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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Grayndler, Edward (1867–1943)

by Frank Farrell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Edward Grayndler (1867-1943), by unknown photographer

Edward Grayndler (1867-1943), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24209678

Edward Grayndler (1867-1943), trade unionist and politician, was born on 12 October 1867 at One Tree Hill near Mount Victoria, New South Wales, fourth son of John Grayndler, a Canadian migrant, and his Irish wife Johanna, née Maloney. He attended Home Rule (Mobella) Public School and as a youth worked in outback New South Wales and Queensland in various jobs ranging from fencing, droving and shearing to mining; in 1886 he became a foundation member of the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia (later part of the powerful Australian Workers' Union). In 1895 he was appointed shearers' union organizer for the A.W.U. in New South Wales. In 1900 he became secretary of the Victoria-Riverina branch with headquarters at St Arnaud, Victoria, and from 1905 at Ballarat. At Coonamble Wesleyan Church, New South Wales, he married Margaret Tamar Welsh on 12 February 1901. After the shearers' strikes of the 1890s Grayndler became an early and staunch advocate of the settlement of industrial disputes through arbitration. At the 1906 Federal election he failed to win the Victorian seat of the Grampians for the Labor Party.

In ill health, he left his union job in 1909 to become a travelling salesman for a British firm; but he continued to enjoy the patronage and support of A.W.U. leaders such as Donald Macdonell. Grayndler, cured after eighteen months, set up on his own account in Victoria, but soon afterwards he agreed to Macdonell's request to represent the A.W.U. at the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In 1912 he became general secretary of the A.W.U., and moved to Sydney. Until 1940 he prepared all Federal Arbitration Court cases for the union and became a formidable industrial advocate.

Grayndler was a hard-headed bureaucrat. He opposed attempts to have the A.W.U. support W. M. Hughes's Labor government's pro-conscription policy in 1916. He supported H. E. Boote, editor of the Australian Worker, in his anti-conscription crusade and campaigns against the severe restraints of wartime censorship. In 1915-18 he was a member of the Commonwealth Repatriation Commission.

The failure of the arbitration system to safeguard living standards during World War I produced massive discontent in the A.W.U., especially among shearers and miners. Although at first diverted by the conscription issue, the rank and file put increasing pressure on the union leadership after 1916. Grayndler was a target of some criticism and, with Arthur Blakeley and John Bailey, he was a leading strategist of the conservative response to the post-war radical trend in the labour movement.

Appointed O.B.E. in 1920, Grayndler was nominated to the Legislative Council in August next year but was defeated in 1934, when the council was reconstituted. However, he was elected to a casual vacancy in November 1936 and remained a member until 1943. His political career suffered considerably from the decline of A.W.U. influence on the New South Wales Labor Party in the 1920s, and in 1931 he criticized J. T. Lang, voting against his wages-tax bill. He was a member of the Bruce-Page government's Industrial Delegation to the United States of America in 1927, and served on the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee in 1932.

Ted Grayndler was a keen sports fan and a convivial drinker, thoroughly absorbed in Sydney's suburban culture. In his mid-sixties he had a 'burly figure' and curly dark hair. He lived for much of his life in Canterbury, but died of broncho-pneumonia on 12 March 1943 in hospital in Melbourne and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery after a service at St Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, Richmond. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • V. G. Childe, How Labour Governs, 2nd edn, F. B. Smith ed (Melb, 1964)
  • F. Farrell, International Socialism and Australian Labor (Syd, 1981)
  • Australian Worker, 5, 19, 26 Aug, 2, 23 Sept 1915
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Oct 1920
  • Bulletin, 8 July 1931
  • Argus (Melbourne), 13 Mar 1943
  • Henry Boote diary, MS 2070 (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Frank Farrell, 'Grayndler, Edward (1867–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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