New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Battles in the bush - David Drummond and the rise of the Progressive Party

David Drummond, Inverell, 1910s. The young share farmer was not expected to be elected to Parliament in March 1920, but with what was described as support from a handful of cockies and a newspaper he was.

Back in May 2020 I began an Armidale Express series on the history of the country press in NSW with a particular focus on New England. It seemed an appropriate time given that the combination of existing trends with the impact of covid-19 was likely to complete destruction of the press that we had known, a press whose role and influence had already declined. 

2020 also marked 100 years since the emergence of the Progressive Party, later Country now National Party, in the NSW Parliament at the March 1920 elections. The Federal Party really began in 1919 with the election of farmer representatives to the National Parliament. In Northern NSW, the history of the Country Party and the country press are inextricably entwined. 

What began as a series on the history of the country press was effectively hijacked by the March 1920 election campaign. There I focused especially on one man, David Drummond, the share farmer from Inverell who was not expected to win but did. 

In this post I am providing links to the posts on Drummond and that first election campaign that saw the emergence of the Progressive Party as a major political force, Later, I will return to the story of the country press.

The posts are:

For those who are interested to find out more, Decentralisation, Development and Decent Government: the life and times of David Henry Drummond, 1890-1941 - introduction, provides links to my biography on Drummond's life and times. If you are interested, you can follow the story through in more detail up to 1942.    

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 21 - How David Drummond won the election

 


Tattersalls Hotel Emmavillel. Campaigning at Emmaville, Bruxner finally got Drummond into a pub where he drank a soda water! 

This is the twenty first in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the fourteenth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party. I am resting the series for a little while to focus on other things. It has become very long! 

As the other candidates in the March 1920 elections swung to the countryside Drummond turned his attention to the towns. There he made one major tactical error.

Certain that Bruxner would have a large surplus vote in his Tenterfield home base, Drummond decided to campaign heavily in Tenterfield hoping to pick up Bruxner's second preferences.

Although Bruxner did poll well, he did not secure a quota till the sixth count and Drummond's Tenterfield campaign was wasted.

The two men seem to have had considerable contact during the campaign. Bruxner liked Drummond immediately, but there were considerable differences in outlook between the polished grazier and the young farmer. At one point Ray Doolin organised a combined meeting for them at the mining village of Emmaville.

 “Anxious that our two colts would work together, I asked the Colonel how he was getting on with Dave. He replied ‘Oh Dave is coming on, I got him into the Pub and he drank a soda water.’ After the meeting I asked about the Colonel - Dave replied ‘Ray, he is a very fine and able man, but I think he is a bit of a lad!’"

 The difference in temperament between the two men did result in at least one clash, but after that “temperate but straight speaking episode” the two became firm friends and allies.

The Northern press played an important role in the Progressive's campaign, as did a resurgent campaign for Northern self-government. The two were linked, because most newspapers were supporting the self government cause.

While the separatist campaign was non-party, it benefited the Progressives most. They supported self-government and could campaign for it without the entanglements affecting Labor and Nationalist candidates.

Press support was particularly important for the lesser known Drummond. Drummond's old friend, Ernest Sommerlad, campaigned for him strongly through the Glen Innes Examiner. Sommerlad was also able to persuade the supporters of sitting member F.J. Thomas to grant preferences to Drummond.

Election day, 20 March 1920, saw the Progressives poll well, with 49 per cent of the vote as compared with Labor's 37.2 per cent and the Nationalists' meagre 13.8 per cent. As expected, Bruxner, with 23.5 per cent of the vote, was the second candidate elected after Labor's McClelland.

This left Drummond with 10 per cent of the vote competing for the third spot against the remaining candidates. In the end, it was enough.

The result was a surprise to many. As the The Land put it some years later:

 Mr Drummond was a young farmer of Inverell. He had ideas, and had been active in the Farmers and Settlers' Association. No one knew much about him, but that was of no consequence. He proceeded to tell them. There were no widely signed requisitions for him to contest Northern Tablelands. They were not required. He had made up his mind. He informed the electors he knew about politics, and would be able to run the country as it ought to be run. At first he was not taken seriously, but he was quite confident the people would elect him to Parliament, and they did.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 20 - Drummond goes to the circus

 Wirth’s Circus 1941. Photo State Library. The touring circus that Drummond spoke to at half time were a feature of country life.

This is the twentieth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the thirteenth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party.

The offer by Stephen Cosh to drive Drummond around the electorate free of charge “except for petrol and a tyre or two” did prove a Godsend. 

They moved from meeting to meeting, up to ten in day. Drummond would usually spoke in the open air (during the whole campaign he only spoke in halls three times including his campaign opening in the Inverell Town Hall) then adjourn to a room with his local committee to sign scrutineer and other forms and lay out the plan of organisation. 

After the meetings were finished, he and Stephen would retire, often as late as 1 am, to a quiet place in the countryside to spend the night. 

The travellers had always to be ready for the unexpected. One night Drummond arrived at Ashford to find the whole village in darkness, for the circus was in town and the whole countryside was at it. 

There was no chance of coming back Drummond therefore asked the manager if he could speak at half-time. He responded dubiously, “that if I could stand it he supposed he could.”

At half time Drummond bounded into the Ring with a small wooden box:. "Ladies & Gentlemen. My name is David Drummond Progressive Candidate at the forthcoming State Election. Take a good look at me and make up your mind what you think of me. Vote Drummond No. 1". 

Grabbing the box, he made a fast exit before the bottles etc. began to fly. “That was the shortest political speech I ever made”, he later recalled. 

Considering that the other Progressive candidates would concentrate first on the towns, Drummond focused on the country districts. 

In those days, before radio and television, politicians could still attract large public audiences. Since Drummond was the first candidate in the field it was not unusual to find ninety to one hundred people gathered at some agreed cross roads, “really alert and stirred up to break free from being run by ‘City Lawyers’ & nominees of the Nationalist Party Executives”.

Drummond usually devoted the first half of his speech to an explanation of proportional representation. This always gained a good response and allowed him to preach his political message during the second half of his speech. 

His theme was always 'Decentralization, Development and Decent Government'. He usually finished by saying that “Parties, Platforms and Policies existed for only one reason, the good government of the people. When they ceased to serve this end they should cease.”

Drummond was now developing campaign guidelines that he generally observed throughout his long political career.

“I never made the mistake then or later of slanging my opponents. I simply ignored their existence. Never did I make the cardinal blunder of dealing with past incidents in Parliament. ‘You people know all about what has been happening in the past in Parliament. What you are interested in hearing is the Policy of the Progressives’ & I went on to explain my own version of that policy.” 

This approach was “new and held an audience tired of the old political clap.” It also “compelled the opposition to fight on a battle ground of my own choosing.”

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 19 - David Drummond and rivals for election in 1920

Born at Nundle in 1886, shearer and AWU union organiser Alfred McClelland was expected to win the first Northern Tablelands seat, the popular Mick Bruxner the second. This left David Drummond campaigning for third spot against a raft of candidates.

This is the nineteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the twelfth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party.

David Drummond may have won the first round, but his success at the March 1920 elections was by no means assured.

Under the multi-member proportional representation system being tried for the first time, three members were to be elected. Drummond considered, accurately, that the Labor vote would be disciplined and that their number one candidate, Australian Workers' Union organiser Alfred McClelland, would certainly be elected first. He also considered, again accurately, that Colonel M.F. Bruxner, the Progressives' star candidate, would be elected next. 

Bruxner was then thirty-eight. Deservedly popular, he had a fine war record, was a member of an old grazing family and a grazier and stock and station agent himself, was a noted amateur rider at picnic races and had a friendly, out-going personality. 

Bruxner's assured success left Drummond contending for third place against a galaxy of candidates, including two sitting members, F.J. Thomas and H.W. Lane, the Nationalist member for Armidale. 

This was difficult enough. In addition, each Progressive candidate had to organise his own campaign committee and pay for his own personal expenses including publicity, printing, advertising and travel. Short of funds, the Central Council would only pay for general party advertising and for rent of halls when authorised by the District Councils. 

This created no problems for the wealthy and popular Bruxner, but for the poor and still struggling Drummond it was another matter. Although his campaign committee numbered thirty, no less than twenty-nine were from the Inverell district. The Drummond campaign organisation was described by a local stock inspector as 'one newspaper and a handful of cockies'. 

They may only have been 'a handful of cockies', but their loyalty and work were vital. 

The support given by Drummond's old friends from Mt. Russell, the Coshs, was particularly important. Leonard Cosh appointed himself Drummond's advance agent and political secretary. He was supported fully by his brother Arthur. Their uncle, Stephen Cosh, provided transport. 

Stephen had recently lost his wife. Advised by his doctor to go away on a trip, Cosh bought a large car with a camping body intending to take his daughter on a tour of Western Australia. The daughter's appendicitis forced the trip's cancellation. 

Stephen Cosh now offered to drive Drummond around the electorate free of charge 'except for petrol and a tyre or two'. He stipulated, however, that he would not stay in hotels because of his nervous condition. 

To Drummond, who had a store of inexhaustible energy and a powerful voice but little money, this offer was a Godsend. The following campaign showed Drummond’s drive as well as his emerging political shrewdness.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 18 - Candidate pulled no punches in 1920

The young David Drummond when he was first establishing himself. Every effort was made to block has endorsement as a Progressive Party candidate for the Northern Tablelands seat. This is the eighteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the eleventh column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party.

The Glen Innes Progressive Party Electorate Council meeting held to consider the Party’s nominations for the March 1920 NSW State elections had seen a deliberate attempt to exclude Drummond as a candidate. 

Drummond recognized that the events at the meeting might be used to discredit him. There was to be a Farmers’ and Settlers’ (FSA) District Council meeting at Inverell next day. Drummond decided to return from Arding to Inverell in the morning to get the Council's endorsement for his action. 

Waiting at Uralla railway for the northbound train, Drummond met a farmer who casually remarked "All the other candidates are going down to meet Central Council tomorrow. I suppose you will be going". In a flash Drummond replied, just as casually, "Yes I will be going" although it was the first he knew of it. 

In some ways this deliberate attempt to exclude Drummond from the field is not surprising.

To party officials he would not have appeared a good candidate, despite the organising abilities he had already displayed. He was young, turning thirty the next month; very deaf (and adequate hearing aids were still some years off); relatively unknown outside his own district and a non-smoker and non-drinker lacking in easy social graces. Equally, Drummond's stubbornness at Glen Innes would not have endeared him to the other candidates or their supporters.

This stubbornness now came to his aid. Drummond calculated that he just had time to travel to Inverell as planned: north by train to Glen Innes then sixty-eight kilometres across country, get a letter from his District Council stating that they still regarded him as a properly endorsed candidate, then get back to Glen Innes to catch the 5 pm south-bound train.

Next morning Drummond presented himself at the FSA's Sydney headquarters where the Party's Central Council was to meet. The Party's General Secretary (J.J. Price, also General Secretary of the FSA) tried hard to convince Drummond that he should withdraw. Drummond refused, produced the Inverell District Council letter, and was asked to wait.

At that moment one of the chosen four at the Glen Innes meeting stepped from the lift. “I have often heard the expression ‘So & So was so surprised he literally tripped over his own feet’”, Drummond later recalled. “This was the only occasion on which I have ever seen it.” 

“I had been deliberately barred ... and here I was calmly sitting outside the Council room when I was supposed to be 400 miles away in the peaceful countryside.”

 Drummond decided to “pull no punches”. 

“You claim to be a Farmer's Party”, he told Central Council, “yet every attempt has been made to prevent the one bona-fide farmer from being endorsed as a candidate.” Your present team consists of two graziers, a store keeper and a money lender. “If you think with this team you are going to beat the Labor Party which has one if not two genuine Farmers in its team, then I believe you will find yourself badly mistaken.” 

This appeal was successful. Next day it was announced that Bruxner, Crapp, Little and Drummond were the endorsed Progressive candidates.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 17 - How the battle for pre-selection happened in 1920

Lieutenant Colonel H F White DSO, 35th Battalion, standing in front of his quarters at Lahoussoye, France White handled the Progressive Party pre-selection meeting with firmness and tact. 
This is the seventeenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the tenth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party.

Early in 1920, the Progressive Party's Electorate Council met at Glen Innes to consider candidates for the March elections.

In addition to David Drummond, seven nominations had been received from the branches: M.F. Bruxner (grazier and stock and station agent of Tenterfield); J.S. Crapp (grazier of Uralla); F.B. Fleming (grazier of Moree); P.R. Little (grazier and storekeeper of Bundarra); G.B. Ring (financial agent of Inverell); George Codrington (journalist of Inverell); and A. Piggot (orchadist and farmer of Inverell).

 Early in 1920, the Progressive Party’s Electorate Council met at Glen Innes to consider candidates for the March elections., In addition to Drummond, seven nominations had been received from the branches: M.F. Bruxner (grazier and stock and station agent of Tenterfield); J.S. Crapp (grazier of Uralla); F.B. Fleming (grazier of Moree); P.R. Little (grazier and storekeeper of Bundarra); G.B. Ring (financial agent of Inverell); George Codrington (journalist of Inverell); and A. Piggot (orchadist and farmer of Inverell).

It was a difficult meeting for Drummond.

The Progressives with their slogan 'No pre-selection or pledge' were strongly opposed to any form of pre-selection of candidates. At the same time, only two candidates could hope to be successful in the three member electorate, Labor was assured of the third seat, while there were also financial problems associated with large numbers of candidates.

 An immediate move was made to exclude. Drummond. It was to avoid just this possibility that Drummond had gained the assurances from the president and secretary of the Council that his Party organising work would not invalidate his candidature, and he refused to budge.

 The Council then packed the candidates off to the Council Chambers to debate who should withdraw. Just before lunch it was proposed that the candidates should have a ballot among themselves to select the three or four most likely to succeed. Drummond rejected this: he politely told the group that he had been invited to run, was correctly nominated, and until his Committee asked him to withdraw 'there was nothing doing'.

 After lunch the candidates, with Drummond dissenting, asked the Electorate Council to indicate which four were most likely to succeed. The Chairman, Colonel H.F. White, 'one of the most likeable and sterling characters' Drummond had met, refused on the grounds that 'it would be really pre-election selection which they had come into existence as a Party to destroy'. The candidates thereupon returned to the Council Chambers.

 The pressure was intense. 'We are getting nowhere', one candidate told the group angrily, 'Drummond is a beggar to argue'.

 As a number of candidates needed to catch the 5 pm southbound Glen Innes Mail, the proposal was made that they should hold a ballot among themselves to select the most likely four, but that the result should not bind Drummond. Drummond, 'heartily sick of playing a lone hand all-day', agreed, as did Council Chairman White.

 In the vote that followed, Drummond came fifth with three votes. Realizing as he caught the south-bound Glen Innes Mail that evening for Uralla (Pearl and the children were staying at nearby Arding) that publication of the ballot result must damage his changes Drummond decided to act.  

 There was to be a Farmers’ and Settlers’ (FSA) District Council meeting at Inverell next day. Drummond decided to return to Inverell in the morning to get the Council's endorsement for his action.

 Waiting on the Uralla platform next morning for the north-bound train, Drummond had a casual conversation that changed his life, 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 16 - Drummond points to neglect of country

Despite all his abilities and campaign experience, Sir Robert Archdale Parker (1878-1947) could not stop the flow of National Party members to the newly formed Progressive Party.  

This is the sixteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the ninth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party. 

In November 1919, Inverell share farmer David Drummond, was asked to take on the position of electorate organiser for the newly formed Progressive Party. He agreed to do so on two conditions: 

First that my acceptance would not invalidate my right to be a candidate. When I had received their assurance that I would still be eligible to contest at the elections, my next condition was that I would accept no payment for my services apart from out of pocket expenses.

The first of these conditions was later to be of crucial importance.

The electoral climate was right for the Progressives. They represented the new ideas and beliefs in the countryside at a time when their main rivals, the Nationalists, were in disarray. 

In mid November, and despite visits by Premier Holman and key National Party campaign organiser Archdale Parkhill, the secretary of the Armidale Branch of the party, Alfred Purkiss, was forced to admit that 'half the active Nationalists look as if they will go over to the ranks of the Progressive Party'.

Drummond threw himself into the organising campaign. In the first six weeks he covered all the Tablelands except for Tenterfield, meeting with considerable success. His only setback was in Armidale where ill-health (he had badly overtired himself) led to the failure of the first organising attempt.

Drummond returned to Armidale on Saturday 24 January 1920, and this time successfully formed a branch. He also met R.N. Hickson, a local architect and former New South Wales cricketer, who was to be his electoral secretary and a key supporter for forty years. 

Drummond's speech at the second Armidale meeting was typical of his message. 

The National Party, he told his audience, 'was controlled purely by vested city interests and the Labor Party by the industrial interests of Sydney.' Since Parliament was controlled by city interests supported by the city press, the country had been neglected. Further, the pre-selection systems used by those city parties had degraded government and politics. 

The only solution was a party that represented country interests, that would provide cross country railways and ports and stop the drift to the city. Drummond summarised the Party's policy as 'decentralization, development and decent government.' 

With the organising campaign well under way, the Progressive's Electorate Council met at Glen Innes early in 1920 to consider candidates. In addition to Drummond, seven nominations had been received from the branches. 

The preselection campaign that followed would be hotly contested. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 15 - Northern Tableland Progressive Party Electoral Council formed in 1919 but what next?


 FSA President Arthur Trethowan had a problem: the new Progressive Party had a name but no local political organisation. David Drummond provided a solution.

This is the fifteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the eighth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party. 

In late October 1919, farmers and graziers formed a Northern Tableland Progressive Party Electoral Council at Glen Innes, followed by a further meeting on 4 November which was convened and addressed by Arthur Trethowan, the President of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association (FSA). Trethowan provided details of the new party and suggested that its object was 'to secure direct country representation in the Federal and State Parliaments'.

Those attending the meeting found that they may have had a name but they certainly had no political organisation to put Trethowan’s objective into effect. It was therefore decided to ask David Drummond to take on the position of electorate organiser. 

The invitation was a sign of how far the deaf, poorly educated ward of the state had come since his arrival in Armidale as 17 year old farm labourer on that cold day in 1907. 

From his arrival his arrival in the Inverell district in 1912 and especially after his marriage to Pearl in 1913, Drummond had become actively involved in the small farming community around Oakwood. He and Pearl played tennis, he became an active member of the FSA and also became a Methodist lay preacher. 

To improve his preaching, he taught himself public speaking, practicing while riding around the property, addressing the paddocks. He had no tutor, but used self-help books given to him by his brothers. 

Years later, his grandson would use the same books to learn the art of projection. Years after that, the same techniques would be taught to his great granddaughters as they learned to project their voices in whispers down the corridors of Sydney’s’ semi-detached houses. 

The powerful sonorous voice that Drummond developed would become one of his political weapons, capable of reaching a large open air audience without the aid of loud speakers.

It was as a Methodist lay preacher that Drummond met Ernest Christian Sommerlad, a fellow lay preacher and man that would be critical to Drummond’s successful entry to politics. 

Sommelad, the youngest of twelve children of German parents John Henry Sommerlad, Tenterfield farmer, and his wife Louisa Wilhelmina, née Marstella, was four years older than Drummond. 

A devout Christian, Sommerlad had wanted to become a missionary. Thwarted by poor health, he had turned to journalism and was editor of the Inverell Argus when he first met Drummond. 

In 1918 Sommerlad purchased the Glen Innes Examiner with a bank loan guaranteed by local business men. This would give the little known Drummond a powerful platform. 

For the moment, Drummond had to decide whether to accept the request to become Northern Tablelands organiser for the new Progressive Party. He agreed to do so, but with conditions that would later prove critical. 

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 14 - putting farming ideas into practice

Pearl Goode around the time of her marriage to David Drummond. While quiet and shy, she fitted well into the small farming community around Oakwood. 

This is the fourteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the seventh column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party 

The eye for detail revealed by David Drummond's observations of cooperative harvesting techniques around Armidale reflected his growing interest in farming practice. The lad absorbed the techniques he saw, sorting out in his mind those he would later follow.

In 1911, Drummond was given an opportunity to put his developing ideas into practice.

John Ewing, produce manager for the Pastoral Finance Association, had some spare capital and began thinking about purchasing a block of land. Ewing discussed his plans with David’s brother Morris who arranged for David to inspect the land in question.

Inverell, on the western edge of the Tablelands, had long been known as a fine farming district. However, in the absence of a rail link farmers were effectively limited to their local market by the high cost of transport.

This changed in 1902 with the opening of the railway line to Moree: Between 1904 and 1914 landowners with holdings within twenty-four kilometres of the new line sold at least part of their land to farmers. As part of this process Bannockburn, one of the district's oldest grazing properties, was subdivided and put up for sale.

The block Drummond looked at was 518 hectares of mainly arable basalt soil with a half kilometre frontage to the MacIntyre River. While undeveloped, it clearly had potential and Drummond recommended its purchase. Drummond was then offered the position of manager, an offer he eagerly accepted. 

“From a weekly wage of 1 [pound]... and board and lodging, I became at 21 years of age Manager of 'Maxwelton' with a share in the wheat harvests”, he later wrote with some pride.

Drummond packed his goods into a 'spider' sulky drawn by a half-bred welsh pony and, with a six-month-old foal and a sheep dog attached, and returned to Maxwelton to begin development.

The work was not easy. The virgin black soil was hard to plough and weather conditions proved difficult. Still, by the end of 1912 Drummond could look on his results with satisfaction.

Settled, his mind turned to other matters. He had met the Goode family while working at Arding south of Armidale, John Goode had come to the district to search for gold on the nearby Rocky River goldfields, but had then preselected land at Arding and become a successful farmer.

Drummond asked for the hand of Pearl, John and Ellen Goode's twenty-five-year-old daughter. She accepted him and the couple were married on 11 March 1913 by Arthur Johnstone in the Methodist Church at Arding.

The newly married couple settled down to life in the small farming community centred around Oakwood, the village that had sprung up with the development of the farms. Pearl was quiet and shy, but also had the capacity to make friends.

Travelling by sulky along the black soil tracks, she and David joined in the social activities of the community, visiting, playing tennis, or attending the church functions that played such a key part in community life, building the links that would later draw Drummond into politics.  

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 13 - Drummond and the collective effort


Beardy Street looking east: Armidale was still a small place when Drummond arrived in 1907, a city because of its two bishoprics.This is the thirteenth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England, the sixth column on the emergence of the NSW Country Party 

When seventeen year old David Drummond arrived in Armidale on that cold day in 1907, he had no idea that he would spend the rest of his life in the North, that twelve years later he would become involved in the formation of two political movements and would enter Parliament. 

Armidale had been established in 1839 as the administrative capital of a pastoral district that stretched from the end of the Hunter Valley up into what would become Queensland. While its period as capital of this vast territory was brief, the city had developed into an important administrative, religious and education centre. 

Despite its regional importance, Armidale was still a small place, classified as a city because of its two bishoprics, not because of its size. At the 1911 census, its population was just 4,738. 

The lad’s first job was to run a small mixed farm on the outskirts of Armidale. The year had been dry, the farm overstocked, there was no feed on the place, and fodder was scarce and expensive: 

“When I fed the stock well enough to keep them strong the owner - who appeared at weekends – growled when they had their ration reduced with resultant weakness he growled even more. It was the beginning of my education in the twin evils of drought and over-stocking.” 

By the time Drummond left the place the following autumn, he had the satisfaction of seeing the sheds full of hay and maize, while the surviving stock were sleek and strong.

The next three years were spent on farms around Armidale and partly on a sheep station at Kingstown, south of Uralla. His working hours were always long and not without risk because of the inevitable accidents associated with farm work.

At one stage the lad was almost crippled when the draught horse he was unharnessing bolted, jamming him between the cart wheel and the shed post. The old horse temporarily obeyed an order to stop, allowing Drummond to slip free; "Verily a cat has nine lives but a Scotchman ten”, he wrote to his step mother Martha.

Drummond enjoyed the work and fitted in well with the Tablelands' small farming communities. He shared their Christian beliefs and absorbed their simple, cooperative outlook. 

The Tablelands then produced considerable quantities of wheat and especially oats used as horse feed. Both crops were harvested by cooperative effort.

After being cut with a binder, they were stooked in the fields to dry and then built into round stacks. A contractor with teams of up to sixteen bullocks would bring a portable steam engine and large threshing machine onto the farms and thresh the grain.

The farmers in the area would then combine to supply a team of twenty to twenty-four men to carry out the threshing and later the chaff-cutting. The women from the farms would combine to cook and serve food. 

Throughout his life, Drummond would support the idea of cooperatives and collective effort.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020