Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boyle, Ignatius George (1882–1960)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Ignatius George Boyle (1882-1960), publican and politician, was born on 1 January 1882 at Fremantle, Western Australia, son of Francis William Boyle, warder, and his wife Ellen, née Kelly. Educated at St Joseph's Convent, Fremantle, and a foundation student of Christian Brothers' College, Perth, he left school in 1897 for a clerical job in the West Australian Government Railways. He resigned in 1903, then kept a store at Kelmscott where on 9 September 1908 he married Catherine Mary Murphy; they had four children.

Boyle was briefly licensee of the Serpentine Hotel in 1912, then went to Albany as manager for Barnett Bros. While licensee of the Premier Hotel, he became a member of the Albany Municipal Council in 1915-20. He had the Cleopatra Hotel at Fremantle in 1920-22, and was employed by the United Licensed Victuallers' Association in 1922-23 before moving to the Newcastle Hotel at Toodyay. Standing for the Legislative Assembly in 1924 and 1927, he polled well round Toodyay but lost each time to his fellow Country party member John Lindsay who controlled the eastern wheat-belt. Boyle became a member of the Toodyay Road Board in 1928 and at once mounted a successful challenge to the retiring chairman. In two years he substantially reduced overdrafts and improved local amenities, but on resigning in April 1930 to contest the Toodyay seat a third time he was again defeated.

The Depression brought him to prominence as an agrarian demagogue. Wheatgrowers who had met the State government's pleas for a record crop were bitterly disappointed when falling export prices increased their debts. Boyle, who had bought a farm at Buntine West, became one of the moving spirits of the Wheatgrowers' Union, formed late in 1930; he was president in 1931-35 and chairman of directors of its propaganda organ, the Wheatgrower. Modelling its tactics partly on the trade union movement, the union was more militant than the older Primary Producers' Association, and gained strong support in the newer and poorer wheat-belt areas. Boyle led a well organized agitation for guaranteed minimum prices which culminated at the harvest of 1932 in the 'wheatgrowers' strike'. In many central and eastern districts, farmers voted not to market wheat until they were satisfied. The Commonwealth refused to increase the wheat subsidy and the State parliament voted against a levy on wheat sold for home consumption. By mid-December the strike collapsed.

Yet Boyle's reputation still stood high. He was national president of the Australian Wheatgrowers' Federation in 1933 and in Western Australia strongly supported the secession movement, popular among wheat-farmers. At a by-election in May 1935, however, he accepted nomination from the Country Party and became its member for Avon. It was a disastrous mistake. The Wheatgrowers' Union saw him as a deserter, and the Country Party remained in opposition throughout his time in parliament. His main achievement, with the support of rural Labor members, was establishment of a select committee on the education system in 1938; country school children benefited from its report. Defeated narrowly by a Labor candidate in 1943, Boyle appealed against the result but was beaten more soundly at the ensuing by-election in 1944. Two years later he stood unsuccessfully for the Senate. The Wheatgrowers' Union amalgamated reluctantly with its old rival, the Primary Producers' Association, in 1947. He died of hypertension and heart failure at his home at Mount Lawley on 15 June 1960, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Boyle was a lifelong Roman Catholic and a keen and good amateur footballer and cricketer. A heavily built florid man, he was resourceful, resilient and energetic. He showed no great originality in his political ideas, but proved himself almost too shrewd and assiduous as fixer and organizer for a rural protest movement. With a little more luck and a little less literacy, he might have been the Albert Dunstan of Western Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1972)
  • B. K. Hyams, The Political Organisation of Farmers in Western Australia from 1914 to 1944 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1964).

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Boyle, Ignatius George (1882–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boyle-ignatius-george-5327/text9001, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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