Tom Edwards Memorial Fountain

Tom Edwards Memorial Fountain, Fremantle, Western AUstralia

Public Art : Tom Edwards Memorial Fountain

Sculptor : © Pietro Porcelli

Date Unveiled : Unveiled in 1919 by William Renton, the President of the Fremantle Lumpers (Waterside Worker) Union.

Description of the Tom Edwards Memorial Fountain : In dedication to Thomas Edwards, who died during a clash with police on the Fremantle Wharf in 1919 (known locally as Bloody Sunday). The fountain is carved from rustic granite and has a marble plaque attached. The tap still works but drainage isn't too flash.

Location : The memorial was originally placed outside the front of the old Trades Hall, but when the building was sold in 1968, the memorial was removed and placed in storage at the Waterside Workers Federation office. In 1982 it was finally restored and moved to its present location Kings Square, Fremantle, Western Australia (right near its sculptor's memorial, Pietro Porcelli).

Inscription :

This memorial fountain
was erected in the memory of
Comrade Tom Edwards.
Working class matyr.
Who sacrificed his life
on the Fremantle Wharf
on Sunday May 4th 1919.
"Greater Love Hath No Man"


Background of Tom Edwards and the Incident : Very few people notice the granite water fountain on the Adelaide Street side of Kings Square and if they do, it is only to give a quizzical look at the faded plaque or take a sip of water. But it holds great historical importance to Fremantle for an incident which happened on Sunday May the 4th, 1919 on the Fremantle Wharf. The incident became known as The Battle of the Barricades or Bloody Sunday and was between lumpers (waterside workers) and police. Personally, I think it should have been referred to as the Flu Blue as it all was triggered off by an outbreak of a deadly flu strain, but I digress. The lead up started two years earlier, when, following a nation wide wharf strike by unions, the Commonwealth Government called in non union volunteers (National Workers) to take over. It was war time and Australia was suffering from its affects, so the lumpers (Waterside Workers) found themselves out in the cold without work or money to support their families. In 1919 the Spanish influenza (nasty flu) hit the Eastern States and Western Australia found itself quarantined. Ships were required to stay out in Gage Roads until cleared. However, due to the increased shortage of food in the State, the ship SS Dimboola (carrying provisions), was allowed to moor at Victoria Quay (a big no no). As the lumpers refused to unload the ship's cargo, the non union workers were ordered to do it. Not happy, the lumpers forced the workers off the quay. The stand off would last three weeks. The then Premier Hal Colebatch, having had enough, ordered barricades to be erected on the wharf on the Sunday (4th of May) to stop the protesting lumpers from interferring with the unloading of the ship and to protect the "scab labour" who were about to arrive. This was not a very smart move and word soon spread. As the non union workers and the Premier arrived in Fremantle via two launches along the Swan River, they were pelted with rocks and projectiles from protesters waiting for them on the bridge. The situation got even uglier when the launches arrived at the wharf and police found themselves under manned and unable to hold back the 200 strong angry lumpers and the protestors who had rushed from the bridge to join their comrades. The police were forced to attach their bayonets as the lumpers surged forward to remove the barricades. Lumpers president, William Renton, who had originally asked his men to retreat, joined the mob on horseback, but found himself knocked to the ground and attacked by police. 41 year old Thomas Edwards saw Renton being clubbed and stepped into help, he was then struck on the head with the butt of a rifle for his troubles (though rumor spread he was shot). Thomas was taken to the Fremantle hospital, with his wife by his side, but he died three days later from his injuries. Meanwhile the Riot Act was read and senior Fremantle police officer, Inspector Sellenger, was ordered to issue live ammunition to his men. He refused. Then, when all seemed lost, Alex McCallum (secretary of the State Labor Federation) and Inspector Sellenger defused the situation and a truce was agreed upon.

Aftermath of the The Battle of the Barricades : When word got out about Tom Edwards' death, he instantly became a union hero and martyr for the cause.

The National Workers (non union volunteers) were permanently withdrawn from the wharves on the same day that Tom Edwards died.

Over 5,000 people turned out for the funeral of Thomas Edwards (9th of May, 1919) including William Renton and future Prime Minister, John Curtin. Renton still had his head bandaged from injuries received from his clubbing by police.

As for Premier Colebatch, he resigned a week after Tom Edwards funeral, having been in power only one month (making this the shortest term in office by any Government in Western Australian history). Despite all of that he was knighted in 1927.

Tom Edwards' wife was awarded a pension by the Government and a shop, in order for her to support her three young children.

Well I Never ! : Interestingly, on the same day as the Battle of the Barricades, the body of Sir John Forrest arrived at Fremantle from Sierra Leone. Forrest, who had died on en route to England for treatment for his cancer, was to have a State Funeral on the 7th of May. As fate would have it Forrest's funeral fell on the same day that Tom Edwards died.

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