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Francis Walter (Frank) Lundie (1866–1933)

by Steven Weeks

This article was published:

Francis Walter Lundie (1866-1933), by unknown photographer, c1905

Francis Walter Lundie (1866-1933), by unknown photographer, c1905

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 782

Francis Walter (Frank) Lundie (1866-1933), union official, was born on 1 March 1866 at Port Adelaide, son of John Lundie, railway labourer, and his wife Maryann Josephine, née Moran. He attended Port Adelaide and Morgan public schools before starting work at 11 as a station-hand, shearer, and bullock-puncher in western New South Wales.

Lundie joined the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia (from 1894 Australian Workers' Union) in 1887 and two years later became president of its Adelaide branch. He was its paid, full-time organizer from 1892 until 1900 when he became secretary, a position he kept until his death. Never 'an indoor official', Lundie rode a bicycle to the shearing sheds on the Darling River and in south-east South Australia. In 1894-1900 he was also agent for the A.W.U. at Broken Hill, New South Wales, where he helped to lead the 1894 shearers' strike; and he was president of the South Australian branch of the United Labourers' Union in 1907-12. On 20 January 1891 at Brompton Lundie had married Elizabeth Margaret Battens Armstrong (d.1907). On 20 January 1909 at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide, he married Edith Mary Armstrong.

Lundie helped to make the A.W.U. the State's largest, most powerful union. While not a dogmatic syndicalist, he believed that direct action was better than arbitration or political action in the struggle to improve wages and conditions for unskilled workers. This philosophy often distanced him from both the more moderate State Labor men and the A.W.U.'s national leadership. A key member of the United Labor Party of South Australia, he had helped to organize the election of three Labor members to the House of Assembly in 1893. But Lundie believed that the party should be controlled by the working class in their interests and he sought to overthrow the dominant politicians and moderate craft union leaders.

He promoted several bitter industrial disputes with the Verran Labor government in 1910; some labour leaders hated him as the 'industrial King of Adelaide' nearly as much as the Establishment did. Throughout Verran's premiership (June 1910–February 1912), Lundie and the A.W.U. tried to capture control of the U.L.P. organization but they won rank and file support only for minor concessions. Not until the majority of the U.L.P. membership deserted the party's leadership in 1917, because of the latter's support for conscription, was Lundie able, skilfully and ruthlessly, to manipulate this resentment and take over the party. After most of the parliamentarians were effectively expelled in February, an A.W.U.-dominated executive was elected with Lundie as president. That year he became the union's national president, defeating W. G. Spence, but lost the position to Arthur Blakeley in 1919. Lundie was also a director of Labor Papers Ltd.

His political and industrial extremism diminished, but he remained a force in the Labor Party, as State vice-president in 1924-25 and 1929-30. However, he had failed to gain election to the Senate in 1917 and 1919 and to the House of Assembly in 1905 and 1924. He sat on the royal commission on the pastoral industry in 1927.

In 1900-09 Lundie had been a member of the Port Adelaide City Council and, with A. A. Edwards and S. R. Whitford, was a Labor member of the Adelaide City Council in 1909-31. A teetotaller, he provoked conservatives with his fiery temper and militancy.

Predeceased by his second wife, and survived by seven daughters and five sons, Lundie died on 13 July 1933. His tall, grey, angular presence was deeply missed in the movement where he had represented uncompromising socialist rectitude and humanity. About 1000 people, representing all classes, several races, and many poor people attended his burial in West Terrace cemetery. An ex-prisoners' hostel in Whitmore Square was established and named after him in 1963.

Select Bibliography

  • D. J. Murphy (ed), Labor in Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • Australian Worker, 6 May 1905, 1 Feb 1917, 19 July 1933
  • Mail (Adelaide), 12 Oct 1912
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 14 July 1933
  • S. Weeks, The Relationship Between the Australian Workers' Union and the South Australian Labor Party, 1908-1918 (B.A. Hons thesis, Flinders University, 1981).

Citation details

Steven Weeks, 'Lundie, Francis Walter (Frank) (1866–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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