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Mick Fowler (1927–1979)

by Joe Owens

Mick [Jack Radnald] Fowler, who died aged 54 in Dampier (WA) a week ago, was buried in Sydney on Friday. Before the funeral there was a remembrance meeting in Victoria St, Kings Cross — the street where Mick had lived and the scene of violent assaults by developers in the early '70s.

It was the sort of funeral Mick would have approved of — several hundred people marched behind the cortege to the music of an 18 piece band playing old jazz favorites and Green Ban songs.

Outside Mick's old house Vince Healy from the Seamen's Union told quiet crowds how Mick and he stood in picket lines in WA protesting against the jailing of unionists. His last public concert was played on those picket lines when he entertained his unionist mates. Vince reminded the crowd that Mick was an old hand on picket lines.

Gerry Leonard of Woolloomooloo told of the struggles in the 'Loo when Mick was in the thick of it. Des Edwards, an old musician mate who couldn't play that day because of a crook throat, spoke nevertheless. He recalled Mick's long association with musicians and some of Australia's best bands.

Bob Pringle told of Mick's struggles in the street where, along with BLs, cranedrivers and seamen, he fought an unrelenting struggle against the developers.

Sydney city councillor Tony Reeves said the first thing he did when he heard of Mick's death was put on a Louis Armstrong record. His mother Fay, although slightly crippled, marched in the front row — Mick would have been proud.

An old record of Mick singing the now famous We Don't Want Your Millions was played outside the now dilapidated house Juanita Neilson lived in. It brought back a lot of memories of how, much to his embarrassment, Mick became the central figure in the Victoria St battle.

He continued through the years to call for an inquiry into Juanita Neilson's disappearance, and he never forgot nor forgave what the developers did to the people in old Victoria St. They were of his class — the poor, the old and the battlers.

For three years Mick was the last remaining resident in the street. Gangsters, police, legalities and bribes were used against him, but Mick wouldn't budge. He propped to the end.

Mick became a Communist at 18. His full and colorful life included work as a waiter, barber and seaman, as well as a talented musician. He was in both union and social struggles, and arrested so many times that they didn't need his fingerprints any more.

He was in the thick of inner city battles of the early 70s, when developers rampaged through working class areas trying to build commercial skyscrapers. Most of those built now stand as empty reminders of the foolishness of the system we live under. They also serve to remind us of the courage of the Mick Fowlers.

No words can adequately describe Mick Fowler's colorful and talented personality. "Militancy" and "loyalty" are words sometimes carelessly thrown around, but associated with Mick they are inadequate.

He lived those principles through every hour of his life. He was a man totally lacking in ego or ambition, thoroughly embarrassed by the publicity he received. His dedicated defence of his own class touched everyone associated with him.

The hundreds at his funeral were quiet. There was music but no gaiety. We all mourned his death but we all celebrated his life — it was full, rich and rewarding. He soured the lives of the developers but he inspired and encouraged the rest of us.

No more fitting remark describes his determined spirit than the one he made when the old NSW BLF was smashed by the developers and builders, helped by a few Judas men in the federal BLF. We were all downcast and downhearted, when Mick said over a beer: "You've got to keep going mate! You've got to keep going."

That about sums up Mick Fowler ....

Original publication

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Citation details

Joe Owens, 'Fowler, Mick (1927–1979)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Fowler, Jack Radnald

12 October, 1927
Auckland, New Zealand


11 August, 1979 (aged 51)
Dampier, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

Military Service
Key Organisations
Political Activism