Billy The Texan Longley
was a leader of a union faction within the Painters and Dockers. He was known as “The Texan” either because he wore a Stetson and carried a Colt .45. or because the character played by Rory Calhoun in the film The Texan was Bill Longley. A biography, In Your Face has been written of his life by Rochelle Jackson, published by ABC books.
Billy ‘The Texan’ Longley, former standover man on the Melbourne waterfront during the 1960s and 1970s, was one of the most feared of the hard men of the notorious Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 for ordering the murder of the union’s secretary, Pat Shannon. He served 13 years in prison for this and maintains his innocence. An interview he did with the Bulletin magazine from inside Pentridge Prison was the catalyst for then prime minister Malcolm Fraser to set up a Royal Commission into the Painters and Dockers Union. The Commission, headed by Frank Costigan QC, exposed not only rorts and organised crime connected with the waterside, but the notorious bottom-of-the-harbour tax scheme.
Billy ‘The Texan’ Longley
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‘Lucky’ Longley’s underworld war
By John Silvester
July 7, 2005
Looking more like a retired magistrate than a former gunman, Billy “the Texan” Longley sat quietly sipping water as a book about his life was launched yesterday.
But Mr Longley has never been one to become easily excited. The former Painters and Dockers identity, who was a main player in a bloody union war said to have resulted in 40 deaths and disappearances in the 1960s and ’70s, has seen much in his 80 years but chosen to say little.
His nickname came from his habit of carrying a Colt .45, but Mr Longley has never felt the need to dress like a tough guy. Not for him the tattoos and gold jewellery of the modern gangster. Mr Longley prefers a decent suit to the more raffish attire of the present generation.
And for a man with a hard-won reputation for knowing where many bodies are buried, he remains surprisingly coy about his achievements. When asked how he survived when so many friends and rivals died violently, he said: “Just luck, I suppose. I certainly didn’t think I would see 80, for a variety of reasons.”
Mr Longley’s contribution to Australian history is greater than just being a key player in an underworld war. An interview with The Bulletin magazine from inside Pentridge Prison was the catalyst for the then prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, to set up a royal commission on the painters and dockers union.
The commission, headed by Frank Costigan, QC, exposed not only rorts and organised crime connected with the waterside but the notorious bottom-of-the-harbour tax scheme.
The guest list at yesterday’s book launch at the Victoria State Library reflected the subject’s wide range of associates. There were former police, respected lawyers, not-so-respected lawyers, new-found friends and long-time mates. Melbourne’s seedier side also was well represented by members of the media drawn, by the double attraction of cheap quotes and free books.
In the crowd was the wife of a retired hitman who had coffee and cake while listening intently as Robert Richter, QC, launched the appropriately titled In Your Face by Rochelle Jackson.
Mr Richter, who usually wears a wig and gown when pleading the case for men accused of underworld connections, said Mr Longley was an “iconic figure” in the mould of Ned Kelly and Squizzy Taylor.
Mr Longley served 13 years for the murder of union rival Pat Shannon, who was shot dead in the Druids Hotel in South Melbourne in 1973. He has maintained his innocence.
Many believed he should have been acquitted, Mr Richter said. “These days the evidence that convicted him would not be admitted.”
Another guest at the launch, a former detective with his own fearsome reputation, Brian Francis “Skull” Murphy, said that while Mr Longley should never have been convicted, it may have been a blessing. “If he had remained free he would have been killed by his enemies,” he said.
Mr Longley, whose interests include movies, ballroom dancing and water aerobics, said he was watching Melbourne’s present underworld war from a distance.
Asked if he believed matters had been settled, he said, “Personally, I don’t. If it is over then well and good. It’s a different show now, a different way of life. Drugs have taken over.”
He had one piece of advice for today’s generation. “While you live, live in clover – when you’re dead, you’re dead all over.”
Billy ‘The Texan’ Longley recalls mutual respect
June 17, 2009 12:00AM
THE survivor of Melbourne’s first gangland war, former Painter & Docker gunman Billy “The Texan” Longley, says he will miss Des “Tuppence” Moran.
He was the bloke he used to wave to every morning as they sat having coffee at adjacent Ascot Vale cafes.
The shooting of Moran on Monday was a surprise to Longley, a one-time marked man who says it is a miracle he himself never wore a bullet during the waterfront war of the ’60s and ’70s.
Born and bred in the Ascot Vale area, Longley says the district was one of the toughest criminal stomping grounds in Victoria.
Longley said Moran’s death reminded him of his own mortality. Now aged 84, Longley said while he still managed to get along to the football or the horse races, and his favourite cafe in Union Rd, he still stayed vigilant.
“I was a child of the Depression. It instilled streetwise skills,” he said.
“There’s certainly been plenty of times when I’ve had to watch my step. You change your habits every day if your life’s in danger.
“Getting in and out of your car is usually the biggest problem.”
Speaking generally about Monday’s shooting, Longley said it was sad to hear Moran had finally “given up drinking and smoking”.
“He was always pretty quiet. He was a popular figure in Union Rd,” Longley said.
“A bit of a local identity. We would nod to each other. Acknowledge each other.
“He knew who I was and I knew who he was. We had a mutual respect.”
Longley described Moran’s habit of sticking to his daily routine as “carelessness”, but said feeling secure in familiar surrounds was a hard habit to break.
“The cemetery is full of careless people, I suppose.”
The Painters and Dockers’ 10 most violent crimes
Robbery, standover, smuggling, gambling, drugs and prostitution were the lifeblood of Melbourne’s notorious Painters and Dockers trade union. For more than a century it spewed out some of Australia’s most violent men, including Brian and Les Kane, Ray ‘Chuck’ Bennett, Billy Longley and the Moran family.
This blood-soaked chapter of Aussie organised crime on the waterfront is the focus of a new book by James Morton and Russell Robinson. It outlines the turf wars of a union whose motto was “We Catch and Kill Our Own”. Here are their 10 most violent and vicious crimes:
1. Union Secretary Pat Shannon copped three bullets in his chest (1973)
“You c—” were his last words before getting assassinated at a South Melbourne hotel. Billy “The Texan” Longley, a bitter union rival, would serve more than a decade for ordering the hit. A second man, Kevin Taylor, was put away for pulling the trigger. While in the clink, Longley’s spray on union corruption sparked a royal commission. A third, Gary Harding, who tipped off the cops about the pair, would get much worse (see No.2).
2. Snitch Gary Harding stabbed to death with a sharpened table knife (1975)
He was an inmate at Victoria’s Pentridge Jail awaiting trial for his part in the Shannon murder. So was Taylor — who told the cops he found Harding dead in his cell and denied any wrongdoing.
3. Les Kane’s body riddled with machine-gun fire in bathroom (1978)
Three men pushed his family into another room before opening fire and dragging his blood-soaked body to the boot of his Ford Futura never to be seen again. Some say it was a pre-emptive strike after a punch-up between brother Brian and Vincent Mikkelsen (later on trial as one of the killers) in which Brian came off second best, minus a chunk of his ear. Others say it was over money (see No.4). Worried the Kane brothers would come after him; Mikkelsen struck first.
4. Revenge as Ray Bennett gets gunned down in courthouse (1979)
The architect of the Great Bookie Robbery (Melbourne’s Victoria Club lost as much as $15 million) ‘Chuck’ allegedly helped Mikkelsen and a contract killer put a hit on Les Kane (see No.3). The cops couldn’t pin it on him (with no body) but the Kane family took its revenge. Incredibly, nobody could ID the killer although many believe it was Brian Kane himself (disguised in a false beard).
5. Payback as crime king Brian Kane gets shot in the face (1982)
Two men walk into an East Brunswick bar, but this was no joke. Kane had his teeth knocked out in the shooting and died the next day. Every crim, from Mikkelsen to Chris ‘Mr Rent-a-Kill’ Flannery, was offered up as a suspect but no-one was charged.
6. Eleven-year-old boy gets a stray bullet between the eyes (1973)
Nicholas Kolovrat died in his father’s arms at the Moonee Valley Hotel. The killer’s target, Laurence Chamings, was shot dead running out the back door. Sydney standover man Barry “The Bear” Kable, who went to trial for the murder but acquitted, was later bashed to a pulp and left brain damaged.
7. Sydney woman gets bullet from a .38 to the back of the head (1977)
Bottle blonde June Thompson ran a dole scam for thousands of dockers. Her body was found under the Bass Strait ferry loading ramp in Melbourne.
8. Freddie Harrison has jaw blown off with a 12-gauge shotgun (1958)
Despite the wharf being packed, no-one saw a thing but many heard the killer’s words: “This is yours, Freddie”. More than a dozen men said they were in the can (a two-man toilet). Apparently, it had been revenge for an incident on a recent pig-hunting trip where “Froggy” had shot off a mate’s hand.
9. Alfred Nelson now buried under the docks? (1971)
Three days before a union election, Nelson known as “The Ferret” was pulled from the shower of his Collingwood home never to be seen again. His Valiant Charger was later dragged out of the Yarra, but there was no Ferret. Some say his remains are under the cement at the docks; others say he was tossed into the incinerator behind the union office.
10. Suspected killer Des Costello gets a gun unloaded in his face (1971)
Days after the Ferret’s disappearance, Costello’s mangled body was found in a ditch at Clifton Hill. One arm was shattered and part of his hand blown off. The rest made a mess of his face. He was due in court the next month for a break-in.