Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gustave Blanc (1876–1959)

by James Preston

This article was published:

Gustave Blanc (1876-1959), axeman, was born on 11 August 1876 at Alberton, Victoria, son of Francis (François) Edward Blanc, French-born vigneron and farmer, and his Irish-born wife Hannah, née Dorgan. Francis Blanc had come to Gippsland to manage a vineyard at Alberton but, as the climate was unsuitable, selected land at Alberton West (1880) where he built up a mixed farm, and at Binginwarri (1889).

Gus Blanc was educated at Alberton West State School. He showed early talent as an all-round athlete, but excelled as an axeman, a skill he developed clearing virgin bush on the Binginwarri selection. He won his first woodchopping contest at Foster on Boxing Day 1899, and during 1900 succeeded in several events in the 2 ft (61 cm) standing and underhand events; in his first year of competitive chopping he was made a backmarker. In 1901 he tried his luck in Tasmania and at Burnie won the 2 ft underhand contest—his first world championship. In 1903 Blanc reached the peak of his career when, in Devonport, Tasmania, he captured the world championship 2 ft standing block event in the time of 3 minutes 58 seconds—a record still unbroken when he died. A week later he won the underhand 2 ft log championship, thus completing the first world championship double. At Launceston in 1904 he again won the double championship in 2 ft logs. The same year he toured New Zealand and was successful in the national 2 ft standing block championship. He visited Western Australia in 1910 and carried off the State's standing and underhand championships. In 1905 he cut a 36 in (91.4 cm) blackbutt standing block in eleven blows. Next year he won the Australian 6 ft (183 cm) girth underhand championship in 1 minute 56 seconds—another record which stood for many years.

During his long career as an axeman Blanc gave away many long starts in handicaps. He once conceded 40 seconds in a 36 in. standing block contest and the first, second and third logs fell before he began; cheered by the crowd, he then cut his log in 16 seconds. In his prime he was such a fine athlete that at one gathering in Gippsland, Victoria, he won every event in the woodchopping programme; he then went on to win the 75 (68.5 m) and 100 (91 m) yards foot races, the high jump, the long jump, the hop, step and jump, putting the shot and tossing the caber. Tall and broad-shouldered, he exemplified perfect physical fitness.

On 26 April 1911 at St Mary's Catholic Church, Yarram, Blanc married Eliza Newton, daughter of pioneers of the Port Albert district. After his marriage he did little competitive chopping—partly because handicapping made it almost impossible to win, and partly because of the demands of his dairy farm at Binginwarri. For many years he acted as official handicapper and starter for local axemen's events and helped to organize woodchopping and other sporting events at district meetings. He was president of the football club, played competitive cricket into his fifties and delighted in encouraging young people to join in sporting activities; his bright and breezy personality made him widely popular and he helped many a neighbour in trouble.

Blanc died on 1 October 1959 in the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, predeceased by his wife and survived by his four daughters. He was buried in Alberton cemetery with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Preston, Racing Axemen (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

James Preston, 'Blanc, Gustave (1876–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 August, 1876
Alberton, Victoria, Australia


1 October, 1959 (aged 83)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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