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Buttenshaw, Ernest Albert (1876–1950)

by Beverley Kingston

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

Ernest Albert Buttenshaw (1876-1950), by unknown photographer, 1932

Ernest Albert Buttenshaw (1876-1950), by unknown photographer, 1932

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 03116

Ernest Albert Buttenshaw (1876-1950), farmer and politician, was born on 23 May 1876 at Marengo, New South Wales, eldest son of Henry Buttenshaw, blacksmith and later farmer, and his wife Mary Jane, née West. He was educated at Young Superior Public School; at 14 he began work in the Post Office, but left two years later to work on a farm near Grogan. From 1898 he managed his father's farm at Lake Cowal and in 1904 selected his own block at Billys Lookout near West Wyalong. On 11 February 1903 he had married Lucy Isabel Dean (d.1925). During World War I he cultivated 1400 acres (567 ha) of wheat. In 1912-18 he was a member of Bland Shire Council and president in 1914-18.

Buttenshaw had joined the Farmers and Settlers' Association in 1897 and, a member of its executive in 1910-27, became president in 1922-23 and 1925-26. He was chairman of the Voluntary Wheat Pool in 1921-25. As a Nationalist, he won the Legislative Assembly seat of Lachlan in 1917, representing Murrumbidgee in 1918-27 and Lachlan in 1927-38. He soon joined the Progressive Party and was whip and parliamentary secretary in 1920-22. One of the 'True Blues' who refused to join Sir George Fuller's coalition ministry in 1922, he was deputy leader in 1922-25, and then leader of the renamed Country Party. Buttenshaw came to an arrangement with (Sir) T. R. Bavin for the 1927 elections and, prompted by (Sir) M. F. Bruxner, held out for four portfolios in the coalition: he was secretary for public works in 1927-30, and minister for railways in 1927-29.

An energetic minister, Buttenshaw secured generous funds for water, sewerage and railways in the wheat districts. As acting premier from April to August 1929, he attended the Premiers' Conference in May which met without the Commonwealth and issued an ultimatum to S. M. (Viscount) Bruce, the prime minister, on arbitration. He also had to contend with the New South Wales coal strike, and tried to abolish rural wage-awards. Buttenshaw relied heavily on Bruxner for advice and on 26 April 1932 stood down as leader, becoming deputy. He was secretary for lands in the (Sir) Bertram Stevens-Bruxner ministry in 1932-38. Buttenshaw repeatedly visited country electorates and tried to extend closer settlement, especially in areas where irrigation was possible; he also tried to provide recreational and sporting facilities. He resigned his portfolio on 31 January 1938 and did not stand at the general election in March.

A director of the Farmers & Graziers' Co-operative Grain, Insurance & Agency Co. Ltd from 1931, Buttenshaw was chairman and managing director in 1938-50, and presided over record growth by the company. He was also president of the Circular Quay Association from 1938. Well-known as a cricketer and tennis-player, he was a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground from 1935, a vice-president of the New South Wales Lawn Tennis Association and of the Royal Agricultural Society, and sometime president of Strathfield Golf Club. From 1942 he sat on the Central Wool Committee.

Buttenshaw had been a warden of St Andrew's Church of England, Strathfield. He died of cancer on 26 June 1950 at his home at Ashfield and was cremated. He was survived by three sons and four daughters of his first marriage, and by his second wife Clare (Clara), née Sugars, a nurse whom he had married on 8 December 1928. His estate was valued for probate at £10,494.

Select Bibliography

  • Who's Who in the Progressive Party (Syd, 1925)
  • U. Ellis, The Country Party (Melb, 1958)
  • B. D. Graham, The Formation of the Australian Country Parties (Canb, 1966)
  • D. Aitkin, The Colonel (Canb, 1969)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1950
  • Land (Sydney), 30 June 1950
  • private information.

Citation details

Beverley Kingston, 'Buttenshaw, Ernest Albert (1876–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buttenshaw-ernest-albert-5453/text9261, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 September 2018.

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

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