Friday, March 19, 2010

Frank Forde

When I added Forde to the list, I wrote Frank Forde, but I think since then I've known him as Francis Forde. I think both names are probably correct. One's probably a nickname.

Forde is another Prime Minister. He's known for having the shortest term in office. He was there for only about a week. That's about all I know.

Well, Lord Wiki says he was there for eight days. That would be one week, plus one day. His time in office was in 1945. He came between Curtin and Chifley. Curtin died in office. I guess Forde replaced him until they got Chifley on board. I think all three of them were Labor. Well, I know Curtin was, and Lord Wiki says here that Forde was. I'm pretty sure Chifley was as well.

Baby Francis Michael was born in Mitchell, Queensland on 18 July 1890.

I'm looking at Google Maps.....

Mitchell is in western Queensland, away from the coast. It's about seven hours west of Brisbane.

Forde had Irish immigrant parents, and five siblings. He went to St. Mary's College Toowoomba. Toowoomba is about five hours east of Mitchell. I wonder whether the family moved, or if Forde did boarding school. The school's website says they opened in 1899, so Forde couldn't have gone there before he was about nine.

Forde eventually became a teacher, and he moved to Rockhampton. Rockhamptom is about eight hours north of Toowoomba.

While teaching, Forde got involved with the Labor Party. In 1917, he got himself elected into the Queensland Legislative Assembly via the seat of Rockhampton. In 1922, he resigned from that, and went Federal. With this he had the seat of Capricornia. He had that until 1946. That's a pretty long time.

When Forde first joined Parliament, the opposing team was in power. We had Hughes and Bruce from the Nationalist Party. Then in 1929, the elections brought in James Scullin as a Labor Prime Minister. With Scullin as Prime Minister, Forde got himself the role of Minister for Trade and Customs.

In 1932, Labor was out, and the United Australia party was in. Forde got to be Deputy Opposition Leader.

In 1935, Scullin retired. Forde wanted to become leader of the party, but Curtin won that round.

In 1941, Curtin went from being Leader of the Opposition to Prime Minister. Forde became Minister for the Army, and remained Deputy Leader. When Curtin died, he was sworn in as Prime Minister. Then Chifley took the job from him eight days later. I'm getting the idea that Forde wasn't too happy with this. He didn't WANT to be the Prime Minister of Australia with the shortest term.

Under Chifley, Forde was again Deputy Prime Minister. He's like the bridesmaid who never gets to be the bride. Although he did get his eight days. That's something, right?

Forde also continued with his defense ministry. Folks weren't too pleased with his work there. He was criticized, and then elected out of his seat in 1946. That's sad.

Forde went on to become High Commissioner to Canada. He did that until 1953, and then tried to get back into Queensland Parliament. Unfortunately, that didn't work out for him. Well, no...wait. The first try didn't work. Then he tried again, and he got a seat. Lord Wiki says he's the only former Prime Minister to serve in a state Parliament.

In 1957, Forde lost his seat by one vote. He retired to Brisbane, and spent his time doing Catholic charity work.

He died in 1983. Here's an interesting bit of trivia. It was at Forde's funeral that Bill Hayden was told he should step aside as Labor leader, and give Hawke the job. I actually have a whole book about that, and I read it. I'm thinking I should read it again though, since now I know more about Australian politics. I'd probably better appreciate it.

Well, I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'll flip a coin to see where I'm going next....

It's tails, so I'm heading to the government Prime Minister site.

Here's the Before Office page. They say Forde did primary school in Mitchell, and then boarded in Toowoomba. The name of the school they provide is different (Christian Brothers College), but maybe it's an alternate name of the school. Yeah. When I googled Christian Brothers College Toowoomba, I got the St. Mary's College.

After Forde finished his time as a student, he became a student teacher. He did that until 1910.
Then he went to work as a telegraphist for the General Post Office in Brisbane? What's a telegraphist? Let me go look that up....

Oh. Lord Wiki says it's a morse code person. Cool.

Later, Forde was transfered to the post office in Rockhamptom. So, I guess that's how he ended up there.

He joined the Labor Party in Rockhamptom. The next few paragraphs have pretty much the same stuff that Lord Wiki had. There's other stuff, but I'm not overly interested. I'm skipping ahead to the stuff that's more exciting to me.

Here's something. When Scullin resigned, the general prediction was that Forde would become leader of the Labor Party. People were surprised when Curtin got the job instead. Oh! And he lost the leadership position with one little vote. That must have been frustrating.

The website says that even though Forde had lost, he worked hard at being a deputy leader. There were issues in the Labor Party because of the whole Jack Lang thing. Forde helped hold everything together.

I kind of forgot what the whole Jack Lang thing was. Oh well. I'll learn about that on a different day...maybe.

Okay. Here we have some family information. Lord Wiki didn't mention anything about that, so I had wondered if Forde ever got married. He did, and had four children. The family lived in Rockhamptom, but then moved to Sydney in 1941. They felt this would decrease Forde's traveling time, and give him more time with family.

The website says the electorate didn't like this. I was confused at first...not realizing what electorate meant. But now I remember. What they mean is he had a Queensland seat, but now lived in New South Wales. Yeah. I can see why they would be frowned upon.

There's something here about the awful Menzies rumors...that one where he was open to abandoning Northern Queensland to the Japanese. A Labor Member of Parliament named Eddie Ward brought up the accusations, and wouldn't let them go. The website says the plan had actually been brought up in a meeting, but then rejected. They make it seem like it wasn't such a big deal since it was rejected. Still! Even as a suggestion, it's pretty damn awful. I can't blame Ward for being upset. What does this have to do with Forde? Well, the website says he was pretty mad about the idea as well.

The In Office page is pretty short. They say most of Forde's time as Prime Minister was spent on mourning and funeral stuff. Then in the last days it was all about figuring out who would be leader next. Forde started realizing it probably wouldn't be himself. He called a guy named Haylen into his office to get insight into what his chances were. Haylen told him it would probably be Ben Chifley who'd win. Later Haylen described Forde's reaction. He said, His face went deathly white, the veins on his neck stood out in an effort to suppress his emotions . . . after a while he said, ‘I must say a little prayer for Ben. It’s not an easy job.

That's very brave and noble of him, but heart-wrenching. I just realized that for me it's much harder to see someone struggling not to cry than it is to see them actually crying. When Jack cries, I'm a little sad for him. But when he gets that sad little look, there's tears in his eyes, he has that twinge in his voice, and he's refusing to cry....oh, that totally gets to me.

The After Office page says that the Forde family had a large portrait of America's General McArthur. I guess they had been fans. When McArthur died, Menzies asked Forde to represent Australia at the funeral. That's kind of sweet.

Now I'm going to go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

They say Forde had good looks and a friendly manner. He was good at public speaking and dancing. Yeah, I guess those are good skills for a politician to have.

There's some stuff here about the Labor Party split. I'm having to get some assistance from Lord Wiki. He's giving me a bit of a review...tutoring me.

He says the Labor Party has had three splits. The first happened in 1916. This was when Hughes supported conscription, and most of the Labor Party did not. Hughes then started that Nationalist Party.

The second split happened in 1931. This was regarding economic stuff, and it's the one that involved Jack Lang. Lang wanted to ignore Australia's debt to the UK. Other folks wanted to be more financially conservative.

The third split happened in 1954, and was over Communism.

Now back to Forde. In the 1916 split, the Member for Rockhampton had been pro-conscription. Because of this, he was pushed to resign. That's how Forde got the seat.

In that Queensland seat, Forde became known for his support of sugar and cotton interests. He also supported protective Tariffs which I think is the opposite of free trade. Right?

This is too funny. The Biographical Dictionary uses the exact same cliche analogy that I did....always the bridesmaid and never the bride. They point out a simple, but sad truth. Forde is best known as the guy who was Prime Minister for only eight days. But they add, that this is pretty unfortunate. He might not have been leader for long, but he did play an important role in Australian government. He's admirable for the fact that despite...Well, he was like the bridesmaid that brushes aside her own disappointment, and is loyal and supportive of the bride. He didn't get to spend a lot of time at the top, but Forde didn't let that get in the way of helping the guy who did get the position.

The biographical dictionary ends with some personal trivia. Forde was short, and often concerned about his health. He didn't drink or smoke.

Well, that's about it for today. I enjoyed learning about Forde. It's nice to know that there's more to his story than just being Prime Minister for eight days. In movies and TV, there are supporting characters, and those who just make brief appearances. But in real life, those people don't exist. In real life, everyone has the major storyline...even if the rest of us don't readily recognize this. There's that whole fifteen-minutes-of-fame thing, but those people continue to exist even after they've been forgotten.

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