Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Bamford, Frederick William (1849–1934)

by D. W. Hunt

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

Frederick Bamford, by Swiss Studios, 1920s

Frederick Bamford, by Swiss Studios, 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an22931526

Frederick William Bamford (1849-1934), politician, was born at Dubbo, New South Wales, on 11 February 1849, son of Frederick Bamford, builder, and his wife Mary Anne, née McKay. He was educated at Toowomba, Queensland, where his family lived from 1854. Apprenticed to a carpenter at 14, he probably worked round Toowoomba for nearly twenty years; he was married there on 7 September 1871 to Mary Ann Miller.

Bamford and a partner began cabinet-making at Mackay in July 1882; they quarrelled and dissolved the partnership in December and Bamford was declared insolvent in April 1884. He was employed in September 1885 as inspector of railway bridges around Cairns and was discharged from bankruptcy in November. In 1892 he transferred to Bowen and early in 1894 became licensee of the Sportsman's Arms. He joined a Democratic Association in December 1895, was its candidate for Bowen in the general election next April, but was narrowly defeated. He moved to the Railway Hotel, became local secretary of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, joined the Chamber of Commerce and was elected to the municipal council in 1897; next year he was mayor of Bowen. After failing in a second parliamentary candidature in March 1899, he resigned from the municipal council in July and worked on a Townsville newspaper. In 1901 he became the official Australian Labor Party candidate for the Federal seat of Herbert. Campaigning against Kanaka labour on the northern sugar-fields, he won the seat narrowly.

Bamford was soon known in parliament as a competent speaker, an advocate of White Australia and a keen and consistent supporter of subsidies and protection for the sugar industry. He was a member of the royal commissions on old-age pensions (1906), the Tasmanian customs leakage (1911), chairman of the commissions on the pearling industry (1913) and the New Hebrides mail services (1915), temporary chairman of committees in the House of Representatives in 1911-22, and a member of the standing committee on public works in 1920. In 1902-16 Bamford was vice-president of the Waterside Workers' Federation, and established a friendship with W. M. Hughes, who was president over the same period.

Bamford had always shown his concern for Australian defence, which to him was founded on unquestioned loyalty to Great Britain and, after 1914, on vigorous prosecution of the war in Europe. He urged conscription for overseas service as early as July 1915, being the first member of the House of Representatives openly to do so. He was expelled from the A.L.P. on 30 October 1916, joined Hughes in the walk-out from caucus on 14 November and became minister for home and territories in the National Labor government of 1916-17. He was connected with no important legislation, however, and his brief spell in the ministry was more a recognition of his personal ties with Hughes, outspoken support of conscription and general popularity than of noteworthy ability. His widely appreciated affability, together with respect for his age and parliamentary service, brought him appointment as chairman of committees and deputy Speaker from 1923 until his retirement from parliament in 1925. Although not very active in the position, he was reasonably efficient and impartial.

Bamford's career was remarkable mainly for his continued electoral success as a Nationalist after 1916 in an electorate normally safe for Labor. This was chiefly a consequence of his widespread personal popularity, as well as his earnest support of the sugar-farmers' cause. He thus exemplified a political tradition of North Queensland where personality is often a particularly important ingredient of electoral success.

After his retirement, Bamford spent nine years in comfortable obscurity in Sydney, where he died on 10 September 1934. He was cremated with Anglican rites, and was survived by three sons and two daughters. 'Everyone likes Fred', the Brisbane Worker had declared in 1914, and this judgment was shared by colleagues and constituents.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Weller (ed), Caucus Minutes, 1901-1949 (Melb, 1975)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queenslad), 1887, 3, 1250-51
  • H. McQueen, ‘Who were the Conscriptionists?’, Labor History, no 16, May 1969
  • Worker (Brisbane), 26 Feb 1910, 6 Aug 1914
  • Punch (Melbourne), 21 Dec 1916
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Sept 1934
  • D. W. Hunt, Federal Politics in the Herbert Electorate, 1915-1925 (B.A. Hons thesis, James Cook University, 1974)
  • Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia, Federal Council Minutes, 4 Feb 1902, 15 Aug, 19 Sept 1916 (Australian National University Archives)
  • Queensland Labor Party, Central Political Executive minutes, 30 Oct 1916 (Labor House, Brisbane).

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

D. W. Hunt, 'Bamford, Frederick William (1849–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 31 July 2021.

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

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2021