A bit about Bruce

Eighth in line 1929

Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the eighth Prime Minister of Australia and second youngest to hold that office at 39 years of age. He was Prime Minister from February 1, 1923 to October 22, 1929.1

It was a great achievement for Stanley Bruce to hold a Nationalist-Country Party coalition together during his 6 year term as Prime Minister of Australia from 1923 to 1929. Earl Page was the deputy Prime Minister and this was the first time that every member of the Cabinet was Australian born.2

Free booklet

Bruce’s term in office and  sheer determination saw the Public Service, including the Australian Federal Parliament move from Melbourne to Canberra, and its opening on May 9, 1927 by the Duchess and Duke of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.3

The glamorous, and free, 32 page booklet that accompanies the National Archives  of Australia exhibition ‘Stanley Melbourne Bruce – Prime Minister & Statesman,’ reports that few of Ethel’s letters have “survived, and only a few references to her appear in Bruce’s papers and in departmental files held by the National Archives.” 4

All about Ethel

In a corner, at the back of the exhibition, can be seen a few items on loan, relating to Lady Ethel Dunlop Bruce who died aged 88 years, and childless, in March 1967.5

Ethel was one of seven daughters (Melbourne born) to Andrew George Anderson in 1879.6

Eternal partner

Ethel Dunlop Anderson married Stanley Melbourne Bruce (also of Melbourne) in Sonning, Berkshire in England in 1913. They were the first occupants of the Prime Minister’s Lodge in Canberra and Ethel provided the visitors book, signed by the Duke and Duchess of York: Albert, May 9th, 1927 and Elizabeth, May 9th, 1927.7

Signed with a flourish, “Yours, Bruce of Melbourne”, is a poignant reply to Prime Minister Holt’s letter, which expressed condolences from Mrs Holt, himself, the Government and Ministerial Colleagues to Lord Bruce after Lady Bruce’s death.8

Lord Bruce replied, “My wife’s passing is a loss beyond measure” – Lady Bruce had a great memory for faces and names and would whisper these to Bruce. She was Bruce’s closest confidant.9

Bruce’s backlash

Often remembered as being more pompous and more British that the British, Bruce argued a pro-business approach between Australia and England; trying to keep wages low in Australia to be competitive in England. His slogan was “Men, money and markets”.10

He was the first Prime Minister to loose his seat whilst in office – the industrial backlash saw his defeat in the 1929 election, during the onset of the depression.11

Heaven’s above

Five months after his wife’s death, Bruce (1883-1967) died in England and the Australian Parliament agreed with his last request to scatter his ashes over Canberra.12

As a memorial service was conducted below, Bruce of Melbourne’s ashes were scattered over Canberra from a plane above .13

Artifact gifts

In 1962 Prime Minister Menzies acknowledged Bruce as, “probably the most outstanding Australian of our time”.14

Gifted by Bruce to Australia, this rare exhibition of Bruce’s rare artifacts at the National Archives of Australia, which is located behind old Parliament House, closes May 29, 2010.15 – 16

Footnotes / Resources

1. (i) National Archives of Australia. Stanley Melbourne Bruce Prime Minister & Statesman, © Commonwealth of Australia, 2009. p. 7 (Free exhibition booklet) (ii) The youngest Prime Minister was John Christian Watson (37 years) first Labor Prime Minister in 1904:
2. Ibid p. 7.
3. Ibid p. 25.
4. Ibid p. 21.
5. Ibid p. 21. Photo: Ethel Bruce (NAA: A1486,1); HMAS Hobart Bell presented: Ethel Bruce, 1938. (NAA: M4254, 18).
6. Ibid p. 21.
7. Ibid p. 21-22. Visitors book (NAA: M4254,2).
8. Ibid p. 21.
9. Ibid p. 22. Bruce’s letter (NAA: M2684, 78).
10. Ibid p. 7.
11. Ibid p. 7.
12. Letter in Exhibition.
13. Letter in Exhibition.
14. Ibid p. 1.
15. Ibid: (i) Freedom of the City of London, gold casket and parchment (NAA: M4254, 40 Part 1); (ii) Freedom of the City of Stroke-on-Trent, Staffordshire china teaset, 1926 (NAA: M4254, 12); (iii) Bruce’s uniform of a privy councillor (NAA: M4254, 29); (iv) Melbourne centenary china jug, 1934 (NAA: M4254, 15); (v) Gravel from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Preparatory Commission, 1947 (NAA: M4254, 33); (vi) The seal and illuminated parchment of Bruce’s appointment as a viscount, 1947 (NAA: M4254, 25); (vii) Photo: Lord Bruce of Melbourne and Sir Earl Page at the Australian National University, 1958 (NAA: A1200, L25029); (viii) Red coat and black trousers of Bruce’s captain’s uniform of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland, 1954 (NAA: M4254, 32); (ix) Gold cigarette case from the Duke and Duchess of York, 1927 (NAA: M4254, 41); (x) Plus various photos.
16. Connee-Colleen © Queanbeyan Outlook (231) “E & S Bruce” The Queanbeyan Age, May 14, 2010, p.11.

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