Francis George Anstey (b 1865)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Many thanks to Julia for her help in connecting this gentleman to the Anstey story.

Francis George Anstey, known as Frank, an Australian Anstey pioneer, was born on 18 August 1865 in London to parents Samuel Anstey and Caroline Martha Gamble; he is a member of the Witheridge Anstey sub-branch of the Chulmleigh Ansteys. Frank’s father Samuel Anstey was born in 1837 in Chawleigh, Devon to parents William Anstey and Eliza Edworthy. Samuel Anstey, a bootmaker by trade, had, together with his family, relocated to Southwark, London by the time of the 1861 Census, then in 1863, Samuel Anstey married Caroline Martha Gamble in St Saviour, Southwark. While Caroline was pregnant with Frank in 1865, Samuel Anstey died; he is buried in West Norwood Cemetery, London.

According to the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography‘, “[As a boy, Frank] was cared for on a family farm [in Witheridge, Devon] until his mother Caroline, née Gamble, married John Lank, a stableman. The family travelled through the Midlands and to London in search of work… Between times, Caroline, a school-teacher, supported the family; it was an unsettled and often a meagre existence. Frank’s formal education was a few years at Board school… Aged 11, Frank stowed away on a full-rigged passenger vessel bound for Australia. He jumped ship in Sydney and signed on as ‘bosun’s boy’ in a ship working the Pacific islands trade. For ten years he knew the brutality of seafaring life, and joined the Seamen’s Union in 1883. He sailed to Asia and through the Pacific; what he saw of the coolie and Kanaka trades left him with a hatred of slave labour, a strong belief in White Australia, and a romantic interest in island life. He read widely, kept a common-place-book, and wrote sketches and verse. Signing off, Anstey carried his swag in search of casual work. While driving a hearse in Sale, Victoria, he met Katherine Mary Bell McColl, daughter of a policeman.

Frank married Katherine McColl in 1887 and they had two sons, Ward Eugene Anstey (b 1890, married Lena Amelia Saunders in 1913, died in June 1953 at ‘Royal Melbourne Hospital’, buried at Melbourne General Cemetery) and Daron Anstey (b 1891 Sale, Victoria, married Ida Elizabeth Wood in 1916, died in 1979 in Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria as a result of a “pedestrian fatality” according to the inquest).

The ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography‘ continues: “The Ansteys moved to Melbourne where Frank became a cleaner at the Working Men’s College. He interested himself in the Knights of Labor, in David Andrade’s Anarchists’ Club, and in the Social Democratic Federation which supported the Trades Hall Council in 1891 in forming a Progressive Political League. He soon became a leading speaker and writer for the Labor cause. With fellow S.D.F. member Tom Tunnecliffe, in 1898 he founded the Victorian Labour Federation, a Rochdale-type co-operative, which prospered briefly. Its rules barred members of parliament as office-bearers; both Tunnecliffe and Anstey entered the Legislative Assembly within five years. Anstey helped found the Tramway Employees’ Association and was its president for many years. He served as member for East Bourke Boroughs (1902-04) and Brunswick (1904-10) … Suffering from a debilitating sickness which dogged him throughout life, he took a health trip to England in 1907; his expenses were met from a fund raised by his friends… In 1910 Anstey became member of the House of Representatives for Bourke … In 1915, he published The Kingdom of Shylock, the circulation of which was suppressed … In March 1918 Anstey sailed on his second trip to England, via the United States of America… While he was in England, W. A. Watt, the acting prime minister, appointed him a member of an imperial press mission, in which capacity he visited the Western Front and met allied war leaders and publicists… [In 1931] he announced that the 1931 election would be his last. For the first time, he just scraped home. He served three last dispirited years and ‘selected obscurity and left the limelight and dollars to wiser and more saintly men’.

After Frank retired, he lived in Sydney with his wife, until her demise in late 1937, at which time Frank returned to Melbourne, dying of cancer in October 1940. His remains were cremated in Fawkner Cemetery in Melbourne. Newspapers announcing his death described him as a “pioneer of the Labour movement in Australia“.

Anstey Railway Station on the Upfield Line near Brunswick, Melbourne, was thus named by the Victorian Government in honour of Frank Anstey in December 1942, ‘The Argus‘ newspaper reporting in October 1942 that “Station to be Named Anstey as Tribute to M P From Tuesday, December 1 [1942], the name of North Brunswick railway station will be changed to Anstey. Railways Commissioners said yesterday the change was being made to commemorate the outstanding public services of the late Mr Frank Anstey, MHR for Bourke in the Federal Parliament, and for several years representative of Brunswick in Victorian Legislative Assembly. This is the first occasion on which a citizen has been so honoured since 1926, when the station at Barnes, on the Balranald line, was named after Mr Samuel Barnes, a former Minister for Railways.

Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography, please contact us at research@theansteystory.com.

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