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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Stephen (Steve) Best (1899–1940)

by F. Lowden

The tragic death on Saturday night of Steve [Stephen] Best, the late secretary of the Illawarra Trades & Labour Council, came as a great shock to all of those who were closely associated with him in union and political circles; more so at the present time when the Labour Movement needs all the 'Steve Bests' it is possible to recruit.

His place, as secretary of the Illawarra Labour Council, will be extremely hard to fill, as during the period, he has occupied this important position, we have witnessed organisationally a huge change in the South Coast District.

For years, unknown to all but a few, he worked unceasingly on behalf of the Labour movement without any pay whatsoever.

His untiring work for and on behalf of the reconstructed ''Daily News' in the southern district will remain a monument to his memory.

Not only was he prominent so far as the unions were concerned, but politically he willingly gave his time and energy to the Australian Labour Party when and wherever needed without any thought of pay or reward.

Steve also occupied the presidency of the Corrimal Bowling Club, in which position he was signally successful.

As a member of the Miners' Federation he was victimised at the now defunct Coledale Colliery, 1926, immediately after which he was unable to secure work in any of the district mines. However, he was later successful in obtaining a job on the construction works at Australian Iron and Steel (at that time Hoskins Ltd), but no sooner did he display his working class activity and organisational ability that the steel bosses saw to it that his services were no longer required; thus sending in further victimisation.

He was responsible for the organisation of the Southern District 'No Conscription' campaign, the results of which will be remembered by all the workers in the southern district.

Since then the whole of his energies have been directed towards the realisation of the workers' aims for better conditions, socially and industrially.

The Labour Movement, without doubt, has lost one of its strongest adherents and will now be the poorer.

His remains were laid to rest alongside those of his mother at the Wollongong Church of England cemetery on Monday last, May 27th. Vale, Steve.

—————

Commenting on the death of the late Mr. Steve Best, Mr. McHenry, secretary of the Ironworkers' Union, said: 'The loss to the Trades and Labour Movement by the death of the late Steve Best cannot be over emphasised nor can it yet be fully realised. Twenty years ago I knew him as an active member of the Coledale Lodge of the Miners' Federation'. Even then he was a leader.' He lead the way in militant politics and education from 1920 to 1927. Prior to the depression he was primarily responsible in the organisation of the Trades and Labour Council with the then president, Jim Ward. Since 1935 I have seen a rapid advance in the trades union movement, and that progress is due largely to the keenness and enthusiasm of the late Steve Best. In large disputes he was in the forefront of the battle, despite the fact that the Council's funds would be depleted and his salary curtailed.'

The Rev. A. Mutton officiated at the deceased home in Wilford-street, Corrimal, and at the cemetery.

500 unionists and officers of all South Coast unions and lodges, officers and members of A.L.P. assembles and branches and branch officers and members of the Communist Party marched in front of the hearse through Crown-street, Wollongong, to the cemetery. A mile of cars and buses followed behind. Wreaths, from unions, bowling clubs and friends filled and covered the hearse.

Unions represented were: Illawarra Trades & Labour Council, Southern District Miners, Port Kembla Ironworkers' Union, South Coast Waterside Workers, A.W.U., F.E.D. & F.A., Boilermakers, Carpenters, United Labourers, A.E.U., A.S.E., Moulders, Hotel Emps., Shop Assistants, A.L.P. South Coast & Tablelands Regional Assembly and Bulli Sub-assembly, Australian Labour League of Youth, and all A.L.P. branches, Bricklayers, Communist Party, Southern District officers and all branches.

There was a large representation from the Bowling Clubs, deceased being president of Corrimal Club.

Mr. W. Davies, M.L.A., aldermen and representatives from a large number of public bodies, the Co-operative Society, business houses and industries also attended.

The coffin was carried by six pall bearers representing the unions and Corrimal Bowing Club, and was covered with the Corrimal Bowling Club Pennant flag.

Marching in the cortege was a group of Corrimal men who had joined the 2nd A.I.F., and were waiting to be called up.

The president, Illawarra Trades and Labour Council, Mr. A. E. Burgess, speaking at the graveside, said: 'To-day we mourn the loss of one who spent his life in a great humanitarian cause, one who leaves a void in our ranks. One who in his official capacity was respected by all sections of the community because his principles were irreproachable. Steve Best was filled with a wonderful optimism for the future for the things he believed in. If we could have asked him his last message, he would have said : 'Carry on.' The greatest tribute to his memory is to carry on the fight where he left off. To labour for freedom and justice for the people. The Trade Union movement extends to his family the deepest sympathy in their great loss and our great loss.'

Mr. Westbrook, speaking for all the Bowling Clubs in the Southern Tablelands and Bowral in particular, said: 'In the gathering light of this glorious day, we bring you our deepest and very sincere sympathy in the loss occasioned by the untimely death of Steve Best. In every union and organisation there is a wonderful brotherhood, but no brotherhood in the world is greater than that in the Bowling Clubs of this State. Three weeks ago, at Corrimal Bowling Club, there had been Tom Bent on my left hand side and Steve Best on the right, and both have gone. Steve Best was in the very prime of his manhood, but the life of man is not reckoned by the year he lives, but by what he has accomplished. By that standard, Steve Best, with his kindly words and golden deeds, lived a very full life. I believe if we had asked him, Steve Best would have said: 'If you want to know my creed, write me down as one who loved my fellowmen. Steve Best is dead, but rather you must think he is alive, alive, in the friendliness of his life, in the men he has befriended. He represented all that was best and noblest in life. So we leave Steve in God's hand— where better can we leave him?'

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • photo, Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong, NSW), 6 May 1938, p 9
  • photo, Tribune (Sydney, NSW : 1939 - 1991) 12 September 1939: 4

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

F. Lowden, 'Best, Stephen (Steve) (1899–1940)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/best-stephen-steve-34512/text43365, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1899
Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, England

Death

25 May, 1940 (aged ~ 41)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Occupation
Key Organisations
Political Activism