Honourable Arthur Mornington Whyte


The Honourable Arthur Mornington Whyte AM, passed away in Adelaide on 15 December, aged 93, after a most interesting and distinguished life as a farmer, father, soldier and parliamentarian.

 I first met Arthur while stationed as a police officer at Ceduna in 1975. At that time a man called ‘Goog’ Denton ran a mixed farm north of Ceduna, and he always wondered if a road could be built between his farm and Tarcoola, about 100kms away. So he started up his old Caterpillar and pushed a track through the scrub, about one third of the distance. Goog was keen to get some financial and moral support for what he was doing and so a small party of locals, including  Arthur and I, joined Goog in a most adventurous few days while we scrub-bashed our way right through to the Transcontinental Railway Line. While the authorities strongly opposed the project, it continued, and is now recognised as a popular 4WD journey known as ‘Goog’s Track’.

When I was introduced to Arthur on that trip, I remember he locked eyes on to me for what seemed to be an excessively long time, as is the habit of bushmen – as though they would be assessing a horse, for example. He lost an arm during an unfortunate accident when his 2/48 Battalion was stationed in Queensland during the war. I remember him skilfully rolling a cigarette with his one hand.

There is a book of the history of the McTaggart family of Nonning Station. A Gwen McTaggart was managing the station and she addressed all the male employees by their surnames, ‘with the exception of Arthur Whyte, whom she particularly liked and admired. Arthur arrived at the station in 1937 as a 16 year old, riding his horse Bertha, and leading Toby, with his swag rolled and saddle bags neatly packed’.

The 2/48 Infantry Battalion was raised in Adelaide in 1940, and after initial training at Woodside, embarked for North Africa, and after completing further training, was sent into battle, firstly the defence of Tobruk and later, the first and second Battles of El Alamein. The 2/48 Battalion which comprised 800-900 men was one of the most highly decorated units of WW11. Arthur would say that he experienced some very dark moments during the war – whatever that really meant we would never know.

Arthur served as a member of the Legislative Council for nearly 20 years from 1966, and was President of the Council for seven years, until his retirement in 1985. He was a quiet achiever in politics and was respected by all sides of politics. He took great pleasure in helping people, especially those in remote communities, who often did not enjoy the services provided to city folk.

Until more recently, Arthur and his wife Mary made a regular visit to Port Lincoln, on Kimba Cup race days, and we would meet up there, chew the fat, and recall past times. He was widely known and respected by many, and his passing represents the loss of a fine man whose credo we should admire and reflect on.

 

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