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Frederick Furner Ward (1872–1954)

by Malcolm Saunders

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Frederick Furner Ward (1872-1954), by unknown photographer, c1950

Frederick Furner Ward (1872-1954), by unknown photographer, c1950

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23514984

Frederick Furner Ward (1872-1954), Labor Party secretary, was born on 11 May 1872 at Bowden, Adelaide, son of English-born Frederick Rousseau Ward, miller, and his wife Eliza, née Shiels. Educated at Port Adelaide Public School, at 14 he started work as a clerk with Malcolm Reid & Co., timber and iron merchants; he became an accountant, a traveller and eventually manager of the firm; later he was chief metropolitan traveller for Lion Timber Mills. On 16 June 1897 at the Port Adelaide Presbyterian Church he married Jessie McInnes Fraser (d.1954).

For over twenty years Ward chaired the 'Labor Ring' in the Botanic Park on Sunday afternoons. Having joined the Port Adelaide Democratic Club, he became a foundation member of the United Labor Party; he was its full-time secretary in 1922-44 and a board member of the Workers' Weekly Herald. He was president of the Saw Mill and Timber Workers' Union, a member of the Australian Workers' and of the Federated Clerks' unions, president and secretary of the Agricultural Implement and Machinery and Ironworkers' Association, and a delegate to the Port Adelaide and the United trades and labour councils in South Australia. He was also president of the State branches of the Movement Against War and Fascism, the Workers' Educational Association and the Dickens Fellowship. Being prominent in the Socialist League of South Australia did not preclude him from acting as superintendent of Lefevre Peninsula Presbyterian Sunday School. Ward was a tall, laconic, but quite obstinate and dogmatic man. At his desk he sat bolt upright; on walks he strode. Possessing impeccable manners, he dressed rather eccentrically, with wing collars, tussore shirts, and in summer a pith helmet; he cultivated a drooping moustache and smoked cigars. He played Australian Rules football when young and still played cricket at 73; he was a delegate to the South Australian Cricket Association and the South Australian Football League.

Ward was never adequately rewarded by the Labor Party. Deriving rent from Adelaide properties, he enjoyed financial security; for years, especially during the 1930s, he paid his own and sometimes his assistant secretary's salaries. He thrice failed to enter State parliament (1912, 1918, 1921) and twice unsuccessfully contested the Senate (1931 and 1937). Elected in 1946, he became the oldest person to enter that House (1 July 1947). There he stayed, quietly, until defeated in 1951 when he became a partner in the City Land Agency, Adelaide. The safe Senate seat had been compensation for having, to his dismay, lost the party secretaryship in 1944; as a meticulous organizer, he had taken no leave in seventeen years. Ward was an anti-conscriptionist in World War I and a vehement anti-communist in the 1920s; he then became more radical and alienated some right-wingers; by 1947 the local Communist Party extolled 'old Fred', the 'battler' and 'Labor stalwart'; in 1948 he was chairman of the South Australian branch of the Australian-Russian Society.

Survived by his son and daughter, Ward died on 31 December 1954 at Largs Bay and was buried in Cheltenham cemetery. Port Adelaide's streets were lined with mourners.

Select Bibliography

  • Communist Party of Australia, Catholic Action at Work (Syd, 1946)
  • R. Cooksey (ed), ‘The Great Depression in Australia’, Labour History, 1970, no 17
  • J. Moss, Sound of Trumpets (Adel, 1985)
  • Politics (Sydney), 6, no 1, May 1971, p 77
  • Labour History, Nov 1976, no 31
  • Daily Herald, 9 Feb 1923
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 14 Sept 1944, 30 Sept 1946, 1, 5 Jan 1955, 10 June 1983
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 14 Sept 1944
  • Workers' Weekly Herald, 26 Nov 1937, 15, 22, 29 Sept, 20 Oct 1944
  • Tribune (Adelaide), 2 Sept 1944, 11 July 1947
  • Sunday Mail (Adelaide), 1 Jan 1955
  • News (Adelaide), 3 Jan 1955
  • J. Playford, History of the Left-Wing of the South Australian Labor Movement, 1908-36 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1958)
  • R. Pettman, Factionalism in the Australian Labor Party: A South Australian Case Study, 1930-1933 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1967)
  • D. J. Hopgood, A Psephological Examination of the South Australian Labor Party from World War One to the Depression (Ph.D. thesis, Flinders University, 1974)
  • private information.

Citation details

Malcolm Saunders, 'Ward, Frederick Furner (1872–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Frederick Furner Ward (1872-1954), by unknown photographer, c1950

Frederick Furner Ward (1872-1954), by unknown photographer, c1950

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23514984

Life Summary [details]


11 May, 1872
Bowden, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


31 December, 1954 (aged 82)
Largs Bay, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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