Reprint: Randolph Bedford. Miner-Writer-Politician

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To those who knew him well the late Randolph Bedford was a big-hearted, genial friend; to many others he was an enigma, and to many thousands he was a legend. That is precisely as he wished it to be.

Mr. Bedford became ill while visiting Sydney and returned to Brisbane last week to take a rest of several weeks in hospital ordered by his doctor.

A prolific writer in prose and verse probably the last literary contribution from his pen was a long, patriotic poem, "Voices of the Brave," which was published in "The Courier-Mail" on June 28.

It contained the following verse, which struck a note of sympathy and resolve in the heart of every loyal Australian:    

   Oh! My brothers! Labour soldiers in the mine, and forge, and mill,
   With yet another turning of the lathe and of the drill;
   Each precious minute salvaged from the avid sink of time  
   May save another soldier and avert another crime.        
   No faint heart can be here, if but we steel the soul and will;   
   No laggard here to help the foe of all the world to kill.

Mr. Bedford was a remarkable man, mentally and physically big, with a manner that presented him in a full, life-sized setting in most things that he said and did. He was essentially a fighter, with a blade forged and chilled in the battles of more than half a century, and he loved an adventure.

He was born in Sydney, but at 16 he was in the western districts, and at 17 he began to tread the Inky Way at Hay, in New South Wales. From there he went to Broken Hill, when it was mostly an ill-formed canvas town, to a position on the Broken Hill "Argus," which had just started publication. Broken Hill, only three years in development when he went there in 1888, was a rough place, and it was there he developed his love of mining fields and mining speculations.

At one time or another Mr. Bedford had been on every mining field in Australia and New Guinea.  

At 18 be had his first short-story published in the "Sydney Bulletin." That was enough; he decided that he would earn his living as a writer, and, with the exception of a brief period on the Melbourne "Age" as a reporter, he did so for many years. The mining fields gave him ample material, and he probably wrote more short stories than any writer in the Commonwealth, several plays (some of which were produced), a travel book, entitled "Explorations in Civilisation," and four novels, the two most popular being "True Eyes and the Whirlwind" and "Snare of Strength," both published in the nineties.

In October,1917, after spending three years in Italy and Mediterranean countries, he entered political life in Queensland as a member of the Legislative Council. He remained there until the council was abolished (one of his objectives in going there); and in 1923 he was returned as Labour member for Warrego, which constituency he represented until his death.

Mr. Bedford loved the storm, frequently raising one as he lashed his opponents with an eloquence and wit that was never excelled in the Parliament of his days. He gave no quarter and certainly looked for none. He was a big square block of a man, with a voice that detonated. He could talk in a whisper or raise his voice to a bellow, and he frequently silenced an inter- jector with a witticism that came like the flash of lightning.

In a tight corner he was Labour's most vigorous fighter, but never reached Cabinet rank, probably because his colleagues realised that in politics he was much happier in the hurly-burly of battle than in a friendly discussion.    

In 1937 he resigned his seat to contest the Maranoa Federal constituency against Mr. J. A. J. Hunter. He failed to dislodge the old Country Party representative, and returned to the State House as member for his old constituency of Warrego.

He was a man of undoubted ability, but he was too impulsive, for success in politics for he never learned to suffer fools gladly. He was impatient, and the secret of success in nolitics is to know how to wait in patience. That is a qualification that he boasted he did not possess.

With his death goes a good and vigorous Australian. 

First published in The Cairns Post, 15 July 1941

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 19, 2011 7:21 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #278 - Shearers' Motel by Roger McDonald was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #51 - Randolph Bedford is the next entry in this blog.

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