Monday, 29 June 2015

More on conscientious objectors in Coburg

It has been pointed out to me that Rollo Heskett and Claude Cash, whom I wrote about in my last blog entry, were not conscientious objectors and of course this is correct. My last blog entry should more accurately have been headed ‘Exemption courts in Coburg’. Heskett and Cash were applying for exemption from military training, which was compulsory, not exemption from military service overseas, which was voluntary.

Having said that, however, as the day of the conscription referendum drew nearer and it seemed possible, even likely, that conscription would be introduced, it must have been on everyone’s mind that compulsory military training might within a few days mean that military training would inevitably lead to compulsory service overseas.

As I read back over the last blog entry, I realised, too, that I did not name the newspaper that I used as my source. The article, entitled ‘Coburg: Church Official as Conscientious Objector’ was in the Age, Thursday 19 October 1916, p.8.

Today’s blog entry deals with three conscientious objectors who appeared before the Coburg Court the same day as Rollo Heskett and Claude Cash. They were Harold Frederick Swanson, George Alfred Summers and Edward Hamilton Paul. Their stories appear below.

Harold F. Swanson

The records of the National Archives of Australia show that Harold Swanson did not serve in World War One, but there is yet-to-be digitised Intelligence Case File on him dated 1917 and next week I plan to go and read that file, which I have supposed was compiled because of his status as a conscientious objector.

At around this time, Harold Swanson was an active art potter and in late September 1916, just weeks before his application for exemption, he attended a meeting of manufacturers at Brunswick Technical School, which was building its relationships with local industries. The Principal of the Tech, Percy Everett, stated that the ‘chief aim of the Tech was to eventually become the Pottery School of Australia.’ At that meeting Harold Swanson and Alan Finlay offered their assistance in the formation of the Pottery School. An advisory committee was established, comprising of George Sweet (managing director of Brunswick Brick, Tile and Pottery Works Ltd.), J. Goold, H.F. Swanson and A.P. Finlay (Alan Finlay, a Moreland potter, who worked with his brother Ernest, a painter and potter).

Although the electoral rolls show that Harold Swanson’s main occupation was as a carpenter and later as a contractor and builder, he was also a potter and proprietor of the Doutta Galla Pottery, which operated out of East Brunswick and Coburg from 1908. Clearly there was no living to be made from pottery, although there are references in the press in 1913 to his pottery at Campbellfield and a 1916 article in the Mildura Cultivator lists him alongside Finlay Bros and Merric Boyd. The National Gallery holds six of his vases, all made in 1913 at his Doutta Galla Pottery, and during the 1920s there are newspaper reports of joint exhibitions he held with artist Aileen R. Dent.

To begin with, Harold lived with his family in Moreland Road, Brunswick, but by the time of his application for exemption, they had moved to Blair Street, Coburg. Later they moved to The Grove, where he continued to live until his marriage to Rosalie Byrne, nee Franke, in the mid-1920s. After a short period in Sandringham, he and Rosalie moved to East Gippsland, where they remained for the next decade or so. By 1943 they had returned to Melbourne, to Greville Street, Prahran, where he had a business as a confectioner. In that year Rosalie died and Harold later returned to Blair Street, Coburg where he lived until his death in 1960.

I have found little reference to the pottery of Harold F. Swanson after the 1920s, but would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add more to this lost story of the Moreland arts scene.

Sources: Victorian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street  Directories; Australasian, 10 August 1912, p.44; Argus, 20 Dec 1913, p.18; Brunswick and Coburg Star, 27 March 1914, p.1; Mildura Cultivator, 8 July 1916, p.12; Brunswick and Coburg Star, 4 August 1916, p.4; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 22 September 1916, p.2; Table Talk, 12 October 1922, p.13; Australasian, 23 February 1924, p.35; Table Talk, 6 March 1924, p.27; Age, 11 February 1925, p.16; Argus, 11 February 1925, p.17; Table Talk, 12 February 1925, p.40; Argus, 23 June 1943, p.2; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry; National Archives of Australia, MP16/1, 17/394, WW1 Intelligence Section case files.

George Alfred Summers

Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to find much more about George Alfred Summers, apart from the fact that he was a labourer who lived at 60 Campbell Street, Coburg at the time of his application for exemption and was living at 36 The Avenue, Coburg three years later.

He was living in the home of widow Amy Ann Phillips and her six children and when they moved to The Avenue in 1919, he moved with them. The next year he married Amy’s eldest daughter Ivy Jane. Amy remained in The Avenue until at least 1942, but I have found no further trace of George or Ivy.

Sources: Victorian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street Directories; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry.

Edwin Hamilton Paul

Edwin Hamilton Paul, listed in this article as Edward, was a 29 year old carpenter living in Chandos Street, Coburg with his widowed mother and siblings at the time of his application for exemption.

The records of the National Archives of Australia show that Edwin Paul neither served in the war, nor applied to enlist. He came from a non-conformist background, marrying the daughter of former Member of Parliament and temperance advocate John George Barrett in January 1919 in the Church of Christ in Swanston Street, Melbourne. 

Paul was involved in the work of the Church of Christ all his life, as a death notice in Perth’s Daily News on 4 March 1948 attests, and I wonder if his non-conformism drove his beliefs regarding the killing of other men. There is certainly a strong tradition of pacifism amongst the non-conformists, as any study of the peace movement between the wars will reveal.

Sources: Victorian and West Australian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street Directories; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry; Age, 18 January 1919, p.1; Perth's Daily News, 4 March 1948, p.5.

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