Here’s another Red Witch deleted scene from the time of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s arrival in Perth in 1919.

Rather than seeking out the writers of Perth, Katharine was launching herself into the city’s radical political circle. She and Hugo would come into the city on Sunday afternoons for the Social Democratic League meetings on the Esplanade, ‘the green flats beside the shining river where the people of Perth gather for such occasions’. Katharine made one of her first friends in Western Australia on one of these afternoons, an octogenarian radical named Monty Miller.

He told tales of taking part in the Eureka Stockade in 1854 as a young man, his activism stretching remarkably from it to the anti-conscription campaigns during the Great War. In 1917, he’d been jailed as a member of the illegal Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies. When Katharine met him he was ‘tall and gaunt, but still handsome with clear-cut features, white hair and dark eyes. His bearing gave an impression of dignity and intellectual power.’ Living in Perth since 1897, he was a patron of the nascent radical scene of the city.

Sometimes he stayed with the Throssells and they were ‘enthralled by his reminiscences of Eureka, and for his lifelong struggle for the rights of working men and women… Sometimes, during the morning while I was writing, he would sit on the verandah and recite to himself whole essays of Emerson or long passages from Shelley and Shakespeare… In the evening, we would discuss every subject under the sun.’

Katharine was intent on remembering him as a Marxist, reflecting some of her own anxiety around her gradual conversion from syndicalism and sympathy with the Wobblies. ‘I had discovered Marxism, about which Monty was not so well informed… so our discussions invariably turned on the way out for the workers from the chaos of capitalism and the need to develop a strong party of the working class.’ When he was dying late in 1920, Katharine and Hugo visited him often and Hugo was named as one of the executors of his will. It was just as the Communist Party of Australia had been formed and Katharine remembered, ‘His face lit up when I told him the good news, and it was then he gave our young Party his blessing.’ When his his memoirs were posthumously published the next year, Katharine wrote the preface.

  • Glimpses of KSP series: this month is the first birthday for The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard and I’m marking the occasion with some posts throughout May offering random glimpses of KSP. During May you can buy a signed copy of The Red Witch directly from me at the discounted price of $45 with free postage (usually $10) to anywhere in Australia – the online shop is here.