An Australian Merchant Seaman’s Story In His Own Words – Pat Geraghty

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 Pat Geraghty recounts how he loved the sea and the ships. He started as a deck boy at 7 pounds per month. Describes how the Depression molded him and how communism was alive back then. The Seamen’s Union was renowned as the strongest organisation. They all wanted overtime to make up for the wages. They would receive rations of milk and sugar for example. They had to pay for their own gear, such as clothes.

He remembers the British ships were much worse than the Australian ones and the British coal burners were the worst. They had no training, bad accommodation, bad cooks and food. Yet, 50-60% of the world’s shipping was British owned. The conflict between the ship owners and the unions was effectively a class war. The union was made up of every nationality and there was very little racism among seamen and in the Seamen’s Union. He mentions the Ampol Campaign specifically, which went on for 5 years, in which the seamen won jobs for Australian seamen.

Special Notes/Achievements

Picture and sound quality is low given low budget production.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 149 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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