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Tom Griffin

by David Thompson

On Sunday, 8 Nov 1953 Port Melbourne Mayor, Cr E J Purchase with Crs J P Crichton and T G Douglas accompanied by the Port Melbourne Municipal Band attended the grave of the late Cr Tom Griffin at Lancefield. [1] This had become an annual pilgrimage since Griffin’s death three years earlier.

Advertisement, The Record, 15 August 1931

Thomas Griffin was born on 18 August 1898 at Lancefield.[2] He came to Port Melbourne around 1925 and purchased the pharmacy of R McKean in Bay Street establishing his own Chemist and Optician business.[3] 

He soon took to Port Melbourne affairs with great gusto.

Griffin first came to prominence when he was elected as President of the Port Melbourne Football Club in 1929.[4] He remained as President of the club until 1946 and then stayed on as one of the Vice-Presidents.[5]

Later in 1929 he successfully stood for Council.[6] He remained a Councillor until his death in 1950.[7] Cr Griffin didn’t take long to get to work on his agenda. In October he convened a meeting to form the Port Melbourne Citizen’s Progress Association.[8]  The Association’s monthly meetings were reported in The Record for a few years but reports seem to have dropped off after the meeting in August 1932 however there is no indication in the report that the Association was ceasing.[9]

When a group of prominent citizens came together in January 1931 to form a Boys’ Band, Tom Griffin was the President.[10] He served in that role until his death which explains why the Municipal Band and representatives from Port Melbourne Council visited his grave in Lancefield each year.

The annual trip to Lancefield followed a regular format. The party were greeted by members of the late councillor’s family then following a short service at the graveside, the band would give a recital to raise funds for local charities. On the first pilgrimage in 1951 they raised £14/10/0 for the Kyneton Hospital.[11]

Also in 1931, Griffin was elected Mayor[12] with his sister Mary, known as Cissie, acting as Mayoress.[13] and it is fitting that giving his involvement with the Progress Association that the Back-to-Port Melbourne festivities in 1932 were held during his mayoralty as the Back-to-Port movement was all about promoting Port Melbourne. 

At his instigation the Council undertook the restructuring and beautification of Esplanade East with the centre lawns planted with flowering gums on Arbor Day, 1932.[14]

Another couple of examples from just after his time as Mayor serve to illustrate his philosophy as a Councillor.

In August 1932, when there was talk of amalgamation with South Melbourne Cr Griffin said that Port would be ‘treated as a poor old Cinderella … he would oppose amalgamation with South Melbourne under any condition’. [15] Then the following month when the Band Rotunda on the foreshore was vandalised, he moved that ‘… the matter should be referred to the police; and, if the offenders could be traced, they should be severely punished’.[16] Of course, as President of the Boys’ Band, Griffin had a vested interest in the condition of the Rotunda but there are many other examples of similar reactions from him to vandalism in Port.

Cr T Griffin, The Record, 4 Mar 1939

He also opposed the establishment of an airport on Fisherman’s Bend in May 1936 saying ‘the land was far too valuable to be used as an airport … Factories would employ thousands of men; airports only a handful’. [17]

With family remaining in Lancefield, Tom Griffin remained connected to his birthplace. In October 1932 he took a team of Port Melbourne footballers to play against a combined local team. Port won easily but after the match a dinner was held at the Lancefield Hotel organised by Griffin’s sister, Cissie, and his mother who ran the hotel.[18]

Football was not Griffin’s only sporting interest. For a time, he was President of the Port Melbourne Bowling Club[19] and later was a Patron of the Club.[20]  He was a Vice-President of the Cricket Club[21] and the Baseball Club.[22]

Tom Griffin took a keen interest in trotting and in 1931 he was elected President of the Port Melbourne Trotting and Speedway Club.[23] 

In March 1935, he took the chair at a meeting at the Temperance Hall, where a motion was put to for the Port and South Coursing Club. Griffin was appointed President of the committee that invited all persons interested in greyhound and whippet coursing to attend a meeting the following week.[24]

The following year, the Nott Street Fathers’ Club visited Lancefield to hunt rabbits and hares and were well received by Cr Griffin’s mother enjoying dinner at the hotel followed by entertainment in the music room.[25] It seems that Griffin did not join the Club on this trip.

In 1939, golfers from the Sandridge Golf Club played off for the Griffin Cup named in his honour.[26]

1940 was an mixed year for Tom Griffin. On Saturday, 20 April, Port narrowly defeated Prahran at North Port Oval and Griffin got engaged to Miss Lurline Urwin. The Record reported it under the headline ‘Momentous Day for Port President – Cr Tom Griffin Anounnces Engagement; Team Wins’. Griffin remarked ‘Taken all round, I cannot recall a happier day in my life’.[27]

While his team went on to, again, defeat Prahran, this time, at the MCG on October 5 to secure the 1940 VFA Premiership[28], his relationship with Lurline was not fairing so well.

In December, Miss Lurline Urwin took out a Supreme Court writ claiming £5,000 damages from Griffin for alleged breach of promise of marriage.[29] The court drama played out in January 1941 with the City newspapers reporting every detail.[30] Lurline Urwin won the case but the jury assessed the damages at £700 rather than the £5,000 claimed.[31]

Advertisements from The Record, 1952

Back on surer ground, Griffin became Mayor for the second time when he was elected unopposed for the 1942-43 council year. Again, he called on his sister, Cissie, now married to Edward Cully, to serve as Mayoress  with support from Mrs Cousland, the wife of Cr J L Cousland, a fellow Councillor and the immediate past Mayor.[32]

When North Port Oval was acquired for military use during WWII, Griffin telephoned Mr T Coles, Secretary of South Melbourne Football Club, and arranged for Port to practice with the South players at the South Melbourne ground until alternative arrangements could be made.[33] A rare moment of cooperation between VFA (Port) and VFL (South) clubs. As it turned out the VFA abandoned the 1942, 1943 and 1944 seasons so PMFC had to sit on the sidelines.

Griffin obviously impressed the people at South Melbourne as they invited him to join their executive, however, Griffin who was not only PMFC President but also Vice-President of the VFA declined the offer.[34]

In 1946 after almost 20 years in the position, Griffin resigned as President of PMFC to concentrate on his business interests[35] but remained as a Vice-President. However, at a Club dinner at the Hotel Hollyford, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Griffin announced that he intended to retire from football administration citing the pressures of business.[36]

Tom Griffin died on Wednesday, 1 November 1950. Although his health had deteriorated over the previous few years, his death came as a shock, especially at the relatively young age of 52. He was survived by three sisters, Kathleen (Mrs Washburn), Mary ‘Cissie’ (Mrs Cully) and Hannah (Mrs McKay) as well as a brother, John. A Requiem Mass was held at St Joseph’s Church on Friday, 3 November and his body was interred at Lancefield Cemetery.[37]

At the time of his death, Griffin had two chemist shops in Port Melbourne. 239 Bay Street was taken over by F G Nicholas[38] while 364 Graham Street was purchased by Leo O’Hearn who had been manager of the pharmacy for the previous eleven years.[39] Through advertisements in The Record (right), both men made sure that the people of Port Melbourne knew that the businesses had previously been owned by Tom Griffin.

He is remembered in Port Melbourne through the naming of Griffin Crescent that takes a dogleg between Williamstown Road and Graham Street through the Dunstan Estate.

Dunstan Estate during construction, 1936. Public Records Office of Victoria.

In the image of Dunstan Estate during construction from 1936 (above), a car can be seen in Williamstown Road approaching Griffin Crescent on its left while a horse and cart in Graham Street has just passed Griffin Crescent on its right.


[i1 1953 ‘Port Councillors’ Meet at Lancefield Grave’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 14 November, p. 4. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164507986

[ii] Keenan, T. 2011 In Safe Hands – Presidents of the Port Melbourne Football Club. Albert Park, VIC: Eucalyptus Press, pp 88-90. 

[3] 1950 ‘PORT MELBOURNE MOURNS DEATH OF CR. TOM GRIFFIN’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 4 November, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164502850

[4] 1929 ‘PORT MELBOURNE FOOTBALL CLUB.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 9 February, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164966338

[5] 1947 ‘RECORD ATTENDANCE AT P.M.F.C. MEETING’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 25 January, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165039730

[6] 1929 ‘PORT MELBOURNE.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 24 August, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164964494

[7] 1950 ‘PORT MELBOURNE MOURNS DEATH OF CR. TOM GRIFFIN’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 4 November, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164502850

[8] 1929 ‘NEW ASSOCIATION’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 19 October, p. 6. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164960953

[9] 1932 ‘PORT MELBOURNE PROGRESS ASSOCIATION. ‘, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 20 August, p. 4. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164468583

[10] 1931 ‘Port Melbourne Boys’ Band’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 17 January, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164961315

[11] 1951 ‘P.M. BAND HONOURS LATE CR. GRIFFIN’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 17 November, p. 2. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164497525

[12] 1931 ‘Cr. Griffin will be Next Mayor at Port Melbourne’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 15 August, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164961124

[13] 1939 ‘EX-MAYORESS OF PORT MELB. MARRIED’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 3 June, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164496166

[14] 1932 ‘Arbor Day at Port’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 2 July, p. 6. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164458279

[15] 1933 ‘South-Port Amalgamation’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 19 August, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164464003

[16] 1933 ‘BAND STAND WRECKED’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 16 September, p. 2. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164460074

[17] 1936 ‘MELBOURNE AND AN AIR-PORT’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 23 May, p. 8. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164481467

[18] 1932 ‘Port Footballers’ Visit to Lancefield’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 8 October, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164464135

[19] 1934 ‘BOWLING NEWS’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 22 September, p. 6. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164460946

[20] 1941 ‘PORT MELBOURNE BOWLERS’ ANNUAL MEETING’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 20 September, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164973381

[21] 1940 ‘PORT MELBOURNE CRICKET CLUB’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 10 August, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164978050

[22] 1945 ‘PORT MELB. BASEBALLERS ELECT OFFICERS’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 14 April, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165036162

[23] 1931 ‘Opening of Port Melbourne Speedway’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 31 October, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164963478

[24] 1935 ‘GREYHOUND AND WHIPPET COURSING’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 16 March, p. 7. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164483871

[25] 1936 ‘NOTT ST. FATHERS’ OUTING’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 12 December, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164474536

[26] 1939 ‘SANDRIDGE GOLFERS TO PLAY OFF’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 25 February, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164488256

[27] 1940 ‘MOMENTOUS DAY FOR PORT MELBOURNE PRESIDENT’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 27 April, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164971328

[28] 1940 ‘PREMIERSHIP TO PORT AFTER LONG WAIT’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 12 October, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164974746

[29] 1940 ‘£5000 BREACH OF PROMISE CLAIM’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 17 December, p. 16. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244585652

[30] 1941 ‘£5000 CLAIM FROM FORMER MAYOR’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 18 June, p. 8. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244991758

[31] 1941 ‘BREACH OF PROMISE’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 19 June, p. 8. , viewed 03 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205163398

[32] 1943 ‘CR.J. BERTIE MAYOR OF PORT MELB.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 4 September, p. 4. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164982292

[33] 1942 ‘SOUTH AND PORT “AMALGAMATE”‘, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 11 April, p. 3. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164976158

[34] 1942 ‘V.F.A. VICE-PRESIDENT NOT FOR LEAGUE’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 9 May, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164975219

[35] 1946 ‘PORT FOOTBALL MEETING A FIASCO’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 21 December, p. 1. , viewed 03 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165041603

[36] 1947 ‘DECISION BY Cr. TOM GRIFFIN REGRETTED’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 8 March, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165040098

[37] 1950 ‘PORT MELBOURNE MOURNS DEATH OF CR. TOM GRIFFIN’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 4 November, p. 1. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164502850

[38] 1952 ‘Advertising’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 31 October, p. 8. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164504589

[39] 1952 ‘Advertising’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 8 February, p. 5. , viewed 02 Nov 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164504982

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