The legacy of Tom Lowry
Collie, the cycling capital of Western Australia, hosts the CFMEU Lowry Memorial Road Cycling Classic in May each year. The Tom Lowry Memorial along with with the now famous Collie to Donnybrook and Return Cycling Classic has survived the test of time. Inaugurated in 1942 the Tom Lowry Memorial is the first of two major events on the West Australian road cycling calendar conducted by Collie Cycle Club, with the Collie to Donnybrook and Return Cycling Classic being held on the 3rd Saturday in August each year.
It is unprecedented in Australian cycling that a cycling event would be supported by a single sponsor for its entirety. The Tom Lowry Memorial is one event that can lay claim to this, having been proudly supported by one sponsor since its inception in 1942. The Collie Miners Union (CMU), which was later known as the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) being the sole sponsors. The race was instigated in 1942 by the mine-workers of Collie in recognition of the service given by a past General Secretary Mr Thomas McCarthy Lowry (1897-1941).
Who was Tom Lowry?
The Tom Lowry Memorial was first held in 1942 to commemorate the contribution made to the Collie Coalfield by Thomas McCarthy Lowry. He is remembered not only as a civic leader within the Collie community but also for his support of sporting activity in the town. He was involved with the industrial organisation and the labour movement in general. He was an eloquent speaker and a prominent personality in industrial matters aimed at improving the working conditions of Collie miners.
Born in Kirkstall, Victoria in 1877 Tom Lowry took part in the Hampton Plains gold rush in 1906 working mining leases in the Goldfields around Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and Menzies.
In 1915 after an unsuccessful farming venture in the West Australia wheat belt Tom Lowry arrived in Collie. He found employment with Western Collieries, beginning a long and honourable association with the Collie Miners Union until his death in 1941,
In 1932 Tom Lowry while working for the Griffin Coal Mining Company was elected as general secretary of the Collie Miners Union. Over the next nine years, he was rarely opposed in his job as the secretary. He placed his job before anything else and the miners benefited as a result of his devotion to the improvement of their working conditions. In 1931 the Walsh award reduced wages and introduced distasteful working conditions to the mining industry. Lowry applied himself wholeheartedly in fighting the award and year after year he advocated new amendments that benefited the workers. In 1941 the local Collie Mail newspaper reported that due to the tireless efforts of Tom Lowry wages on the coalfields had considerably improved.
Lowry formed the Industrial Development Association and was elected as the inaugural President.
He urged for the establishment of a National Power Scheme in Collie contending that as a result, the South West region of Western Australia would develop more rapidly. Through his efforts, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the proposal but the Commission reported unfavourably on the scheme.
Lowry also formed the Combined Union Sports and Scholarships Committee to further the interests of school children. Tom’s love of the sport and helping the young saw him create sports meetings in both Collie and Allanson where he resided. A recreation ground built in Allanson was named Lowry Park in recognition of his services. His help of the sick and destitute earned him wide respect amongst his contemporaries. In his final days, he was working with another local identity, Mr Sam Simpson, raising awareness and funding for a new ambulance.
The legacy of Tom Lowry is remembered through the Tom Lowry Memorial cycle race which has been sponsored since its inception in 1942 by the Collie Miners Union and continued on through the renamed Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU).