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Blesing, Albert Percy (1879–1949)

by Jenny Tilby Stock

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Albert Percy Blesing (1879-1949), by Dimond Studio, 1933

Albert Percy Blesing (1879-1949), by Dimond Studio, 1933

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6323

Albert Percy Blesing (1879-1949), farmer and politician, was born on 9 September 1879 at Hamilton, near Kapunda, South Australia, one of eight children of Ernst Gotthilf Blesing, farmer, and his English-born wife Elizabeth, née Flower. Ernst's parents had migrated from the German States in 1841. When Percy was 6, the family moved to Laura where he attended the public school; at 12 he began full-time work as a farmhand. In 1893 his family took up Glenholme, a 1400-acre (567 ha) block at Bangor, nine miles (14 km) north-west of Wirrabara in the lower Flinders Ranges, and transformed it into a thriving mixed farm. Percy, however, spent years away, shearing in South Australia, New South Wales and New Zealand. He was dark haired, tall and robust, and sported a bushy moustache as a young man. On 4 July 1911 in the Methodist Church, Wellington Square, North Adelaide, he married Eliza Muriel Annie Glasson; they were to have five children. With his brother Victor, Percy took over Glenholme in 1912 and was sole owner from 1920.

A founding member (1917) of the Country Party Association, Blesing became a representative for the seat of Northern in the Legislative Council in 1924 and moved to suburban Prospect. After the rout of the non-Labor parties in the 1930 State polls, he and his House of Assembly colleague Archie Cameron took their party's rump into the Emergency Committee which helped in defeating the Scullin government in the 1931 Federal elections. Between May and June 1932 they negotiated the formation of the Liberal and Country League in South Australia. When (Sir) Richard Layton Butler led the L.C.L. to victory in April 1933, Blesing was appointed minister of agriculture and of local government.

His experience in farming, on the board of the South Australian Voluntary Wheat Pools Ltd and on the advisory committee to the board of the State Bank of South Australia made Blesing a stubborn advocate for his constituents. During his record term as minister of agriculture (1933-44) he fought for rural rehabilitation, agricultural education and the expansion of the Port Lincoln freezing works. As minister of local government (1933-38), he supervised a five-year road improvement programme; as minister of afforestation (1938-44), he promoted the extensive planting of pinus radiata in the State's south-east.

Yet, Blesing was out of his depth. Even the Country News, of which he was a director, acknowledged his inexperience of 'big business' and his tendency in parliament to 'skim the surface of the subject', leaving departmental officials 'to fill in the details'. Administration did not interest him. Failing to appreciate the role of cabinet, he burdened it with inappropriate concerns. In the Legislative Council he was outshone and outmanoeuvred by urbane, educated lawyers, businessmen and pastoralists. Premier (Sir) Thomas Playford disapproved of his minister's activities at Tattersall's Club and was irritated by his gaffes. After Blesing refused to resign his portfolio, in May 1944 Playford submitted the resignation of the entire cabinet and appointed a new one; Blesing was replaced by (Sir) George Jenkins.

Blesing was devastated. Although he sometimes voted against Playford, he was re-elected in 1947. He continued to play bowls and golf. Next year he was made a director of the South Australian Farmers' Co-operative Union Ltd. Following a gall-bladder operation, he died on 2 March 1949 in the Memorial Hospital, North Adelaide; he was accorded a state funeral and was buried at Wirrabara. His wife, two sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Sizer, Yet Still They Live (Adel, 1974)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Austraila), 1 Aug 1944, p 71, 2 Aug 1949, pp 87, 94, 156
  • South Australian Government, Gazette Extraordinary, 15 May 1944
  • Country News (Adelaide), 21 May, 4 June 1932, 4 Feb, 29 Apr, 6 May 1933, 21 Dec 1935
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 16 May 1944, 3, 4 Mar 1949
  • E. A. Herbert, A History of the Country Party in South Australia (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1959)
  • R. F. I. Smith, The Butler Government in South Australia, 1933-1938 (M.A. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1964).

Citation details

Jenny Tilby Stock, 'Blesing, Albert Percy (1879–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blesing-albert-percy-9526/text16773, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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