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Anderson, Andrew Canning (1873–1957)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Andrew Canning Anderson (1873-1957), publisher and journalist, was born on 29 September 1873 at Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, son of William Anderson, power-loom tenter, and his wife Elspit, née Birrell. In 1884 he came with his parents to Maryborough, Queensland, where he assisted his father who had taken work as a mail contractor. At 14 Andrew was apprenticed in the printing trade; he served his articles with the Maryborough Chronicle and later joined the staff of the Bundaberg Patriot. On 9 September 1902 he married Emma Johnston with Presbyterian forms in her father's house at Bundaberg; they were to have eight children.

Moving to Rockhampton, in 1903 Anderson founded a weekly paper, the Critic, in partnership with J. C. Kerr, formerly editor of the Patriot: its first issue appeared on Labour Day. Anderson became sole proprietor in 1905. There were then two dailies and another weekly at Rockhampton, but the Critic confounded its critics by surviving until the Depression led to its demise in 1931. A lively paper which initially supported Labor policy and retained sympathy for the party, it was the vehicle for Anderson's promotion of the eight-hour day and other working-class reforms. His leading article on the 1907 Labour Day procession referred to labour displaying itself 'to the public gaze in all its lusty manhood'. The Critic sold 5000 copies a week. Through constructive criticism, it influenced the social and industrial life of the city. Although its tone was facetious and its columns included 'Candid and Critical', 'Personal Peeps' and 'Sportlets', Anderson never resorted to slander. On 8 May 1907 'Politicomania' described William Kidston's Independent candidates as 'so flat they need an awful lot of blowing up'.

An active supporter of local business and industry, Anderson was a member of the executive of the Central Queensland Advancement League. Setting an example to combat the high unemployment of 1933, he expanded the printing, bookbinding and office-systems sections of his City Printing Works. By 1957 it was the largest Queensland printery outside Brisbane, with thirty employees, including three of his sons, all trained through his own apprenticeship system. One of his last requests to a son was, 'Jack, look after the business'.

Anderson's commitment to Queensland's central region included membership (1925-48) of the Rockhampton Harbour Board. While he was its wartime chairman (from 1939) he persuaded the Commonwealth government to build two small naval craft at Rockhampton, using the board's workforce. He resigned in 1948 to visit relations in Scotland for the first time since his emigration.

In his earlier years the 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) Anderson (predictably nicknamed 'Lofty') had been an outstanding sportsman, representing Queensland in Rugby Union and rowing. He was also a first-class cricketer and golfer, and in his later years promoted sport as an administrator. Although he never owned a racehorse, he was chairman (1925-33) of the Rockhampton Jockey Club and subsequently of the trustees of Callaghan Park Racecourse. As a footballer, it was said that 'he ran straight, played straight and spoke straight'; the description fairly summed up the character of 'a dour Scot' whose actions spoke louder than others' words. Survived by four sons and three daughters, Anderson died on 6 February 1957 at Rockhampton and was buried in North Rockhampton cemetery. 'Few men have played a bigger part in the commercial and sporting life of Rockhampton . . . and none have been held in higher regard', commented the Morning Bulletin, a onetime rival of the Critic.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • Critic (Rockhampton), 8 May 1907
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 18 June 1932, 8, 20 Feb 1957
  • Bulletin, 3 Apr 1957
  • private information.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Anderson, Andrew Canning (1873–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/anderson-andrew-canning-9351/text16419, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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