Vale Fred Love, the ‘Phantom Poet’ of Kemira

Published: 10 May 2020

The Illawarra is mourning the loss of Fred Love, who passed away on April 19, aged 73.

Fred started working at South Clifton Colliery in 1972, and after a year at South Bulli, returned to South Clifton until its closure in 1983. From 1988 he worked at Westcliff, finishing up in 1998.
Former General Secretary Barry Swan, and Central Councillor, Kevin Wiseman, have shared some of their memories of Fred Love. Kevin worked with Fred at South Clifton.

Fred was an active and committed member of the Miners Federation. He was known as the ‘phantom poet’ of the coal industry, who could use words to great effect. During the 1982 Kemira Dispute he penned “The Ballad of Kemira”, which stands as a powerful and poetic description of the sit-in.

Here is Fred reading the poem to activists on their way to Canberra:

In 1982 BHP marked 31 mineworkers at Kemira Colliery for the sack. The dispute was made famous for the 15 day sit-in strike at the mine.

The Kemira sit-in sparked widespread community action that was to lead to the storming of Federal Parliament by thousands of workers and their supporters on 26 October 1982 when Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser refused to meet representatives of the miners and steel workers facing massive job losses. Fred Love was one of the first protesters through the doors of Parliament House.

In retirement he became heavily involved in community work within the Illawarra region. He worked with The House with No Steps and other organisations. He and his wife Dianne worked hard and successfully to promote the region as a tourist destination.

He was still active with Wollongong City Council’s Community services as a mini-bus driver for the aged and infirm when he was taken ill.

Fred Love will be sadly missed by his former workmates and comrades in the South. Our Union pays tribute to his long commitment to the labour movement and to his local community.


Fred Love underground at South Bulli