December Meeting of the 17 Group: Pat Mackie – A Rebel within the Rebellion

The next meeting of the 17 Group will be the rather festive break-up meeting for the year 2011 and will be held on Wednesday the 7th of December at 7pm. It will occur in unit 6 at number 20 Drury St, West End, and it will be addressed by the Labour historian Dr. Greg Mallory on the topic outlined hereunder:

Pat Mackie – A Rebel within the Rebellion

Pat Mackie is best known for his involvement in the 1964/65 Mt Isa dispute. However Mackie had a very colourful background before arriving at Mt Isa in 1950.

Pat was born in New Zealand, but his father was Australian. He went to sea very early in his life, mainly because he wanted to get to America. However, from 1934 to 1949, he travelled to numerous places including New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Europe. During these times he not only threw himself into intense union activity, but married, fell in love a number of times and wrestled professionally.

Pat was greatly influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World (wobblies) and his style of union activism and organisation was in line with the wobbly tradition. He was a unionist first and foremost and worked with communists, at one stage nearly joined the Canadian party. Hence it can be argued that the Mt Isa dispute was a mere ‘walk in the park’ for Pat after his involvement in union activities in other parts of the world.

After arriving in Mt Isa in 1950 Pat worked for Mount Isa Mines (MIM) but was soon labelled a trouble-maker and decided to go out of the town and mine independently. He did this for over ten years and despite having various ups and downs was able to make a reasonable living for himself. Pat would often visit Mt Isa to pick up supplies and became a local identity.

Pat was re-employed by MIM in 1961 and became embroiled in the bitter dispute in 1964. It was a fiercely bitter battle starting off with a dispute over working condition i.e. the state of the showers and escalated into wage demands. Pat was not only ‘sacked’ from his employer MIM, but also from his own union, the Australian Workers Union (AWU). However he had the support of the 4000 workers and the community and the dispute lasted nine months. Pat went on various speaking tours to southern cities and towns. The dispute was settled in April 1965 and the workers made some considerable gains, but Mackie and 44 other miners were never to be re-employed. Mackie left Mt Isa in April. In his book Mount Isa: Story of a Dispute he describes the resolution as ‘a triumph of the human spirit’.

Another interesting aspect to this period of Pat’s life was his name actually becoming Pat Mackie. He was originally a Murphy, became Eugene Markey, Pat Markey and eventually Pat Mackie. The reasons for all these changes are complex but a lot had to do with the incorrect spelling of his names on pay slips, and the way he entered a number of countries.

This paper will be a short biography of Pat Mackie and offer an explanation as to why Mackie became such a public figure during the Mt Isa dispute. It will do this by referring to two aspects of Mackie’s character; his personal charisma and his ideology.

Greg Mallory

Greg Mallory is President of the Brisbane Labour History Association and on the Executive of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. His book, Uncharted Waters: Social Responsibility in Australian Trade Unions, was published in 2005. He has co-authored The Coalminers of Queensland, Vol 2: The Pete Thomas Essays with Pete Thomas, published in December 2007. Voices from Brisbane rugby league: Oral histories from the 50s to the 70s was published in September 2009. He is currently working on biographical studies of Harry Bridges, Ted Roach, Jack Mundey and Pat Mackie.

At least one of the following will be present in spirit, and if the other is not, he will at least be reflecting on the advice “Don’t mourn, organise”, as he ponders the world situation. As for you and your fellow anarcho-syndicalists or fourth, fifth or nth internationalists, organise yourselves sufficiently not to have to mourn your absence from what will subsequently be reported to have been a great conclusion to the year before the great crash.

At least one of those pictured above will be present in spirit, and if the other is not, he will at least be reflecting on the advice “Don’t mourn, organise”, as he ponders the world situation.

As for you and your fellow anarcho-syndicalists or fourth, fifth or nth internationalists, organise yourselves sufficiently not to have to mourn your absence from what will subsequently be reported to have been a great conclusion to the year before the great crash.

Dan

One thought on “December Meeting of the 17 Group: Pat Mackie – A Rebel within the Rebellion

  1. I love Point 7: “…if first they come for the uninos, who will they come for next?” Reagan threw down the gauntlet against PATCO and it’s been downhill ever since. Thirty years of Reaganism and thirty years of Mubarek. Hmm.I would change point 10 to, “Who’s Capital? OUR Capital!” The great Republican President Lincoln said labor precedes capital.

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