Tom Glynn was a blacksmith and a migrant worker from County Galway in Ireland. He arrived in Melbourne around 1889 and shortly afterwards enlisted for the Boer War where he was mentioned in dispatches for bravery and court martialled for refusing to carry out the order of a British officer to shoot a Boer child.
He served in many posts during the first incarnation of the IWW in Australia. Tom was editor of our paper, Direct Action and secretary to the Sydney Local. fellow workers knew him as a scolar and as "the intellectual of the bunch". HE was remembered a a man having a "Burning hatred of injustice and a positively saintlike kindness and devotion to his fellow men." All right it was his daughter that said so but that's all right too.
Late in 1916 he, and eleven others, were arrested and (during a period of heightened patriotic idiocy and war hysteria that came with and influenced the referenda on conscription) were framed on charges of incendiarism and sentenced to fifteen years hard labour on three accounts. He told the court that: I am not a criminal and no sentence of this court can make me a criminal so long as my conscience is clear and clean … Politicians have been responsible for us being where we are today., but so far as I am concerned, I know this verdict and the sentences that are to follow will help the working class to understand, better than years of talk would do, the ideals for which we fight.” As far as Judge Pring was concerned the words might as well not have been spoken as he was sentenced to fifteen ears hard labour on each count – to be served concurrently.
During the next years when the IWW became a proscribed organisation; when members were given jail just for belonging; when migrants members were deported – and not necessarily to the countries they came from; when the state cooperated with employers in drawing up blacklists for those suspected of being tarnished with IWW ideas; when men were broken or driven into crime and families were thrown into poverty and distress – during all these years the campaign for the freeing of the 12 continued. Into its fold came people of good will concerned at the injustice that had been done in its name.
In the end the frame-up unravelled because of the dedication of such people and Tom was released in 1920 after “serving” nearly four years.
For a while it looked as though the Communist Party might be an alternative to the broken IWW and Glynn joined and was the first editor of its newspaper. The relationship did not last, however, and he went back to promoting industrial unionism.
Tom was not well for many years and eventually died in 1934 from an illness that had its origins in his incarceration in Long Bay jail.