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Arthur Fenton (Bluey) Howells (1907–1986)

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Arthur Fenton (Bluey) Howells (1907-1986) storeman, journalist, poultry farmer, political activist and flower grower

Birth: 26 September 1907 at Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, youngest of eight children of William Howells (1846-1913), a fireman (engineer), later an invalid pensioner, born at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England, and native-born Esther, née Fenton (1860-1924). Marriage: 1937 in Victoria to Melbourne-born Margaret Jean Kemp (1906-1987). They had one daughter. Death: 1986 at Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria. Religion: Congregationalist. 

  • His maternal grandfather David Syme Fenton (1815-1876) was a convict from Canada.
  • When Arthur was only 6 his father died. Arthur left school at 14 and became a messenger boy at Angus and Robertson, where he met Henry Lawson, then worked as a storeman in a rubber factory. Was a member of Citizen Forces.
  • Influenced by Charlie Reeve, he became a socialist and was active in trade unionism and the Industrial Workers of the World. Joined his family in Narrandera in 1930, again worked as a storeman, and took a leading role in the local Australian Labor Party branch. Began writing stories and articles published in the Sun (Sydney) and elsewhere. Was honorary secretary of the Narandera Socialisation Unit.
  • Moved to Melbourne in 1933 and became prominent in the anti-war movement and the Writers’ League. Contributed to Smiths Weekly (Sydney) and Labor Call (Melbourne).
  • Strongly advocated Aboriginal rights. His sympathy with the Spanish Revolution caused him to visit Spain with his wife in 1938 as observers for the Spanish Relief Committee of Melbourne.
  • Enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 31 December 1941. Was a Leading Air Craftsman and worked as a guard and clerk in Victoria and the Northern Territory. In his absence, his wife managed the property and business at Olinda. He was discharged on 31 January 1946.
  • After the war Arthur returned to his nursery business in Olinda, in the Dandenong Ranges, and became active in art and theatre groups and in the Rhododendron Society. Published an autobiography, Against the stream: the memories of a philosophical anarchist 1927-1939 (Melbourne, 1983), in 1983, and a children’s book, Don’t throw stones at your mother (South Yarra, 1987).
  • Did not join the Communist party, described as an unaligned socialist. Wife was politically active and contested the State seat of Monbulk in 1967.

Howells, A. F. (1977), “Inside the ‘Movement Against War and Fascism’ and ‘The Writer’s League”, Labour History, no.32, pp.27-32; correspondence and papers held by University of Melbourne Archives; interview (1975) with Wendy Lowenstein, held by National Library of Australia; Margaret Howells papers at the ANU Archives.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Howells, Arthur Fenton (Bluey) (1907–1986)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


26 September, 1907
Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


1986 (aged ~ 78)
Ferntree Gully, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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