This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979
Arthur Ranken Blackwood is a minor entry in this article
Robert Officer Blackwood (1861-1940), businessman and pastoralist, was born on 24 June 1861 at Woodlands, near Crowlands in the Wimmera district of Victoria, eldest son of Richard Blackwood (d.1881), of Woodlands and Hartwood, near Deniliquin, New South Wales, and his wife Isabella, née Officer. He was a nephew of James and John Hutchison Blackwood.
Blackwood attended Melbourne Church of England Grammar School in 1878-79; he was a keen athlete and was in the football and rifle teams. In 1882 he matriculated and was admitted to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he took up boxing; he left the university that year. In 1886 he was runner-up for the amateur light-weight boxing championship of England. When Hartwood was put up for sale by his father's executors in 1889, Blackwood returned to Australia and purchased it with his brothers George and Harry, taking over the management himself. In 1913 they sold the property to J. H. Patterson.
Blackwood was active in the Deniliquin district in his support of railway extension and water-conservation. He was a council-member of the Pastoralists' Association of Victoria and Southern Riverina and in 1906 became a trustee and later vice-president of the Pastoralists' Union of Southern Riverina. In 1907 he became first president of the Conargo Shire. A free trader and supporter of (Sir) George Reid, Blackwood was elected by five votes to the House of Representatives seat of Riverina in December 1903. However, he was unseated on petition by the former member J. M. Chanter who claimed electoral irregularities, based on statements by one Edward Healy. In the subsequent election of May 1904 Blackwood lost to Chanter. He was later cleared of all allegations (known as the Healy charges) but never stood for parliament again.
In 1905 Blackwood was appointed to the local board of advice of Dalgety & Co., Melbourne, becoming chairman in 1925-27. He was a director of many companies, including the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd and several associated companies, the Trustees, Executors & Agency Co. Ltd and Australian Iron and Steel Ltd, and was chairman of directors of Australian Farms Ltd, which went into liquidation in 1925. Blackwood was president of the Victorian Employers' Association for five years and of the Registered Clubs' Association of Victoria in 1916-30, and was a member of the Edward Wilson Trust in 1921-40. He was a councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society from 1917, vice-president in 1920-38 and a trustee thereafter.
Blackwood was Presbyterian by birth; his marriage at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, on 23 July 1895 to Constance Ferrier Hamilton was a fashionable occasion. A slim, elegant man of great integrity and little humour, Blackwood devoted himself to music and business while Constance dwelt mostly overseas. He enjoyed collecting paintings, cabinet-making, shooting and golf. He was president of the Melbourne Club in 1911, and a member of the Royal Melbourne Golf and the Victoria clubs. Despite failing health he maintained close contact with his business affairs almost to the day of his death on 22 September 1940 at Landene, St Kilda Road. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery, survived by his wife; there were no children.
His cousin Arthur Ranken Blackwood (1850-1905) was born on 12 January 1850 at Hobart Town, only son of James Blackwood and his wife Eliza, née Officer. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School (1858-64), Harrow School (1865), and Balliol College, Oxford (B.A., 1873; M.A., 1888) and was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple in 1875. In Melbourne on 15 October 1885 he married May Cunningham; their only child died young. Admitted a partner in 1879 in the firm of Dalgety, Blackwood & Co., in 1884 he became joint managing director with James Aitken of Dalgety & Co. Ltd. He was first chairman of directors of B.H.P. in 1885, but resigned next April after disagreements with G. McCulloch. He was also director of the Silverton Tramway Co. Ltd and of several other companies. In 1889 he was appointed colonial superintendent of Dalgety & Co.; in 1900-05 he was a member of the company's local board of advice.
Blackwood was a partner in Nyang, near Deniliquin, and Talawanta, on the Darling; he was also part-owner of the Morven Hills estate in New Zealand where he used to go deer-shooting. He was a member of the Melbourne Club and chairman of the Victoria Amateur Turf Club in 1884-85; his horse Vengeance won the Caulfield Cup in 1890. He died at Malvern on 2 February 1905 of cerebral haemorrhage and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £4606.
Margaret Carnegie, 'Blackwood, Arthur Ranken (1850–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blackwood-arthur-ranken-5633/text8873, accessed 21 May 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979