and spoke against the strike. I was summoned to appear before the Industrial Court, and was with 12 other delegates, convicted and fined £100, with the alternative of two months imprisonment in Maitland Gaol. One month was allowed in which to pay the fine. A further application for time was afterwards made and a fortnight allowed. On a further application being made, one week was granted, but a still further application was refused and nine delegates went to gaol. The police came to my house to arrest me when in my sick bed. I told them that I was prepared to go there and then, providing they brought the ambulance to remove me, but the doctor said that my health was in a condition that to remove me then would be dangerous. However, after being a couple of days out of bed where I had been laid up for several weeks, I surrendered myself, although my health had not improved much as you can judge when it took me three quarters of an hour to walk from the Maitland railway station to the gaol. I was received by the Acting-governor of the goal, who treated me very kindly. By the prison regulations, a first offender has got to undergo the first week in separate confinement, with one hour outside each day for exercise. In the case of a second offender he has to undergo 14 days separate. Separate treatment means that a prisoner is confined to his cell the whole of that time with the exception of the one hour each day for exercise. The prison diet, which is very scanty, is as follows; Breakfast, a small allowance of bread and hominy. Dinner, soup, a small allowance of meat, and a few vegetables. Tea, bread and hominy, with plenty of water, to wash it down. Being placed under hospital treatment, I was ordered rations by the gaol doctor, and fared better in that respect than I would have done otherwise. The diet I received after the doctor's orders was: Breakfast, bread and tea. Dinner, beef-tea and sago. Tea, bread and tea.

He added that gaol was no place for anyone knowing the comforts of a good home; but he spoke kindly of the gaol officials.

For the last nine years Mr. Frith had been retired on account of ill health. He was confined continuously to his bed for 10 months up to six weeks ago. This morning he left home for a short walk, telling his wife that he would be back very shortly. The news of his death reached the family shortly after.

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Citation details

'Frith, Thomas (1850–1918)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/frith-thomas-32109/text39676, accessed 20 October 2021.

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