Arthur Blyth

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Sir Arthur Blyth
9th Premier of South Australia
In office
4 August 1864 – 22 March 1865
Monarch Victoria
Governor Sir Dominick Daly
Preceded by Henry Ayers
Succeeded by Francis Dutton
In office
10 November 1871 – 22 January 1872
Monarch Victoria
Governor Sir James Fergusson
Preceded by John Hart
Succeeded by Sir Henry Ayers
In office
22 July 1873 – 3 June 1875
Monarch Victoria
Governor Sir Anthony Musgrave
Preceded by Sir Henry Ayers
Succeeded by James Boucaut
Personal details
Born (1823-03-19)19 March 1823
Died 7 December 1891(1891-12-07) (aged 68)
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Jessie Ann Forrest
Occupation politician
Known for premier of South Australia

Sir Arthur Blyth KCMG CB (19 March 1823 – 7 December 1891)[1] was premier of South Australia three times; 1864–1865, 1871–1872 and 1873-1875.[2]

In 1850 he married Jessie Ann, daughter of Edward Forrest, who survived him with one son and two daughters. He was created KCMG in 1877 and C.B. in 1886. A good business man of great common sense Blyth was in eleven cabinets and was three times premier. It was, however, a difficult time for legislation and beyond the Torrens real estate act which Blyth supported, comparatively little important legislation was passed in his period.

Early life[edit]

He was the son of William Blyth and his wife Sarah Wilkins, was born at Birmingham on 21 March 1823. His formative years were spent in Birmingham, England and he was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, and arrived with his parents in South Australia in 1839 on the "Ariadne" at the age of 16. His father, who was appointed a Justice of the Peace and became a Councillor of the City Corporation in 1840, and afterwards one of the City Commissioners,[3] established an ironmongery business in Hindley Street, Adelaide, which Blyth entered with his brother Neville. He interested himself in municipal work and was a member of the central road board. In 1855 he was elected for Yatala in the old legislative council and assisted in framing the new constitution. Early in 1857 he was elected as one of the representatives of Gumeracha in the first house of assembly, and in August became commissioner of public works in the John Baker ministry which, however, was defeated on 1 September. On 12 June 1858 he was given the same position in the Hanson ministry, which remained in power until May 1860. In October 1861 he became Treasurer of South Australia in the Waterhouse ministry which, however, was reconstructed nine days later, when Blyth dropped out. He came back to the ministry, however, as Treasurer in February 1862, and was selected as one of the three representatives of South Australia at the intercolonial conference held shortly afterwards.

He was a member of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society and its president from 1867 to 1868.

As premier[edit]

On 4 August 1864 Blyth, taking the positions of premier and commissioner of crown lands and immigration, formed his first ministry, but it was difficult to do useful work, much time being wasted in no-confidence motions. Blyth resigned on 22 March 1865, was Treasurer in the third ministry formed by Henry Ayers but was out of office again in little more than a month. In March 1866 he became chief secretary in James Boucaut's first ministry from March 1866 to May 1867. He was Treasurer again in the first John Hart ministry in September 1868, but this ministry was defeated three weeks later. He took the position of commissioner of crown lands and immigration in the second Hart ministry, which lasted from 30 May 1870 to 10 November 1871, when Blyth formed his second ministry, but resigned only ten weeks later.

Third time as premier[edit]

On 22 July 1873 he again became premier and this time took the portfolio of chief secretary. This ministry was a comparatively stable one and lasted until June 1875. It succeeded in doing something for immigration, and after a stern fight passed a free, secular, and compulsory education bill through the assembly. This was defeated in the council. It succeeded, however, in passing an act incorporating the University of Adelaide. From 10 February 1875 to 21 February 1877 he represented North Adelaide.[2]

Later years[edit]

On 25 March 1876 Blyth became Treasurer in the third Boucaut ministry which resigned less than three months later.

In February 1877 he was appointed agent-general for South Australia in London and held the position capably for many years. He was a councillor of the Oxford Military College in Cowley and Oxford Oxfordshire from 1876-1896. He was one of the representatives of South Australia at the 1887 colonial conference. He died in Bournemouth, England on 7 December 1891.[4]


Arthur's younger brother Neville Blyth also had a significant political career, being first elected to the House of Assembly for the seat of East Torrens in 1860.

Arthur Blyth married Jessie Ann Forrest (1827 – 21 December 1891), a daughter of Edward Forrest of Birmingham, on 5 March 1850

  • Emily Grant Blyth ( – 31 December 1926) married Robert Grant Murray R.N.R. on 23 August 1893
  • (John) James Neville Blyth (20 November 1850 – ) married Elizabeth Emma Hawker (daughter of James Collins Hawker and granddaughter of Thomas Lipson) on 11 June 1873. In 1885 he was jailed for a year for passing valueless cheques.[5] The couple divorced in 1908.
  • Frances Eleanor Blyth (9 February 1855 – ) married Wiliam Briggs Sells on 16 January 1877

The military Blyth[edit]

It is not known whether Captain Frederick Samuel Blyth of H.M. 40th Regiment of Foot, was any relation. He arrived in Australia around 1854, and was in South Australia from 1855 to 1863. He was promoted to Colonel in August 1860 and put in charge of the South Australian Volunteer Force, so was active around the same time as Arthur and Neville Blyth, and the appearance of his name in newspaper reports etc. may cause confusion, as he is almost invariably referred to by his rank without given names or initials.

While in Sydney he married Julia Simpson on 10 April 1854. While in Adelaide, his wife had three daughters (10 June 1855, 13 November 1859 and 6 August 1861) and a son (20 November 1857) in Castlemaine, Victoria. As Major, Blyth he fought in New Zealand from 1864 to 1866.


The township of Blyth in the Mid North of South Australia, is named in his honour.

The Blyth River in the Northern Territory was named after him by Francis Cadell in 1867.[6]


  1. ^ Bowes, Keith R. "Blyth, Sir Arthur (1823–1891)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Hon Sir Arthur Blyth". Former Member of Parliament Details. Parliament of South Australia. 
  3. ^ The Late Mr. Neville Blyth South Australian Register Monday 17 February 1890 p5 accessed 16 November 2011
  4. ^ "The liberty of Westover". A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5 (1912). Victoria County History. 1912. pp. 133–37. Retrieved 2007-04-23. notable persons who have died here are... Sir Arthur Blyth, premier of South Australia, in 1891 
  5. ^ "Intercolonial Telegrams". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 28 February 1885. p. 9. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Place Names Register Extract - Blyth River". NT Place Names Register. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 


Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Ayers
Premier of South Australia
4 August 1864 - 22 March 1865
Succeeded by
Francis Dutton
Preceded by
John Hart
Premier of South Australia
10 November 1871 - 22 January 1872
Succeeded by
Henry Ayers
Preceded by
Henry Ayers
Premier of South Australia
22 July 1873 - 3 June 1875
Succeeded by
James Boucaut