Life lived for others
Monday, 17th June, 2019
By Craig Brealey
Pat Leonard had a deep sense of justice that played into everything he did in life, from his work as a union leader to helping the man in the street, say those who remember him from the Trades Hall.
Mr Leonard devoted more than 40 years to maintaining the rights of workers and in retirement to getting a fair go for the down and out as a volunteer with the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
The last elected Secretary of the Barrier Industrial Council died last week at the age of 84 and his funeral will be held today.
Eddie Butcher began working with Mr Leonard in the Workers Industrial Union of Australia at the Trades Hall, when everyone knew it as “The Corner”.
At the time, in 1979, Mr Butcher was an executive member of the WIU of A and Mr Leonard, who was a timberman on the Zinc Mine, was its president.
Their collaboration continued when Mr Butcher was elected president-secretary of the WIU of A - CFMEU and Mr Leonard became the BIC secretary, a position he held from 1986 to 1995.
In those days the Broken Hill tradition of “round table” talks between the unions and the mine managers was still strong, although, during the negotiation of one industrial agreement the unions encountered a certain mine manager who was perhaps new to town, said Mr Butcher.
“Pat and I were called to the mine manager’s office one day and this particular manager told us that the unions would give the mines everything they asked for.
“Pat said to me ‘Did you hear someone say something just now?’. Well, this bloke’s face went from red to black and he said ‘I’m telling you...’ and Pat said to him ‘It doesn’t work that way here. That is not how we do it.’”
However, their tenure coincided with hard times for the city, said the current vice president of the local CFMEU, Greg Braes.
“In Pat’s time, there were about 6000 people in the unions and the majority worked on the mines,” Mr Braes said. “Then Pasminco and the North mines shut down.”
Mr Leonard was raised in the Catholic faith (his brother became a priest) and he joined the Society of St Vincent de Paul in 1946 when he was at school at the Marist Brothers.
He became president of St Vinnies and remained a volunteer until late last year when his health began to fail.
He was also the force behind the establishment of its Bishop Fox Meal Centre.
In November last year he told the BDT that it came about after he saw people eating from the bins outside the Vinnies charity shop.
Rosslyn Ferry, secretary of the Town Employees Union, said Mr Leonard’s benevolence and belief in the ‘fair go’ informed his work as a union leader.
“He brought that same ethos into his work as an industrial advocate and even after he left the Trades Hall he kept up his interest in the unions,” Ms Ferry said.
Mr Butcher said he had no doubt of that.
“He was a Good Samaritan. He was always there to help others,” he said.
“The main thing for him, I think, was the Meal Centre. Pat fought tooth and nail to get that going because he believed that everyone had the right to at least one decent feed a day.
“What he was about in life was looking after his fellow man.
“I saw Pat one day go up to an old bloke who was living on the streets and he got him cleaned up, helped him out and saw him right. With Pat, that sort of thing happened quite a lot.
“That is why I say he was a Good Samaritan. I know people always say nice things about someone who has died, but from working with him in the union over the years and from seeing all the social work he did, I have to say it was virtually saintly what he did.”
Mr Leonard is survived by his wife Marion and their three children. He will be farewelled at a Requiem Mass today at the Cathedral at 10am.