Last Respects For Pat Geraghty at NSW Trades Hall Funeral Service

Hundreds of mourners have gathered in Sydney to pay their last respects to former Seamen’s Union of Australia National Secretary Pat Geraghty.

Geraghty passed away in Sydney last week at the age of 87. He was remembered as a man of great principle, enormous intellect and renowned capacity to lead.

Pat’s family plus representatives from the Maritime Union of Australia, ALP and broader labour movement packed out the Trades Hall in Sydney, with others watching on a big screen immediately outside the funeral venue.

A committed socialist and crusader for social justice who also loved a drink and punt on the horses, Pat was celebrated by all present, including Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Luke Foley, Yasmin Catley,  John Coates, John Benson, Tony Papaconstantinos, Taffy Sweetenson, John Coombs, Fred Ross, Tony Maher, Bill Kelty, Andrew Dettmar, Joe Fleetwood, Ged Kearney and Peter Morris.

Fittingly, his casket was draped with the red ensign and red roses.

Pat was born in Sydney in 1928 and raised during the depression years in a crowded family semi-detached home in Balmain,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

“Balmain was as that time a community of many blue collar workers mostly connected one way or another to the waterfront and shipping industry.

"He inevitably went to sea in 1947, shipping out for a period of time in the post-war international shipping fleet, where he was confronted with the great exploitation and  injustice that was and still is international shipping.

"This was predicated largely by high unemployment, poor working conditions, an oversupply of ships and lack of effective labour and safety regulations.”

Crumlin said many people called him Bluey:  “But he was well and truly grey by the time I met him - must've been a royal commission.

“He was a political person but rooted in real things - that's why he could influence things.

“Pat had no belief in capital so periodically, he went to the  to the racetrack and lost it all. Good people share."

Geraghty succeeded Eliot V Elliot as leader of the SUA, who had led the union for over 40 years, on his retirement in 1978. 

Crumlin said Pat had been urged by Elliot and other senior counsel to study law, to which he replied: “if I do I won’t be working for what you’re paying me”. 

Those members, trade unionists, politicians, shipowners and shippers and  who knew him referred  to him ‘dedicated’, ‘extraordinarily honest and principled’, 'brilliant', 'exceptional', 'thoughtful and caring' and ‘humble '.  

Pat fought from the front for seafarers through his work to defend cabotage and against FOCs and to secure International Labour Organisation conventions – but also in vital worldwide campaigns including those against apartheid in South Africa, the invasion of East Timor, the boycott of Pinochet’s Chile after the military takeover in 1973 and the capacity of Australian athletes to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Despite all of this, Pat’s son Matthew said his father would shy away from proclamations of personal achievement.

“When I would ask what his achievements were he would say: ‘none, it’s always a team effort’.

"Treat everyone like family - if they're a dickhead you'll find out soon enough - and with compassion."

“Dad loved his sport and when it came to the Moscow Olympics he  didn't want to see anyone miss out for political reasons."

Pat’s other surviving son Chris said his dad enjoyed spending time with the “Balmain royalty”.

“His love of the underdog might explain some of the slow horses he backed over over the years,” Chris said.

Chris' wife Louise said Pat and her father had always argued about politics as they were from different sides but always remained friends.

"As an early childhood educator I have decided to think of things about Pat, beginning with P - proud, persistent, politics, pay - he would always pay for meals with cash from his pocket and was generous in every way - phone, progressive, precious,” Louise said.

Pat’s eldest grandchild Jessica said despite his incredible history, to her he was simply Pa.

“Didn't everyone's Pa meet Nelson Mandela and attend his conferences?,” Jessica said.

“He taught me to stand up for your ideals – on my 16th birthday card he wrote: Be happy, be proud, be compassionate.

“Pa made us feel loved and capable of anything."

His grandson Tom recalled the fact that Pat was a generous, loving Pa.

“No matter which event we went to, he would bring junk food and slip $20 our way,” Tom said.

“He took a keen interest in everything we did, whether it was sport, travel or marriage." 

An interview with Pat was played on the big screen, in which he said: "You went to sea to see the world.

“Early on, I went to Durban and - and when I saw first hand how black people were treated it hardened my thoughts and I think everyone else’s as well.

“That’s why we formed Maritime Unions Against Apartheid

“That Mandela picture is the best photo – I didn’t know it had been taken and received it received it six months later.

Charlie Fitzgibbon and John Coombs from the Waterside Workers’ Federation were the first to introduce industry superannuation, followed shortly after by SUA.

"It was also important that workers get a good retirement income - so they could step away from the workforce secure, safe and happy,” Geraghty said.

Alan Reid, former Australian Shipowners Association President said Pat had the respect of prime ministers and industry leaders but more importantly for him- his seafarers.

"Pat always said to expect the unexpected, never be afraid to express your opinion and be strong to help those who cannot help themselves,” Reid said.

Former MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said he met Pat in November 1973, shortly after the Blythe Star sank off Tasmania’s southern coast.

“Pat was a humanist - he never said I, always we,” Doleman said.

“He had a great moral compass and was a great mentor to me - without that love and friendship, I wonder where I would have been."

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates said the SUA under Pat’s leadership had raised $50,000 to send the Australian Olympic Team to Moscow in 1980, defying demands for a Games boycott by the Fraser Government.

“Pat Geraghty's support and encouragement was critical for those of us who believed in the rights of our athletes to compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics,” Coates said.

“Pat had a genuine affection for the Olympics and the role of the Olympic movement in promoting peace and mutual understanding.

"He was always keen to hear how our next generation of athletes were going. 

"I had planned with Pat's son Matt to visit him in hospital and I am so very sad that I did not have the opportunity to tell Pat just how confident we are about our Team's prospects for Rio.”

Coates said the politically charged times meant athletes were given death threats and that out of 273 athletes selected -123 went to Moscow 

"The Moscow experience taught me that we needed to be independent of government. Pat Geraghty taught me to not take a backwards step when dealing with governments, which I've enjoyed,” Coates said.

Federal ALP Leader Bill Shorten said Pat was a close friend of his great uncle Bert Nolan.

"Pat Geraghty was a rough-cut gem, of many facets - a tireless warrior – and a champion for peace, a keen eye for important details, but a vision for the big picture,” Shorten said.

"He was a humble person, with a record of tremendous achievement and from his first day at sea until his last day on earth, Pat was union through and through and he truly believed injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.

"He saw prejudice and disadvantage not as cause for despair but as a call to arms and all his life, he led by setting the example and inspiring others to live up to his standard."

"He believed – wholeheartedly – not just in the global equality of human rights, but the universal obligation to uphold human dignity.

"If we are elected we will put the red ensign on many more ships."