An Australian Merchant Seaman’s Story In His Own Words – Lou Guihenneuk

Australian Workers Film Guide


Part of a series of interview segments produced by the SUA/MUA in which retired Australian merchant seamen recount their working lives at sea as well as their engagement with union campaigns and activities. Each episode features a seaman, or sometimes a pair of seamen, sharing their story in a largely unstructured and extended interview. They form an important on camera collection of oral histories about Australia’s unionised merchant seamen.

In this episode seaman Lou Guihenneuk recounts how he started in 1941 as a 14 year old trimmer below deck, then went to the engine room as a coal burner. He describes a “knack in firing’”, a right and wrong way, with only two people in the engine room. They were entitled to a mattress, mattress cover and blankets, but no working gear. In the American ships $12 peer week was paid to the married crew and $5 to singles, while everyone was fed for free. In 1947, he sailed to London and there were a lot of Aussies there, but the “Poms” would not give them jobs; “You’re an Aussie, you’re not getting a job” was their attitude. The Aussies could be trouble makers and Aussie crews were known to jump ship. He was in several unions, American, British, and Norwegian and in Australia. Here union membership was compulsory, otherwise you could not get a job.

Special Notes/Achievements

Picture and sound quality is low given low budget production.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 65 mins

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Film Director: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

Film Producer: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

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Film Cinematographer: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

Film Editor: Jennie Finch, Jamie McMechan,

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