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Thomas Gilbert (Tom) Payne (1898–1988)

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This entry is from People Australia

Thomas (Tom) Gilbert Payne (1898-1988)

Born 16 February 1898 at Clunes, Victoria, son of Edward Payne and Alice née Harden.  Married. Elsie Margaret Rawlings, 1937: two children Died. 26 April 1988, Clunes. Atheist.

  • Joined ALP at Clunes 1915; moved to Prahran, Melbourne, c.1915, where he was apprenticed to shoe repairing.
  • Active in anti-conscription campaigns 1916-17. Moved to Sydney, establishing shoe repair shop in Balmain. Joined Australian Socialist Party (ASP), becoming prominent ASP speaker at the Domain and on the coalfields; involved in the defection of the ASP’s Sydney Branch to CPA in 1922.
  • Member of Clerks Union in early 1920s.
  • Self-funded CPA delegate to Fourth Comintern Congress, Moscow, 1922, with Jock Garden and W.P. Earsman; travelled on passport ‘borrowed’ from a fellow member of the Clerks Union; removed from ship at Fremantle by Commonwealth authorities but smuggled back on board by sympathetic wharfies and seamen; at Southhampton was passed off as seaman; then to Russia via a Soviet cargo ship.
  • Drifted from CPA in mid-1920s; active in Balmain branch of ALP in mid-1920s, serving as vice-president (1924).
  • Leading figure in ALP Socialisation Units in early 1930s; official of Unemployed Workers’ Movement after 1930; with Stan Moran jailed in 1933 for abusing police.
  • Rejoined CPA in 1933; sometime associate of J.B. Miles and Fred Farrell.
  • In 1930s, operated boot repair shop in Glebe which was a hub of activist discussion and debate; tutor at local CPA classes; member of CPA’s Glebe branch for many years.
  • Retired to Clunes c.1972, though returned frequently to Sydney as political activist. Characterised affectionately by Ian Baker as a model of correct behaviour: ‘non-swearing, sober in habit, well-dressed, well-read and extremely articulate’. Described by others as a ‘brilliant propagandist’.

A Davidson PhD thesis, p.469; Recorder, 74, 1975; Seamen’s Journal, May 1988, pp. 202-3; Guardian, 8 June 1988; Workers Weekly, 22  May 1925, 25 August 1933; Tribune, 11 May 1988.

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Citation details

'Payne, Thomas Gilbert (Tom) (1898–1988)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


16 February, 1898
Clunes, Victoria, Australia


26 April, 1988 (aged 90)
Clunes, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Events
Key Organisations
Political Activism