George Edward Groundsell Brown (1901-1968)

George Brown, born in East Fremantle, worked as a Lumper and played a role in the famous Fremantle wharf riot of 1919- he was the first man injured in the troubles.

George was born on the 7 Jan 1901 into a large family of 12 children.  His mother was Mary Ann Thompson and father Thomas Groundsell Brown. His siblings included: Ernest (1888), Henry (1890-1966), Frances (1892), Ivy (1895), Eva (1886), Mabel (b & d 1897), Thomas (1898-1947), Vera (1903), Stanley (1905), James ‘Jim’, Albert, and Edna.

The occupation of coal lumper receded from public view and from historical awareness as the use of coal for steam power declined through the twentieth century. But in the early twentieth century coal lumpers were a big presence on the waterfront, because coal was essential for a steam-driven international economy. Coal lumpers and wharf labourers loaded and unloaded ships. It was back breaking work in very harsh conditions.(reference)

In 1917, the Fremantle Lumpers Union (The union was formed in 1889 to represent unskilled workers on the Fremantle wharves) refused to load ships that they believed were destined to take supplies to Germany, then an enemy nation. This belief was denied by the government of the day (but was however later proven to be correct), and in response the shipowners and government brought in strike-breakers - the National Waterside Workers Union. (reference)

NWWU labour continued to be employed after the immediate need, and despite their willingness the WWF workers were prevented from returning to work for some time. This caused extreme hardship to the working class neighbourhood of Plympton and the Lumpers that lived there..

In 1919 a strike was called by the Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF) over the use of National Waterside Workers Union (NWWU) workers to unload the quarantined ship Dimboola. This strike  escalated into fatal violence when WWF lumpers, tally clerks, and supporters attempted to prevent NWWU members from carrying out the work. Tom Edwards, a union worker, was attempting to assist the WWF president William Renton when he was struck on the head by a police baton. He died three days later at Fremantle Hospital. (reference)

George ‘Knockout’ Brown, the first man injured in the troubles on the wharf was bayoneted-stabbed in the thigh. (reference)

“Edward Brown, a lumper, who was wounded, with a bayonet, gave evidence, and said he was trying to get away from the wharf when a constable, without warning, stabbed him with a bayonet. He did not know the name of the constable, or his number.” (reference)

“BROWN'S EVIDENCE.Edward Brown (to Mr. Dwyer) said he was a lumper, residing at North Fremantle. On Sunday, May 4, he came to the wharf from North Fremantle, and noticed a crowd of people, which he followed to the bureau.There were a number of police there, who seemed to want to push the crowd back. The latter was being augmented by numbers of people coming from the east. Witness was forced through the police, and went forward about ten yards. Witness was followed by two constables, who overtook him about half-way between 'C' shed and the bureau. He was turning round with the intention of returning; when another constable from the rank approached him, and without saying anything, flung his bayonet into witness's side. At the time he was being slewed round, and he was immediately scabbed with, the 'bayonet Witness then went to 'C' shed, and later to the railway bridge, over which he was carried, and then taken to the Fremantle Public Hospital.”(reference)

The 1919 riot took place about 15 metres from the west end of the C shed. In 1985 a 45 meter section of the west end of the C shed was demolished. So the incident would have taken place about 30 metres west of the current west end of the C shed. (see photograph)

In 1922 George married Ellen Jean ‘Jean’ Martin (1903-1994), daughter of Charles Henry Martin and Ellen Munday), in Northam. They had 5 children: George, Doris, Stanley, Charles and Raymond.

1929 Obscene Language. — George Edward Groundsell Brown (29), labourer, was charged with having used obscene language. Constable Wightman said that on January 21, he visited a house in Sewell-street, Fremantle, and heard accused swearing, presumably at his wife. Numerous complaints had been received by the police regarding Brown's behaviour. 'My wife is always getting the police to arrest me,' said Brown 'It seems to be a habit of hers. If you were to imprison me perhaps she would be satisfied.' He was sentenced to seven days imprisonment. (reference)

From 1929- 1932 George Edward Brown was living at No 63 Sewell Street (now 21).

Thomas Groundsell Brown (brother) lived at no 27 Sewell St (now no 7) from 1920-1926 and at no 21 from 1929-1940 at 67 Sewell St ( now no 25)

March 1940 Charged with having created a disturbance at the Fremantle Oval on Friday night. Thomas Henry Groundsell Brown, 38, lumper, of Bicton, pleaded guilty but declared that he remembered nothing about the incident. Sergeant Pight said that the accused was fighting and using obscene language. Brown was informed by Mr. Samson that the Bench took a serious view of the use of obscene language. He was fined £3 with 1 '6 costs.” (reference)

Sept 1940 Two lumpers, who admitted having been in possession of property taken from ships, were fined in the Fremantle Police Court today. George Edward Groundsell Brown (40) was fined with 11/6 costs. Plainclothes-constable Scott told the Bench that with Plainclothes constable Turner he visited Groundsell's home. He told Groundsell he was looking for china that had been stolen from a ship. Groundsell readily admitted that he had 20 pieces of crockery and produced the goods. (reference)

George and some of his brothers (Thomas and Stanley) enlisted to serve in WWll (Service Number - W26477). George is recorded as serving from 1939 - 1948.

Thomas’s enlistment record, National Archives 1918  (reference)

1942 AN OLD COLONIST. BROWN (Thomas Groundsell). passed peacefully away at the residence of his daughter, Mrs T. J. Pattenden, Blackford-street. Mt Hawthorn, in his 78th year, loving husband of Mary Ann, loving father of Eva (Mrs C. Poat), Bill, Harry, Frances (Mrs T. J. Pattenden), Ivy (Mrs C. Baker), Thomas, Mabel (Mrs C. Bentley), George, Vera (Mrs Carson), Stan (prisoner of war), Jim (AIF), Bert (AIF), Edna (Mrs E. Knight); loving grandfather of 49 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.(reference)

1943 BROWN.--On December 12, 1943, at Mt Hawthorn. Mary Ann. relict of the late Thomas Groundsell Brown, and dearly loved mother of Eva (Mrs Poat), Bill, Harry, Frances (Mrs Pattenden). lvy (Mrs Baker), Tom, Sis (Mrs Bentley), George, Vera (Mrs Carson), Stan, Jim, Bert and Edna (Mrs Knight); also loved grandma of 47 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren: aged 76 years. (reference)

George died in 1968 and is buried in Karrakatta.

research Micheal Nikoloff for MofP