OBITUARY OF NEVILLE ISAKSEN
Maritime Union of Australia: Workers Journal: VALE COBBERI found this obituary of Neville Isaksen on the internet from the journal of the Maritime Union of Australia. I personally knew Neville as a member of the Harbord Branch of the A.L.P. from 1984 until his death in June, 2002. Neville appeared as a witness at the Petrov Commission which began fifty years ago next month. Advanced Search
Neville Isaksen: Radnor Veteran
It was 1954 and the French colonialists were losing their war against the independence movement in Vietnam. Neville Isaksen was the Sydney delegate on the freighter Radnor, which was carrying French armaments to Indo China to crush independence. His gang refused to load the ship. For this Neville and others were prosecuted under the Crimes Act.
In an interview with MWJ in May 1995 Isaksen recalled the dispute: "I remember the day vividly. The ship was loading in the stream. It was not berthed in the harbour and we didn't understand why. There was usually a reason if they didn't come in. We were all wondering what it was all about.
"When we got on board the French vessel we found we were loading stores for Indochina. The men elected me job delegate and work went swimmingly for a week. All we were handling was food stuffs, boots, clothing and the like, nothing to make us suspicious.
"The second week on the job, a chap came on board and called for the delegate. He told me there was a lighter of bombs being towed out to the ship and we would be asked to load them. I checked the story out with the supervisor. He said there would be more than one lighter.
"I knew it was a colonial war, I knew there was a resistance movement in Indochina fighting for independence. I'd been a soldier in the occupation force in Japan. I'd seen Hiroshima and I knew the horrors of war. I appreciated only too well that most victims were women and kids. We'd just had a war and we couldn't see any good reason to get involved in another one with a friendly country.
"So the first gang refused the job. They were sacked, then the second gang and so on until all five gangs were gone."
Stories on how the ban was organised vary. While Isaksen always insisted it was rank and file decision, a position he later held under examination during the Petrov Royal Commission, Australian intelligence accused a French diplomat of tipping off the Communist Party about the arms. They said the Party in turn directed the union, then under its leadership, to ban the bombs. Madam Ollier was later put on trial for treason in France but found not guilty.
However the ban originated what is certain is that the workers unanimously supported it.
A former Vigilance Officer, Neville, died on June 24 this year, aged 75 years, after a long battle with cancer.
He joined the union in 1948 retiring in 1968. During this time Neville was president of the Sydney May Day Committee for five years, president and secretary of the water transport group at Labor Council, secretary and president of the Wharfies' Football Club, WWF delegate to the 1951 Berlin Youth Festival and on numerous visits to international ports.
At the NSW ALP Conference held in May he was awarded Life Membership.
Neville leaves his wife Dorothy and daughter Debbie and Deanne and seven grandchildren.
David Everett, Retired Seafarer
Norm Pickles: Union Veteran
Former branch VO and ITF inspector Norm Pickles passed away on October, after a long illness. His eulogy will be published next MWJ.
Terry Buck, WA Branch Secretary
Ray Gray: Shipmate
August 9 was a very sad day for members of the MT Barrington. On this day we were informed of the untimely passing away of a very close comrade and shipmate, Ray Gray.
Ray had been hospitalised in Cairns in February for a period before being allowed to return home to his mother's property on the NSW Central Coast. Unfortunately, he was unable to return to sea.
Ray spent his time on the Australian coast, serving on all manner of vessels and spending his leave in his adopted home of the Cook Islands.
Whenever Ray was on board he continuously played his part in promoting and assisting in trade union activism.
Everyone who has had the pleasure and good fortune of sailing with Ray shall always carry fond memories with them. No one ever had a bad word to say about Ray. Those who worked alongside him had nothing but the highest praise for him. Whether you needed a union comrade, workmate or just a mate, Ray was there alongside you.
Farewell Comrade, you will be sorely missed. You will always be in the thoughts of those who had the pleasure of knowing and sailing with you!
On behalf of your comrades on the Barrington
Delegate, Andy Johansen
Tony Boyd: VP
Tony passed away on August 31. He began his sea going career on the Aorangi in 1952, staying in the industry until his retirement in 1990.
Tony was widely liked as a chief cook who improved conditions on any vessel he sailed on. While vice president of the cooks' association he assisted on the smooth transition to amalgamation with the Seamen's Union. Like many seafarers who are deprived of their family life due to their occupation, Tony devoted his retirement years solely to his wife and children.
Bill Heath, Retired Seafarer, Sydney
Ross Hay: Brutal Face
The ashes of Ross Hay were put over the side of Kingscliffe, NSW at 0425 on March 25 this year. Captain R. Ginzler delivered the Service. Ross was a colourful character who was a well known seafarer around the Brisbane Waterfront. Ross alias "Brutal Face" passed away in January and will be sadly missed by family and friends. Rest in Peace Brutal Face.
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