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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Blacket, John (1856–1935)

by Arnold D. Hunt

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

John Blacket (1856-1935), by unknown photographer, 1932

John Blacket (1856-1935), by unknown photographer, 1932

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6174

John Blacket (1856-1935), Methodist minister, was born on 13 February 1856 at Kent Town, Adelaide, son of Ebenezer Edward Blacket, shoemaker and market gardener, and his wife Matilda, née Puddy. When he was 6 the family moved to Goodwood, two miles south of Adelaide. Blacket attended the Methodist Sunday school and two village schools run by Mrs Grace Etheridge and Mrs Capper in Arthur Street, Unley, a near-by village whose 'drowsy contented' qualities he later remembered with nostalgia. He was a member of the local literary and mutual improvement societies and attended both the Anglican and Methodist churches at Unley. He acquired some further education at Richmond Baker's academy at St Luke's Anglican Church, Whitmore Square, Adelaide.

Although at first apprenticed to a printer at the Register, in 1878 Blacket became a lay preacher, and three years later a probationary minister, in the Wesleyan Methodist Church. His first circuit was at Minlaton in 1881. The six years of pre-ordination study that he undertook were probably decisive in the germination of his later intellectual interests. On 31 March 1885 he married Martha Jane Fidler at Mount Gambier; they had fourteen children. Blacket went on to serve in thirteen Methodist circuits in South Australia, most of them in the country. As a preacher 'he tried to pass on the results of the latest criticism and research'. In 1893 he visited England, in 1904 he spent a year resting, and in 1922 he became a supernumerary minister.

Despite covering large rural areas with only a horse and buggy to travel many miles on gravel roads, Blacket had a productive life: in the midst of heavy church and family responsibilities, and with only occasional access to Adelaide's libraries, he wrote eight books of philosophy and history, the latter mostly about the first thirty years of South Australian settlement. His research was meticulous but his style hortatory, as in the introduction to his History of South Australia (Adelaide, 1911): 'So long as the heart of the British race in the Australian Commonwealth beats true to God we have nothing to fear'.

As a Christian philosopher Blacket propounded a theology of divine immanence that facilitated an accommodation of scientific discovery with the Christian claim to historical revelation. Always respected by his opponents, he opposed socialist and single-tax doctrines but approved of trade unionism: these ideas were outlined in several pamphlets and his book, Theistic Essays for Thoughtful Men and Women … (Adelaide, 1891). He engaged in controversies in the press and in later life was often caricatured, the sketches showing his predilection for the frock coat long after it had gone out of fashion.

Predeceased by his wife, Blacket collapsed and died at the gate of his Payneham home on 7 June 1935 and was buried in the local cemetery. A son Arthur also went into the ministry and, after missionary terms in Fiji and India, became principal of Wesley Theological College, Wayville, South Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • Methodist Church of Australasia (South Australia), Conference Minutes, 1936
  • Australian Christian Commonwealth, 21 June 1936
  • Observer (Adelaide), 4 Mar 1922
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 June 1935
  • J. Blacket, The History of Unley and Goodwood (National Library of Australia)
  • A Family Record (privately held)
  • file no 1340 (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Arnold D. Hunt, 'Blacket, John (1856–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 September 2020.

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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