Person - Frank Hardy

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Of strong interest to ASIO, fruit picker, salesman, seaman Frank Hardy is best known for his controversial novel Power Without Glory but he also wrote plays, two of which were given full productions by NT. The theatre also supported his political activism and he mixed socially with its members.

Black Diamonds was staged in 1958, its subject a stay-in miners’ strike at Cessnock where owners threaten to close a mine because of a drop in profits. Hardy also acted in it, Noeline Brown being impressed that he could talk and smoke a pipe at the same time. Criticised as lacking in dramatic conflict and character development, it did poor business. The long history of struggle was listed by a representative of the oppressed who had gone underground at age 14: a 56-hour week for low wages/no social services or sick leave/dust on the lungs/impaired vision because working with tallow lamps/explosions/floods/ men burned alive in fires.

Hardy reflected on the work: I doubt if “Black Diamonds” has universal significance (indeed I am too well aware of its technical blemishes), but if it has portrayed the struggles of the Australian miners, shown something of the worth & dignity of the Working Class and its ability ultimately to transform society, then I am well satisfied.

The tone of the piece is established in the opening scene:

THE SINGING FOOL: Toiling for a mere existence Where the sun does never shine, Heaven protect those collier lads, Who live down in the mine.

SPEC: I wish he’d sing something more cheerful than that song about the 1923 disaster.

In 1967 The Ringbolter was staged, written in 1960 and initially rejected by NT. An escaped convict on the run after killing a warder -- an amalgam of the Dugan-Mears/Simmonds-Newcombe manhunts -- stows away on a coastal steamer whose seamen are involved in deciding whether to go on strike. The ringbolter (a stowaway hidden below a hatch opened by a ringbolt) is the catalyst who complicates the situation. In 1966 a seaman at Darling Harbour had been shot by a ringbolter. The show made a loss.

In 1951 Hardy's one-act Nail on the Wall was given a rehearsed reading. A Catholic son turned Communist is on the run after a new parliamentary Act makes him guilty of subversion. Police and priest pressure his parents to give him up if he returns home. Set in a worker’s kitchen, the title refers to the space where his photo has been removed. The son returns, his mother hides him and finally rehangs the picture. The piece wasn’t given a full production because the CPA opposed its ideology ~ that the Communist Party had been smashed and its leaders in gaol or in flight.

In November 1950 Frank Hardy was charged with criminal libel over Power Without Glory. A Frank Hardy Defence Committee organised a Sydney meeting where 250 attended. Hardy read “The Load of Wood”, NT performed "Give Thy Thought No Tongue or If You Must be Frank be Hardy" and US recordings of Paul Robeson and Howard Fast were played. NT's sketch was set in a court room:

PROSECUTOR: Your Honour will recall the initial charge against this man. It is a criminal charge and is to the effect that this man has written a book which contains an idea. Not only that, Your Honour, but the idea is cloaked in stimulating language conducive to thought. Such unbridled licence, Your Honour, cannot remain unchecked if we are to preserve our democratic Australian way of life.…

In June 1951 Frank Hardy was acquitted of libel.

Hardy was a member of the Realist Writers Group its members including NT's Mona Brand, Denis Kevans, Peter Leyden; on the CPA Arts Committee with Bill Gollan, Miriam Hampson, Marie Armstrong and Denis Kevans; and on the CPA Media Branch with Eddie Allison, Miriam Hampson, John and Marie Armstrong, Bill Hortin, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Roger Milliss and Norm Slater.

In 1966 Hardy publicly supported Gurindji stockmen who walked off Vesteys’ Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory, unhappy with their conditions. New Theatre raised money for the strikers with fundraisers such as barbecues.

Frank Hardy has a Wikipedia entry. His papers are held by the National Library of Australia. He was one of the subjects (another was Roger Milliss) in the four-part documentaryPersons of Interest screened in 2013.

New Theatre Home | Persons of Interest