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David Henry Drummond (1890–1965)

by Jim Belshaw

This article was published:

David Henry Drummond (1890-1965), by unknown photographer

David Henry Drummond (1890-1965), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 22872

David Henry Drummond (1890-1965), farmer and politician, was born on 11 February 1890 at Lewisham, Sydney, fourth son of Scottish parents Morris Cook Drummond (d.1896) stonemason, and his wife Catherine (d.1892), née McMillan. He was educated at public schools and, in 1901, at Scots College until financial problems forced him to leave in May 1902 to begin work. In October he came into the custody of the New South Wales State Children's Relief Board as a ward of the state.

In 1907 Drummond went to Armidale as a farm-hand and in 1911 moved to Inverell as a share-farmer and manager of Oakwood, a wheat-property. On 11 March 1913 at Uralla he married Pearl Hilda Victoria Goode, daughter of a grazier. A childhood infection had left him deaf and in 1915 he was rejected for war service. He was active in the Farmers and Settlers' Association, and in 1919 became an organizer for the new Progressive Party, formed by the F.S.A. and the Grazier's Association of New South Wales. In the elections of 1920 he and (Sir) Michael Bruxner won seats in the Legislative Assembly. Drummond retained his place in 1922 and 1925, and on the return to single-member seats in 1927 he won Armidale, keeping it until 1949.

In 1921 Drummond was one of the 'True Blues' who stood out against a coalition with (Sir) George Fuller, and later described themselves as the Country Party. He was on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1922-25 and deputy chairman of committees from 1922 to 1927. From 1925 he was on the executive of the F.S.A. and was its president in 1927-28. He was a foundation executive-member of the Northern New State Movement.

Drummond was minister for education in the Bavin ministry in 1927-30, and again in the Stevens-Bruxner and Mair-Bruxner coalitions from 1932 to 1941. He proved an energetic and authoritative minister. At first he concentrated on rural education: the junior farmers' movement, Australia's first country teachers' college (at Armidale), and increased construction of small rural schools.

During his long second term he widened his perspectives. Aware of the importance of technical education, he established in 1936 the Council of State Education Ministers to seek Commonwealth assistance for it. He desired to 'develop local participation in education', and his Technical Education Act of 1940 shared the control of technical colleges with various local authorities. He also promoted the University of New England, established as a college of the University of Sydney in 1937. Drummond was a member of its council from 1954 and was given an honorary D.Litt. in 1957. His account of the foundation of the university was published in 1959 as A University is Born.

Drummond had ministerial responsibility also for the New South Wales Child Welfare Department, which had replaced the State Children's Relief Board in 1923. His Child Welfare Act of 1939 provided the legislative framework for children's welfare for the next forty years. Widely read and well-known for his love of literature, he also carried through the Library Act which established the State system of public libraries. The same year he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Throughout his career Drummond was interested in constitutional issues. He played an important part in the reconstruction of the Legislative Council in 1933, and published three books and several articles on constitutional topics. In 1931 he was prominent in the merger of the new State movements with the Country Party to form the United Country Movement. As deputy leader of the parliamentary party in 1939-49, he helped to reorganize the party after its 1941 election disaster, and to write its new constitution of 1946.

Drummond resigned his seat in 1949 and won New England in the Federal elections. He became an influential back-bencher, heading discussions which lead to the formation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Constitutional Review in 1956; its report in 1959 recommended an easier passage for proposals to create new States, a matter favoured by Drummond for forty years. He was also a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1952 to 1961, and attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference of 1956 in Bangkok. He retired from parliament in 1963.

In Armidale, Drummond was a leading citizen, and a director of the Armidale Newspaper Co. Ltd, Northern Newspapers Pty Ltd, and Television New England Ltd. The Armidale Express faithfully echoed his ideas and publicized his achievements. He was a regular churchgoer and a committed Christian, while his family background gave him a continuing concern for the underdog. He was a big man, with a sonorous voice and a certain presence. He enjoyed tennis and fishing, was a foundation member of the Australian Geographical Society in 1943, and belonged to the University and Great Public Schools clubs.

Drummond was seriously injured and his wife killed in a car crash in 1958; on 21 December 1959 at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, he married Amy Laing. He died in hospital at Armidale on 13 June 1965 and was buried in the Methodist section of Armidale cemetery after a service in the Presbyterian church. He was survived by his second wife and four of six daughters of his first marriage. Portraits by Norman Carter are held by the University of New England and the Armidale College of Advanced Education, and one by Judy Cassab is in the university's Drummond College. In Armidale a school and park were also named after him, and a memorial has been built overlooking the city.

Select Bibliography

  • U. R. Ellis, New Australian States (Syd, 1933), and The Country Party (Melb, 1958)
  • D. Aitkin, The Colonel (Canb, 1969), and The Country Party in New South Wales (Canb, 1972)
  • C. B. Newling, The Long Day Wanes (Syd, 1973)
  • B. A. Mitchell, Teachers, Education, and Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • B. Bessant and A. Spaull, Politics and Schooling (Melb, 1976)
  • Armidale Historical Society, Journal and Proceedings, Mar 1979.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jim Belshaw, 'Drummond, David Henry (1890–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

David Henry Drummond (1890-1965), by unknown photographer

David Henry Drummond (1890-1965), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 22872

Life Summary [details]


11 February, 1890
Lewisham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 June, 1965 (aged 75)
Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

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