Frank Tudor

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Frank Tudor
Frank Tudor (cropped b&w).jpg
Leader of the Opposition
Elections: 1917, 1919
In office
17 February 1917 – 10 January 1922
Prime MinisterBilly Hughes
Preceded byJoseph Cook
Succeeded byMatthew Charlton
Leader of the Labor Party
In office
14 November 1916 – 10 January 1922
DeputyAlbert Gardiner
Preceded byBilly Hughes
Succeeded byMatthew Charlton
Minister for Trade and Customs
In office
17 September 1914 – 14 September 1916
Prime MinisterAndrew Fisher
Billy Hughes
Preceded byLittleton Groom
Succeeded byBilly Hughes (acting)
In office
29 April 1910 – 24 June 1913
Prime MinisterAndrew Fisher
Preceded byRobert Best
Succeeded byLittleton Groom
In office
13 November 1908 – 2 June 1909
Prime MinisterAndrew Fisher
Preceded byAustin Chapman
Succeeded byRobert Best
Member of the Australian Parliament for Yarra
In office
30 March 1901 – 10 January 1922
Preceded bySeat created
Succeeded byJames Scullin
Personal details
Born(1866-01-27)27 January 1866
Williamstown, Victoria Colony, British Empire
Died10 January 1922 (age 55)
Richmond, Victoria, Australia
Political partyLabor
Alice Smale
(m. 1894; wid. 1894)

Fanny Mead
(m. 1897)
EducationRichmond Central State School

Francis Gwynne Tudor (29 January 1866 – 10 January 1922) was an Australian politician who served as the leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1916 until his death. He had previously been a government minister under Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes.

Tudor was born in Melbourne to Welsh immigrant parents. He left school at a young age to enter the workforce, serving an apprenticeship in the felt hat industry and later studying his trade for periods in England and the United States. He became involved in trade unionism in England, and after returning to Australia served as president of the Felt Hatters' Union. Tudor was elected president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council in 1900. The following year, he was elected to the new federal parliament as a representative of the Labor Party. He was chosen as the parliamentary party's first whip, and held that position until entering cabinet in 1908.

Tudor served as Minister for Trade and Customs from 1908 to 1909, 1910 to 1913, and 1914 to 1916, in the governments of Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes. He remained loyal to the Labor Party during the split over conscription in 1916, and was elected party leader after Hughes' expulsion. He replaced Joseph Cook as leader of the opposition upon the formation of the third Hughes Ministry in February 1917. Tudor led Labor to the 1917 and 1919 federal elections, on both occasions suffering heavy defeats. His death in office at the age of 55 came after a long period of ill health. He was the first leader of a major Australian political party to die in office, and was accorded a state funeral.

Early life[edit]

Tudor was born to John Llewellyn Tudor, a ballastman, and Ellen Charlotte Tudor, née Burt, both of Welsh origin, on 29 January 1866 at Williamstown, Victoria. However, the family soon moved to the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, where Tudor lived most of his life.[1]

Upon leaving Richmond Central State School, and after short spells in a sawmill and a boot factory, Tudor entered the felt hat industry. Tudor apprenticed in Abbotsford and then travelled across Victoria in the hat trade. Tudor went to England, working in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, marrying Alice Smale in Denton, Lancashire in 1894. Smale died the same year, but Tudor continued in the felt hat trade by moving to London and becoming vice-president of the local branch of the Felt Hatters' Union. In 1897 Tudor remarried to Fanny Jane Mead.[1]

As vice-president of the union Tudor became interested in union politics (as many Labor politicians were before their entry into politics) and persuaded the British unions to adopt the union label principle. Returning to Australia, Tudor worked at Abbotsford's mills and took a seat in the Victorian Trades Hall Council. In 1900 he became president.[1]

Tudor was president of the Victorian Life Saving Society, and held a Bronze Medallion as a qualified life saver.[2] He had a long association with the Richmond Football Club, and served as club president from 1909 to 1918.[3][4]

Entry into politics[edit]

Tudor early in his political career

A prominent figure in Richmond, Victoria, Tudor turned the Division of Yarra into the safest Labor seat in the country by winning that seat by a large margin in the 1901 federal election. Tudor was a deacon of the Congregational Church and angered some Protestants with his calls for Home Rule for Ireland.[1]


Tudor in 1908

Tudor was immediately elected the Labor Party's whip and assistant secretary, before ascending to the position of secretary in 1904. Under the leadership of Andrew Fisher, he was Minister for Trade and Customs during the three Fisher ministries, from 1908–1909, 1910–1913, and 1914–1915.[5] According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, he was an "efficient administrator, with an eye for detail" who "made friends and earned respect on both sides of the House, and was considered to be the most moderate of the Victorian Labor members".[1]

Billy Hughes replaced Fisher as prime minister in 1915. Tudor maintained his position in the ministry, and initially remained neutral during the debate within the ALP over overseas conscription, which Hughes supported. After pressure from his local political labour council in Richmond, he eventually came out against conscription and resigned from the ministry in September 1916.[1] Tudor became a leader of the "No" campaign during the 1916 conscription referendum, alongside T. J. Ryan and William Higgs.[6] On 14 November, the ALP split irrevocably over the issue. Hughes led his supporters out of a caucus meeting and formed a new National Labor Party, allowing him to stay on as prime minister with the aid of the Liberals. On 15th November Tudor was elected unopposed as the new leader of the Labor Party in his place[7] – the party's first Australian-born leader. According to historian Denis Murphy, he was likely elected to the leadership simply because he was the first member of cabinet to resign over the issue.[8] Tudor did not succeed Liberal leader Joseph Cook as Leader of the Opposition until 17 February 1917, when the Third Hughes Ministry was sworn in with Hughes as leader of the composite Nationalist Party.[1]

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

Undated photo

Tudor led his party to a landslide defeat at the 1917 federal election. The ALP won just 22 seats out of 75, and the party was severely weakened by several of its senior figures following Hughes out of the party. Tudor was a leader of the successful "No" campaign at the 1917 conscription referendum. He was not regarded as a good public speaker, and his speeches were often seen as dull or confusing.[9]

While Tudor was respected within the ALP for his loyalty, he was often overshadowed by T. J. Ryan, the charismatic premier of Queensland. Ryan was the only remaining ALP premier in the country, and frequently campaigned outside his own state.[10] In May 1918, Tudor had to officially deny a report in The Age that he would step aside in favour of Ryan prior to the next federal election.[11] There was also some speculation that Fisher – who had been appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom – would return and resume the leadership. In May 1919, their former cabinet colleague King O'Malley wrote to Fisher in London that "many people are of the opinion that Labor will not win the next election under Tudor's leadership".[12]

Caricature of Tudor published in 1920

In October 1919, the ALP Federal Conference passed a resolution inviting Ryan to enter federal politics and appointed him as national campaign director. Tudor was "unconsciously insulted" by a number of delegates, who effectively declared that he could not lead Labor to an election victory.[13] His leadership was defended by his supporters in the Victorian delegation, who threatened a walkout, and also by those who viewed the resolution as usurping the role of the party caucus in choosing their leader.[14]

At the election later that year, Tudor led the ALP to a second heavy election loss – 26 seats out of 75. He was twice taken ill during the campaign with "attacks of hemorrhage".[15] Tudor was increasingly seen as an ineffectual leader, and several elements were contemplating replacing him with Ryan. However, Ryan's early death in 1921 prevented him from taking Tudor's place. Tudor's own health became markedly worse during 1921, and he was increasingly unable to carry out his duties.[1] In September 1921, the party elected Matthew Charlton as assistant leader in the House of Representatives.[16]


On 10 January 1922, Tudor died, aged 55. He was the first leader of the Labor Party to die in office,[1] and the first Opposition Leader never to become Prime Minister. He was succeeded as the member for Yarra by future Prime Minister James Scullin.

Tudor was the first of five consecutive Opposition Leaders who was not a former Prime Minister.

Tudor's estate was valued at £4,629, around half of which was real estate. His widow went bankrupt within the year, after her brother's firm (in which she had invested most of her money) went broke.[17]

Kim E. Beazley, who wrote a series of articles on ALP leaders for The Canberra Times in 1966, wrote of Tudor that he "held the Labor movement together in the face of massive forces of disintegration, and he did it by his dignity and utter absence of bitterness, hate or rancour".[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i McCalman, Janet. "Tudor, Francis Gwynne (Frank) (1866–1922)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  2. ^ The Australian Worker, 20 May 1915
  3. ^ "A brief history of Australian Rule's political scarf wearers and presidents". Crikey. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Club Officials". Richmond Football Club. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  5. ^ National Archives of Australia. "Australian Labor Party: The Hon Frank Tudor". Australian Labor Party. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  6. ^ Murphy, D. J. (1975). T. J. Ryan: A Political Biography. University of Queensland Press. p. 306. ISBN 0702209929.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  7. ^ Biography for TUDOR, the Hon. Frank Gwynne, Biographies, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from;query=Id%3A%22handbook%2Fallmps%2FKWL%22
  8. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 447.
  9. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 307, 309.
  10. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 371.
  11. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 372.
  12. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 421.
  13. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 455.
  14. ^ Murphy 1975, p. 457.
  15. ^ "Mr. Tudor's Movements". The Age. 8 November 1919.
  16. ^ "LABOR LEADERSHIP". The Age. 30 September 1921.
  17. ^ "WITHOUT RESOURCES: Late Frank Tudor's Widow", The Sun, 31 October 1922.
  18. ^ Beazley, Kim (15 February 1966). "The quiet man – Frank Tudor". The Canberra Times.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Cook
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Matthew Charlton
Preceded by
Austin Chapman
Minister for Trade and Customs
Succeeded by
Robert Best
Preceded by
Robert Best
Minister for Trade and Customs
Succeeded by
Littleton Groom
Preceded by
Littleton Groom
Minister for Trade and Customs
Succeeded by
Billy Hughes
Party political offices
Preceded by
Billy Hughes
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by
Matthew Charlton
Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Yarra
Succeeded by
James Scullin