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Irvine (Jack) Perel (1872–1928)

His was a stormy career marked—but not marred—by a vigorous insurgence of spirit, a fine independence, coupled, at the same time, with a lovable disposition, a warm heart, and a great and unfathomed capacity for sympathy, help and brotherhood.

The incidents that people recall readily are those high lights and color—the days when he would knock down with his fist any man who was insulting, and ask questions afterwards, and the night when he plunged into a fire to rescue a woman, suffering cruel burns and almost losing his life in magnificent heroism.

In addition to the spectacular side of his career there was the softer, less known side. There are grateful persons who recall assistance, financial assistance, quietly given, needed but not asked for.

"Jack" Perel was an anomaly, a sentimentalist with a big heart for humanity at large and the down and out section of the community in particular, but at the same time a vigorous, forceful individualist firm in his faith, confident in his own ability. He had mental courage that was so great that he lost chances of wealth because he insisted on being continually outspoken. His physical courage was unquestioned and often demonstrated.

Born at Ararat, Victoria, he chanced to come to Queensland because his skill as an electrical engineer caused him to be chosen by the Postal Department to supervise the establishment of the first telephone system in North Queensland. Later he was transferred from there to Bundaberg and thence went to Maryborough.

Politics seized his imagination in those days when the Labor issue was growing into prominence.

Perel saw a solution for the ills of humanity in Socialism and, with typical earnestness and determination, he plunged into the political affray to promote his gospel. He spoke and worked for Labor and denounced the Liberal Government in unmistakable terms.

His activities were such that the fact he occupied a government position was regarded as an anomaly. He resigned and freed himself from all liability and responsibility in that direction. Then he decided not only to speak out plainly but to write his views and give them a wider circulation.

The Patriot was born at Maryborough, later transferred to Bundaberg and finally appeared in Brisbane.

The journal, from the humblest beginnings, made lusty progress, but had frequent setbacks and all of them due to Perel’s unconquerable fighting spirit. One libel action which the paper lost meant a possibility of extinction.

"Jack" Perel—he was always known as Jack, to close friends, though his name was Irvine—held a council of war with the men closest and dearest to him, the team of fighting spirits who produced the Pate against heavy odds.

They decided that the freedom of the press demanded a firm stand. The paper would not be allowed to go under, though it meant locking out the bailiff. Not only were the forces of collection locked out but the place was barricaded with bayonets, old ink drums and barbed wire and a stage of siege declared. Under these amazing circumstances the paper was produced.

In its columns a healthy fighting spirit was revealed, in its actual appearance in face of these difficulties its stamina was proved.

"Labor!" was the battle cry and Perel, through his paper and by personal efforts, worked tirelessly and unsparingly to have the new party rise up and, as he hoped, bring something akin to Utopia to our limited lives.

He came into contact with the late John Norton, who enlisted his co-operation in a new venture—the establishment of Brisbane Truth in 1899. Irvine Perel took charge of the new paper and conducted it locally while Mr. John Norton was in the south.

The two men had disagreements and parted company, and Perel decided to bring the Patriot to Brisbane. This was effected.

Though Mr. Perel was not afterwards associated with Truth during the lifetime of Mr. Norton, the two were reunited in friendship and each had a lifelong regard for the other's talents and force of character.

After the death of Mr. Norton, Mr. Perel became a trustee of his estate, but latterly ceased to hold that position and devoted himself exclusively to the Patriot.

Though his activities in the Labor movement did not incline to self-reward, he accepted nomination to the Upper House in Queensland in 1922 as a Labor man and consequently pledged to vote for its abolition. This he did, but he made it clear at the time that he was not altogether convinced that the step was a wise one.

Within the past few years his early faith in Labor was greatly shaken and he finally changed his views and, as was typical of his vigorous and unequivocal character, he became an outspoken critic of the movement which, in his opinion, was not in conformity with the ideals he had woven around its creation in earlier days.

His sincerity as a Labor man and, later as an opponent of Labor, was never doubted. He always went straight and did what he believed should be done.

The radical and almost revolutionary character of the Patriot journalism in its earlier days was such that business support generally was not accorded, but Jack Perel did not descend to modify his views for monetary gain. He deliberately scorned financial aggrandisement if it were likely to conflict with his freedom of the pen.

A good deal of the matter came from his own pen, and almost right up to the last he contributed a regular feature, "Ginger's Trubbles", a quaintly originally humorous discourse on current topics written in colloquial slang and tinged with irony, cynicism, and a wealth of worldly wisdom. An American newspaper once bestowed high praise on this journalistic feature, which, it was pointed out, was of a remarkably high standard and extraordinarily and compellingly original in technique.

In this section of his paper, in an unostentatious but thoroughly effective way, he managed to insinuate many common sense doctrines and much hard sense.

A lover of sport, a keen Rugby union player in the days beyond recall, he always watched racing with considerable personal enjoyment. Seldom did he miss a meeting, but at the same time he wrote, warning working people, who always were dearest and nearest his heart, that gambling was a non-paying business. That was the doctrine he preached in their interest, but none could call him a wowser.

Careful about drinking—a lager at the most—he was a good sport, a member of Tattersall’s Club, and keen on a friendly game of cards with genial company, a man who endeared himself to all he met and whose cutting yet kindly humor was widely appreciated.

His standards of personal honor were so high as to appear incongruous in an age where commercial considerations are inevitably first and foremost in every mind. He would not use his Legislative Council railway pass unless engaged on official business.

As outstanding as any characteristic of this outstanding man was his physical courage, quickly demonstrated should occasion arise. He allowed no man to insult him or insult a friend in his presence, and, though not naturally trouble stirring, never hesitated when he considered action was called for. On one notable occasion a jibing opponent about 14 years his junior was invited to a bout. The man accepted with alacrity, but in the second round called enough.

Later Jack Perel took a personal interest in helping that man who, with a large family, faced the loss of his employment.

On one occasion a mob of hooligans set upon a policeman in Albert Square and were giving him such a rough time that Perel intervened.

The fight soon went all against the hooligans, and Perel afterwards received a personal letter from the Commissioner of Police thanking him.

Another cherished but never boasted possession was a medal for a deed of radiant heroism.

When he was at Maryborough in 1894 he occupied a house at the corner of John and Albert streets. One night it caught fire, and, believing that a maid servant was still within, Jack Perel dashed into the flames heedless of awful danger. He went right through the house calling and searching in every room. When he came out his clothes were ablaze, and he was frightfully burned. For many weary months after that he lay on his back in hospital, and to his dying day he carried his scars and burns as silent tributes to his leonine bravery.

Such was the man who is gone—brave and true and straight.

For some years he was ill, but he carried on his work with resolution until that became no longer possible. For the last few months he was confined to bed. In the last week or two he was unable to carry on a conversation.

Death came about 10 o'clock on Tuesday night. He was buried privately the next day, as he requested. He always shunned a fuss. But old friends were not deterred by the announcement of a private funeral and many came. In addition numerous wreaths were sent, including floral tributes from Mr. Ezra Norton, managing director of Truth and Sportsman Ltd, Mrs. Norton-Culhane, and Miss Joan Norton.

The late Mr. Irvine Perel leaves a widow, four sons, and three daughters. He leaves, too, the fragrant memory of a life well lived—the memory of a man universally respected and admired.

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Citation details

'Perel, Irvine (Jack) (1872–1928)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Ararat, Victoria, Australia


23 October, 1928 (aged ~ 56)
Albion, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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.

Political Activism