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Bill Bird

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A Tribute to Bill Bird

E.F. (“Ted”) Hill

I write a personal tribute to the life and work of Bill Bird, former official of the Seaman’s Union.

In the Communist Party I knew and worked with Bill Bird for many years. He was an intimate friend, friendship born of common participation in struggle.  He was a convinced and devoted socialist, a conviction strengthened by a visit to socialist China in the fifties.

He was a man who gave his whole life to the struggle of his fellow workers for better working conditions, democratic rights, independence and socialism.  He truly served the people. In the struggle he was utterly determined. No fear, no obstacle, deflected his determination.

I well recall his stand during the big strike struggles against the Victorian Essentia Services Act in 1948. We worked together at the Trades Hall when all the pressure in the world was on to get a sellout.  Bird sai the seamen would tie the port up as tight as a drum. Under his leadership, they did. The struggle was won. I recall speaking with him at a Communist meeting in Heywood in western Victoria in the early fifties, when we were physically threatened by a gang of thugs. Bird carried on as though nothing happened. I recall his telling Judge Foster, arbitration court judge, that all courts stink and the seamen would have nothing to do with the proceedings. He was correct.

I recall appearing for him at the Petrov Commission. He really did not need legal representation. He could and did look after himself. He gave the most magnificent display of contempt for oppression in the courts I have ever seen. I have been with him on many ships. No man was ever more respected by the rank and file than he. He recognised the great strength of the workers and the workers sensed his respect for them. When he gave up his union job, he went back to sea. Just before his retirement I went with him to the ship on which he was then sailing. He enjoyed the same respect there that he had as a union official.

As befitted a true Communist, he never flinched in the struggle against the shipowners and other monopoly capitalists. His example should be closely studied. His loss will be deeply felt.

His wife Anna supported him nobly. Everyone who knows them will feel the deepest sympathy for her.

E.F. Hill

Chairman, Communist Party of Australia (M-L)

August 1978


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