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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Carruthers, George Simpson (1879–1949)

by R. P. Davis

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

George Simpson Carruthers (1879-1949), clergyman, fruit-grower and Douglas Credit politician, was born on 1 February 1879 at Lancaster, England, son of George Brockbank Carruthers, merchant, and his wife Emma, née Roberts. Educated at Lancaster School, Selwyn College, Cambridge (B.A., 1901), and Ripon Theological College, he was ordained deacon in 1903 and priest in 1905, and in 1903-09 held curacies at Clapham, Yorkshire, All Hallows, Leeds, and Wetheral, Cumberland. Illness forced his retirement and he migrated to Tasmania where he tried fruit-farming near New Norfolk. In 1911-13 he lived at Pelham, but by 1914 had transferred to Magra. Though one of the original directors of the Derwent Valley Fruitgrowers' Co-operative Co. Ltd, Carruthers did not prosper. From 1929 to 1931 he farmed at Kingston, ten miles south of Hobart, again without success.

Moving to Hobart, Carruthers campaigned for the Depression unemployed, condemning the large fruit companies for ensuring the eviction of small farmers like himself. He joined the local Labor Party, forming an alliance with Edmund Dwyer-Gray, State politician and editor of the Labor Voice. In his contributions to the Voice after 1931, Carruthers moved steadily towards Douglas Credit ideas, a progress shared by Dwyer-Gray. In 1934 Carruthers incurred automatic expulsion from the party by contesting the State election solely as an endorsed Douglas Credit candidate. In a dramatically close contest he won the sixth Denison seat and the balance of power in the House of Assembly. His benevolent neutrality enabled the Tasmanian Labor Party to begin a period in office, unbroken till 1969.

Carruthers' single parliamentary term, though he chaired a select committee on monetary reform whose report vaguely favoured Douglas Credit, was unhappy. While generally supporting Albert Ogilvie's government, Carruthers incurred the hostility of the fiery premier by voting against the extension of gambling facilities and liquor licences, five-year parliaments and the suspiciously high payments to private companies constructing the Derwent Bridge. Defeated in the 1937 election, he at once applied for readmission to the Labor Party and, after several rebuffs from conference, was restored by the party's State executive in 1940, thanks mainly to Dwyer-Gray. Carruthers advocated his monetary views in the Voice, at State Labor conferences, and even on the council of the University of Tasmania, on which he served in 1935, 1939-40 and 1942-47. In the 1943 Commonwealth election he stood unsuccessfully for the Senate as an endorsed Labor candidate.

Carruthers died at Hobart of cancer on 29 June 1949 and was cremated. He endured bachelor loneliness and poverty in his final years, relying heavily on the Anglican Church for which he occasionally ministered, having obtained admission into the diocese of Hobart in 1938. Never an outstanding intellect or magnetic personality, Carruthers had the quiet dignity of a man of principle.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1935 (25)
  • R. Davis, ‘G. S. Carruthers and the Tasmanian A.L.P.’, Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 23 (1976), no 4
  • Mercury (Hobart), 30 June 1949
  • Australian Labor Party (Tasmania), Executive minute book, Dec 1930–Nov 1942, and State Conference minutes, 1930-36, 1937-42 (University of Tasmania Archives).

Citation details

R. P. Davis, 'Carruthers, George Simpson (1879–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 31 October 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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