The following biographical profile of Tony Mulvihill has been prepared for the Eveleigh heritage website currently being produced with funding from the Australian Research Council under its Strategic Partnerships with Industry Research and Training scheme. The web site forms part of a broader multi-media interpretation strategy, which includes a video called, Steam Power and an Eveleigh Employee data base being compiled from Government Gazette Employee lists. The project is designed to enhance understanding of Eveleigh’s human heritage and provide broad community access to its labour history. To this end it includes biographical profiles of those Eveleigh employees who became prominent as a result of their political involvements.
Tony’s profile will also include details outlined the obituary written by Jim Walshe which appeared in The Hummer, vol. 3, no. 5, but in order to avoid repetition these have not been included here.
If Hummer readers know of any photos of Tony that could be included on the website, the information would be greatly received. Dr. Lucy Taksa, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or ph. 0414345131
James Anthony Mulvihill, later known as Tony, was born on 27 April 1919 in North Ryde to James Bernard Mulvihill, a gas worker, and Agnes Ellen (nee MacNamara). In March 1999, Tony said his father was ‘renowned for his skill with a furnace’ and that his mother ‘had worked in domestic service’. In the late 1920s his family moved to Concord and Tony went to the De La Salle College in Ashfield until the age of 15. On leaving school in the mid-1930s, Tony faced ‘a tough period’ because he was ‘out of work for over twelve months’. And while his luck changed when he got a job in the Railways, as a Shop Boy at the Eveleigh Running Sheds, he found the work hot and dirty. On 20 July 1936 he was moved to the Locomotive workshops and on 27 February 1940 he was designated a Junior Cleaner, progressing to Cleaner on 27 April. On 15 July 1940 he became a Fuelman but was demoted to Cleaner in December. The following year, on 23 February, he commenced a three month period of duty with the Defence Forces, after which he resumed with the railways on 27 May 1941. By 14 October he was back at Eveleigh as a ‘workshop labourer’ and five days later he was designated a Lifting Labourer. A year later, on 19 September 1942 he gained a pay increase when he became a Boilermaker’s Helper.
Throughout this period Tony devoted his free time to sport. He was initially a ‘goal keeper in soccer, second row forward in rugby league’ playing ‘one season of rugby league lower grades with Canterbury’ and about three seasons with Eastern Suburbs, which he enjoyed immensely. As he put it:
I will admit this, there was always room for sport, whether it was mid-week cricket or rugby league or something in the winter, even if it meant you had to come on to work nursing injuries.
In fact, Tony’s interest in football led him to become active in the rank-and-file shop committees, which were prominent at the Eveleigh workshops. As Tony explained:
Well, there was a lot of overtime being worked and I didn’t want overtime, I wanted to play football in the afternoons, so I went to the shop committee in the morning and football in the afternoon.
In 1942-3 Tony joined the Australian Labor Party and on 3 October 1945 he was transferred to the Locomotive workshops at Chullora. A couple of years later, on 21 April 1947 he obtained ‘Leave to contest State Election’. Due to lack of success he resumed duty on 12 May 1947 and on 14 August 1950, he was promoted to Machinist Class 3. On 1 August 1956, Tony applied for 12 months leave of absence without pay to take effect from the following day. From then until 31 July 1964, this application was made annually and on each occasion it was approved. In 1964 his employee card explained the applications with the annotation: ‘to enable him to continue in office as the Assistant General Secretary of the NS Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party’. On 11 January 1965 he resigned from the railways.
In the interim, Tony Mulvihill was involved with the Trades and Labor Council and a Trustee of the NSW Branch of the Australian Railways Union. Between 1957 and 1965, he was Assistant Secretary of the NSW Australian Labor Party and in 1965 he became a Senator in the Federal Parliament. Between 1967 and 1972 he was a Member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Following retirement from public life, Tony regularly attended the meetings of the Sydney Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History during the 1990s. He passed away on 12 December 2000.
- Joan Rydon, A Biographical Register of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1901-1972, ANU Press, Canberra, 1975, p. 136
- Interview with Tony Mulvihill conducted by Lucy Taksa on 3 March 1999
- Employee Records, State Rail Authority Archives.