Tom Rigg was born in Brunswick in 1931 and went to the local school, St. Ambrose’s. As a teenager he obtained a job on the Victorian Railways first as a porter, eventually advancing to become a station master. This man was very community orientated all his life so he took a keen interest in other people. It was therefore not surprising that he joined the Australian Railways Union (ARU) and the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
As an ALP and an ARU member Tom became involved in the ALP industrial group which was active in his union fighting against communist infiltration and was distressed by the ALP Split of 1954-1955 which was driven by the then ALP federal leader H.V. Evatt’s maniacal purge of the industrial groups from the Labor Party. As a man of principle, Tom joined the party born out of the Evatt Purge which eventually became known as the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in 1957.
As an active DLP member Tom often travelled round the state to drum up support for his party. On one occasion when soliciting funds for the DLP he told a cattle farmer during a drought that he would save his cows by saying a prayer for them in return for a financial contribution.
By 1978 there was a move to close up the DLP and it was Tom as party president who presided over the state conference in which there was a majority vote to close this party. Tom let go of the DLP after this conference vote but he continued to be active in the ARU of which he was made an honorary life member that then entitled to him to a life time free rail pass.
Tom’s interest in history and political affairs continued in his retirement with him writing and publishing books on the ARU industrial group and the communist trade union leader J.J. Brown.
Blessed with a happy marriage to his wife Beryl (who predeceased him by three months), Tom was a dedicated family man who was devoted to his children and his grandchildren. He eventually settled in St. Albans in a home which he had extended and this house was often used to host functions for former political and industrial activists who had ‘fought the good fight’. Because he had such an active life Tom was known to both federal and state politicians, including a former prime minister.
Tom was not only a family man but a loyal friend to many and he took a keen interest in local history (among an array of other interests). As such he was a member of the Brunswick Community History Group, the Sunshine and District Historical Society and the St. Albans Historical Society, which he founded.
Vale Tom Rigg!
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