Arthur Desmond By Julian Stuart

He was a good mate, a real live propagandist, and made things lively wherever he went. —Julian Stuart.

Arthur Desmond By Julian Stuart

Arthur Desmond—"Ragnar Redbeard."

DESMOND and I did a bit of organizing in New South Wales in 1894, paying some attention to the Young (Lambing Flat) electorate, for which J. C. Watson, who later became Federal Prime Minister, was the candidate.

Watson was a compositor on the "Australian Star," a Sydney daily, and could not come up to address the electors without risking his job. The A.W.U. and Labor Leagues arranged meetings, which we addressed for him. They provided a buggy and pair, a tent, printed matter, billsticker's paste, and a pot of white paint.

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I did the driving and cooking while Desmond was a publicity expert. For a while he painted "Vote for Watson" on every available gate and fence—even the trees and rocks did not escape—but soon he put "Vote for Labor" "This chap Watson," he said, "may go crook or turn dog before the paint has worn off." Watson won, many who voted for him never having either seen him or heard him.

A chap named Hughes, who also became a Federal Premier, was selected for Corowa, and we had arranged to give a hand in his electorate, too, but he got nominated for a Sydney seat and left Corowa without a candidate.

During the bank crisis in '93 Desmond had done 48 hours jail for writing "Gone bung" on the Savings Bank.

Although it was well known that he was the editor of "Hard Cash"—an Ishmaelitish iconoclastic publication that told lots of unpleasant truths and asked inconvenient questions—the police could never fasten a charge on to him. The imprint on "Hard Cash" was vague—purposely so—being dated "Parramatta," or some other remote thoroughfare for the sleuths to "comb," while the paper was actually produced in a cellar in Sussex-street.

Desmond was "wanted" for sedition, treasonable utterances, and various things of like caliber, and when we were at Lambing Flat we got a mulga wire that the warrants were to be executed, so Desmond slipped out of the tent and faded over the horizon—he did not even wait for breakfast. Soon after I got a letter from New York, saying he was taking another name—just for luck. He was a good mate, a real live propagandist, and made things lively wherever he went.


The Worker, 14 April 1926.