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Reginald Pole Blundell (1871–1945)

by Dean Jaensch

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Reginald Pole Blundell (1871-1945), tobacco-twister, trade unionist and politician, was born on 4 February 1871 at Norwood, South Australia, son of John Pole Blundell, accountant and early Adelaide pioneer, and his wife Ida Rathburg, née Young. A Protestant, he was educated at Norwood Public School and then apprenticed as a tobacco-twister. On 10 January 1894 he married Alice Clara Gates at Norwood.

Blundell was involved with the labour movement as a young and active member of the Tobacco Twisters' Union of which he was secretary for eight years. Among other positions he became president of the Women's Employment Mutual Association (later Working Women's Trades Union), secretary of the Drivers' Union, and a member of the Richmond Democratic Club, the Eight Hours' Day Committee, the board of management of the Daily Herald and the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia. He was secretary of the T.L.C. for some years and president in 1905. He was also a staunch member of the Australian Labor Party and president of the State branch in 1912.

Blundell was first elected to the House of Assembly at a by-election for Adelaide in 1907. He was re-elected in 1910, 1912 and 1915, and was government whip and secretary of the parliamentary party in 1910-12. He continually argued for the reduction of the working week, the rights of women workers and improved factory legislation. He took a special interest in the state of the Destitute Asylum. Optimistic, he saw 'on all sides … an expansion of life, new possibilities of enjoyment, physical, intellectual … daily opening for the masses'. He was always well prepared with facts, figures and the views of overseas authorities, and was fond of quoting poetry.

On the formation of the Labor ministry of Crawford Vaughan in 1915, Blundell held the portfolios of industry, mines and marine. In 1917, however, he left the A.L.P. over the conscription issue and joined the National Labor Party. He was in A. H. Peake's Liberal-National coalition ministry from 17 August 1917 as minister for repatriation, agriculture and industry, but was defeated in the 1918 election. He had a been member of select committees on northern railways in 1910 and on the metropolitan abattoirs in 1913-15.

In 1918 Blundell was the organizing secretary of the National Party of South Australia and won the Federal seat of Adelaide as a Nationalist in the 1919 elections. In 1922 the A.L.P. candidate defeated him and he returned to his former trade, working for W. D. & H. O. Wills (Aust) Ltd for the next fifteen years as a traveller on the west coast.

Blundell was described by T. H. Smeaton as 'an enthusiast among enthusiasts; he has been ubiquitous in service in every movement that has any relation to the welfare of the workers'. His colleagues praised him as 'energetic and capable' and as 'an active worker for trade unionism'. He died of pernicious anaemia at Helmsdale on 9 August 1945 leaving an estate sworn for probate at £440. Survived by his wife, three daughters and three sons, he was buried in North Brighton cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • T. H. Smeaton, The People in Politics (Adel, 1914)
  • S. O'Flaherty, The Australian Labor Party, South Australian Branch (Adel, 1956)
  • D. J. Murphy (ed), Labor in Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 1907-15
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Aug 1945.

Citation details

Dean Jaensch, 'Blundell, Reginald Pole (1871–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012