Vale Comrade - Gordon Horn

This Eulogy was originally published by the CPA on their website and we thank them for the reproduction. We are pleased to reproduce here a short video of Gordon talking at the MUA Youth Conference 2009 - Gordon Horn was always an inspiration to members and officials.

To Gordon's family: who, in his own words, he loved and appreciated so much, please allow me on behalf of all of us here, the Maritime Union of Australia and their Veterans' Association to extend our sincere condolences to you all.

Gordon touched so many of us in so many ways, whether a kind word, personal advice, a rousing working class speech, listening to him on the radio airing his views or telling one of his many jokes.

He was a truly committed, caring person to his family, workmates and for all, through his love of people.

Gordon had the uncanny ability to bring people along with him in his endeavours to better the lives of (as he called them) his beloved working class friends and comrades.

Gordon was born in Winton on the December 14, 1927. His mother Ruby and father Robert (or Bob as he was known) had a family of 11 with six boys and five girls. Gordon attended Longreach State School. At the age of eight Gordon was struck down with "Infantile Paralysis" (polio). He was flown to Brisbane where he was to spend the next six months.

During that six months, and on his return to Longreach, Gordon first showed the tenacity and commitment that would remain with him throughout his life, to overcome that terrible illness, astounding his doctors in the process.

Such was his recovery that he took up boxing and, apart from Longreach, had quite a few bouts at the old Brisbane stadium.

Gordon's first job at 13 was as messenger boy at Butler's garage in Adelaide Street Brisbane.

Nine months latter at age 14 Gordon and his twin brother Raymond headed for the shearing sheds commencing on boys' wages, but not for long. In Gordon's own words: "The work Raymond and I were doing was much busier and active than the work performed by the adult roustabouts. Some of the kind and strong-minded union men decided us boys should get full wages and called a meeting behind the Longreach barber shop.

"The shearers pledged support for the boys and victory became the order of the day, not long after, boys' wages were abolished."

This work and comradeship in these his formative years, set the foundation for his principles of unity, fairness and empathy for all humankind. Gordon left the shearing sheds for the iron and steel sheds in Port Kembla where he joined the Iron Workers Union.

He was inspired by the then Communist leadership of the union who, in his own words, 'were supposed to be bad people' - but Gordon found them to be inspirational in the way they spoke, acted and turned the word unity into something more than a word.

It was through this unity that Gordon met so many wonderful caring people from the working class and told me: "The common goal that the Communist leadership espoused - unity, solidarity and fairness - made me realise that it was the party more like the true genuine workers' party that I had been searching for."

In Port Kembla he joined the Communist Party. Gordon spent three years working for Lysaghts and living in the company's hostel, an old army camp. But on returning from a trip to the Warsaw Peace Conference as a delegate for the Iron Workers Union Gordon found he had no job and nowhere to live as he was not allowed back into the hostel.

At this time in Australia the anti-communist crusade was very strong, so when Gordon asked why, all he got from the manager was, "Well Gordon you know the reason as well as I do".

For Gordon Horn jobs dried up in Port Kembla. In desperation he applied for a job at Metal Manufacturers and approached the gatekeeper who again in Gordon's own words said: "Aw gee mate its five past four and they usually only see you till four. But they're crying out for blokes so I'll find out if they will see you.

"Well I got the interview and was told to wait outside, after a while a young lad came out and said sorry Mr Horn there's nothing here for you."

Gordon was then employed by the Ironworkers Union for a time to speak to unionists in all manner of industries.

After his work with the Ironworkers Union Gordon found his way to Sydney where, in 1954 he joined the Waterside Workers Federation.

He often said to be a waterside worker in Sydney in the 1950s was an inspiration to all, and spoke about the principles of men like Jim Healy, Tom Nelson, Stan Moran, Ivo Barrett, Dutchy Young and Alby Graham and many others and, that it was something you rarely see these days.

Those were days of the Hungry Mile when the employers picked men on brute strength, compliance or favouritism with no regard for safety and no loyalty whatsoever.

Gordon transferred to Brisbane in 1956 and once again was an active delegate and became a well respected official of the branch with a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Naturally during his time with the Waterside Workers' Federation, Gordon was involved in many disputes and industrial campaigns that helped shape work practices and conditions that members enjoy today. These, along with actions for peace and disarmament, laid the foundations for many social changes, not only in Australia but around the world. On that we should all reflect, as it was people such as Gordon that left the world a better place.

Gordon retired in 1991, but while he retired from the workforce he did not retire from the struggle and was an active member of the then Retired Waterside Workers' Association and the now Maritime Union Veterans' Association.

Gordon always had a point of view and raised all manner of issues at the MUA Veterans meetings, he found great joy in addressing young unionists by way of the ACTU's "Organising Works" program, and was extremely well received when he addressed the MUA youth conference here in Brisbane in November 2009, so much so in fact, that they produced a DVD of his presentation.

It was quite fitting that at our 2010 Veteran's Christmas function they presented Gordon with a plaque for services rendered to the union and its Veterans Association.

Gordon never wavered in his activism. In fact, when I visited him in hospital recently, although he was very sick, he asked about the recent union elections and why they were so close.

Gordon you were a true son of the working class and an inspiration to all who knew you. Your contribution to the union movement, especially the Maritime Union of Australia, was unsurpassed and along with many others I am proud to have known you as a mate and a comrade.

Vale Comrade