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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bagot, Edward Daniel (1893–1968)

by John Lonie

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Edward Daniel Alexander Bagot (1893-1968), businessman and political organizer, was born on 25 December 1893 at Henley Beach, South Australia, son of Edward Arthur Bagot, who had been an Anglican clergyman, and his wife Harriet Lilian, née Massy-Dawson. He spent his childhood in Western Australia and in England where he was educated at private schools at Framlingham and Lowestoft, Suffolk. At 15 he was trained at Ilford in wireless telegraphy; this led to a job with Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. In 1912 he was second operator on the Olympic when it assisted the stricken Titanic.

Bagot returned to South Australia before World War I and in 1915 joined the Postmaster-General's Department in Adelaide as an engineer operator. On 20 September 1916 he married Christobel Ballantyne Bollen at West Adelaide. Next day he embarked for service with the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant, 1st Australian Wireless Signal Squadron. He served in Mesopotamia, was twice mentioned in dispatches and promoted captain in 1918, and wrote the squadron's history. In 1919 he returned to Australia, depressed about his prospects as a civilian. He soon returned to Mesopotamia where he organized a trading company and was a director of the Times of Mesopotamia. His wife joined him, and their only son was born in 1922 at Basra where Bagot was secretary of the British and Arab chambers of commerce. In 1924 he became managing director of the Eastern Transport Co., which pioneered the Beirut-Bagdad-Teheran cross-desert motor-mail service.

In 1925 Bagot returned home and established an Adelaide-Darwin motor-transport service which eventually failed. In 1928 he began working in insurance and, while president of Adelaide's Constitutional Club, in October 1930 he and others founded the Citizens' League of South Australia, a militant, rightist, political organization. As its full-time secretary until 1936, Bagot was able but rambunctious, at times overbearing, and politically naive in his public and private statements. He led local protests against the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as governor-general. He participated in the anti-Labor Emergency Committee of South Australia, established by leading members of the Liberal Federation to contest the 1931 Federal elections but which was largely motivated by fear of Bagot's league; with Labor defeated and economic recovery at hand, the league's influence faded. Bagot had been a typical example of the many former A.I.F. officers who were prominent in sporadic conservative political organizations during the Depression.

At the 1934 Federal elections Alec Bagot stood unsuccessfully for Adelaide as an independent but held the Southern seat in the South Australian Legislative Council in 1938-41. In 1944 at Broken Hill he joined the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales, did well and moved to Sydney. He edited the institution's journal, Security, from 1946 and in 1951 was promoted to production supervisor. He retired in 1963 and two years later published a well-researched biography, Coppin the Great, Father of the Australian Theatre.

Bagot suffered from chronic lymphatic leukaemia for four years before he died on 12 June 1968 in Sydney; his body was returned to Adelaide for burial with Anglican rites. His wife survived him; their son had been killed in action in 1944.

Select Bibliography

  • NSW Government Insurance Office, Security, 10 (1957), no 1
  • Observer (Adelaide), 22 May 1926
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 13 June 1968
  • A. Bagot, Roaming Around (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

John Lonie, 'Bagot, Edward Daniel (1893–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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