- BLYTH, Sir Arthur (1823-1891)
- premier of South Australiason of William Blyth and his wife Sarah Wilkins, was born at Birmingham on 21 March 1823. He was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, and arrived with his parents in South Australia in 1839. His father, who afterwards became a city councillor, established an ironmongery business at Adelaide, which Blyth entered with his brother Neville. He interested himself in municipal work and was a member of the central road board. In 1855 he was elected for Yatala in the old legislative council and assisted in framing the new constitution. Early in 1857 he was elected as one of the representatives of Gumeracha in the first house of assembly, and in August became commissioner of public works in the John Baker ministry which, however, was defeated on 1 September. On 12 June 1858 he was given the same position in the Hanson (q.v.) ministry, which remained in power until May 1860. In October 1861 he held the treasurer's portfolio in the Waterhouse (q.v.) ministry which, however, was reconstructed nine days later, when Blyth dropped out. He came back to the ministry, however, as treasurer in February 1862, and was selected as one of the three representatives of South Australia at the intercolonial conference held shortly afterwards. On 4 August 1864 Blyth, taking the positions of premier and commissioner of crown lands and immigration, formed his first ministry, but it was difficult to do useful work, much time being wasted in no-confidence motions. Blyth resigned on 22 March 1865, was treasurer in the third ministry formed by Ayers (q.v.), but was out of office again in little more than a month. In March 1866 he became chief secretary in Boucaut's (q.v.) first ministry from March 1866 to May 1867. He was treasurer again in the first Hart (q.v.) ministry in September 1868, but this ministry was defeated three weeks later. He took the position of commissioner of crown lands and immigration in the second Hart ministry, which lasted from 30 May 1870 to 10 November 1871, when Blyth formed his second ministry, but resigned only ten weeks later. On 22 July 1873 he again became premier and this time took the portfolio of chief secretary. This ministry was a comparatively stable one and lasted until June 1875. It succeeded in doing something for immigration, and after a stern fight passed a free, secular, and compulsory education bill through the assembly. This was defeated in the council. It succeeded, however, in passing an act incorporating the university of Adelaide. On 25 March 1876 Blyth became treasurer in the third Boucaut ministry which resigned less than three months later. In February 1877 he was appointed agent-general for South Australia in London and held the position capably for many years. He was one of the representatives of South Australia at the 1887 colonial conference. He died in England on 7 December 1891. In 1850 he married Jessie Ann, daughter of Edward Forrest, who survived him with one son and two daughters. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1877 and C.B. in 1886. A good business man of great common sense Blyth was in eleven cabinets and was three times premier. It was, however, a difficult time for legislation and beyond the Torrens (q.v.) real estate act which Blyth supported, comparatively little important legislation was passed in his period. His brother Neville Blyth (1828-90) was a member of the South Australian house of assembly for several years between 1860 and 1878. He was treasurer from 24 September to 13 October 1868 and minister of education from 26 October 1877 to 27 September 1878. He then went to England where he died on 15 February 1890.The South Australian Register, 9 December 1891; The Advertiser, Adelaide. 9 December 1891; E. Hodder, The History of South Australia; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1891.
Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. Angus and Robertson. 1949.
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