Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Anderson, John Herbert (Bert) (1899–1994)

by Bill Ransome

This article was published online in 2019

This is a shared entry with Donald Mancell Anderson

John Herbert Anderson (1899–1994), rural-industry leader and stud cattle breeder and judge, and Donald Mancell Anderson (1938–1991), stud cattle breeder and judge, were father and son. Bert was born on 15 February 1899 at Fairview, the family property in the Southbrook district of the Darling Downs, Queensland, eldest of five children of John Anderson, a locally born farmer, and his Victorian-born wife Alice, née Alden. Young Bert attended Umbiram (Harelmar) (1905–10) and Elville (1911–12) State schools. His father, a district farming leader and breeder of championship-winning Ayrshire dairy cattle, was killed by lightning in November 1920, while mustering stock during a thunderstorm.

Bert and his brother Malcolm took over Fairfield and continued dairying and showing cattle. On 2 June 1926 at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Toowoomba, Bert married Sylvia Mancell Stone (d. 1987), a typiste and bookkeeper. The brothers dissolved their partnership in 1930, Malcolm moving to another property. Two years later Bert began replacing the Ayrshire herd with an Australian Illawarra Shorthorn (AIS) stud under the prefix Fairvale, achieving great success in the show ring and in milking competitions. In late 1944 he sold the property and the stock; the Fairvale dispersal sale in December included numerous prize winners and realised what was understood to have been ‘the top price for a dairy bull at auction to date in Australia’ (Farmer and Settler 1944, 4). During this time, he also emerged as a well-respected cattle judge, presiding at numerous agricultural shows throughout Queensland and New South Wales, including the AIS section at the Kiama Centenary Show (1948).

In January 1945 Anderson moved to Inverary, a 1,728-acre (700 ha) property at Yandilla, near Millmerran. Cultivating its fertile black soil to plant wheat, grain sorghum, oats, and lucerne, he also engaged in some lamb- and cattle-fattening. He joined the local branch of the newly formed Queensland Grain Growers’ Association in 1945, and was elected one of two vice-presidents at the first State conference in 1948. Between 1950 and 1954 he was general president of the association, representing Queensland as a delegate to the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation, of which he was a vice-president (1951–54). In the national body, he played a prominent part in negotiating the Commonwealth-State Wheat Stabilisation Plan for the financial years 1953–54 to 1957–58, which guaranteed a minimum return to farmers that would cover their production costs. He remained on the QGGA executive as past president (1954–61) and treasurer (1962–68). From 1954 he had been chairman of the Queensland Co-Operative Milling Association Ltd, in which position he ensured farmers’ interests were protected and promoted, until 1976, when the company was sold to Allied Mills Ltd.

Experiencing ‘a hankering to get back into Stud Stock breeding which seemed to be my vocation in life,’ in 1948 Anderson had established the Inverary Poll Hereford Stud ‘as a hobby and sideline,’ beginning with four foundation cows and ‘an old bull’ (Anderson 1976, n.p.). Joined by his sons Neil and Donald, he gradually bred the Inverary herd to a show-winning standard. He instituted an annual show and sale at the property in 1973. Inverary Poll Herefords won more than two hundred and fifty awards at the Brisbane and Sydney shows, including ‘Most Successful Exhibitor’ (Anderson 1976, n.p.) at both venues in 1975, the year he retired.

From 1958 to 1967 Anderson had chaired the Millmerran Shire Council. In 1960 he was appointed MBE for his service to the dairy industry and local government. He was a slightly built and quietly spoken man, and suffered occasional bouts of ill health. Survived by his daughter and two of his four sons, he died on 1 February 1994 at Wivenhoe Dam, Queensland, and was buried in the Toowoomba Garden of Remembrance cemetery. Over a ‘long and productive life,’ he was recognised as ‘one of the most outstanding leaders in Queensland livestock and grain industries’ (Queensland Country Life 1994, 33).  Tributes extolled him as a thorough gentleman who commanded immense respect.

Don Anderson was born on 21 May 1938 at Toowoomba, Queensland, youngest of his parents’ four surviving children. He was educated at Yandilla Provisional School and Scots College, Warwick (1951–55). Inheriting his father’s ‘aptitude for pedigree livestock work’ (Queensland Country Life 1953, 13), he was the champion junior judge of Herefords at the 1953 Royal National Show, Brisbane. On 2 March 1963 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Warwick, he married Wanda Janice Hope; she was a clerk-typiste and, later at Inverary, ‘the formidable office manager’ (Chronicle 2013, 10) of the family business her husband headed from 1975.

Spearheading Australian progressive stud beef cattle breeding, Anderson imported animals from North America and pioneered the use of embryo-transfer technology. He was the most successful exhibitor of Poll Herefords at the Brisbane show for fourteen of eighteen years, and at the Sydney show for thirteen of fourteen years. A director (1968–84) of the Poll Hereford Society of Australia, he was elected its president in 1973. In early 1988 he made the sudden and remarkable decision to disperse the entire herd, holding a record-breaking on-property sale. He then rapidly established the Inverary Salers Stud, soon becoming a world leader among breeders of the strain. ‘One of the great Australian cattle judges in this nation and on the world stage’ (McCosker 1991, 11), he adjudicated in the United States of America, Argentina, New Zealand, and Britain.

Anderson took a special interest in encouraging young people in the beef cattle industry. Renowned as an innovator and communicator, and for his ability to combine skilled breeding with business acumen, he united personal dynamism with the steady temperament required for success in the show ring. He died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage on 12 January 1991, while addressing a meeting of the International Salers Federation in Denver, Colorado, United States, and was buried in the Toowoomba Garden of Remembrance cemetery. His wife and their three daughters and one son survived him.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Anderson, Don, on behalf of the Anderson family. Inverary Poll Hereford Stud: Then, Now and Tomorrow. Tara, Qld: Anderson Pastoral Co., 1976
  • Anderson, J. H. (Bert). ‘Anderson Family.’ Unpublished typescript, n.d. Papers of J. H. (Bert) Anderson 1917–1994, 28996. State Library of Queensland
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba). ‘World-Leading Cattle Breeder Dies Aged 52.’ 14 January 1991, 3
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba). ‘Whirlwind Leaves Laughter: Obituary: Wanda Janice Anderson.’ 5 August 2013, 10
  • Curtis, Daphne (née Anderson). Personal communication
  • Farmer and Settler (Sydney). ‘Fairvale A.I.S. Bring Good Prices.’ 29 December 1944, 4
  • Queensland Country Life. ‘Mr Anderson On Wheat Issue.’ 18 June 1953, 1
  • Queensland Country Life. ‘Grain Growers’ President Breeds Prize Cattle.’ 3 September 1953, 13
  • Queensland Country Life. ‘Rural Leader Made Vital Contribution: Obituary: Bert Anderson.’ 10 February 1994, 33
  • McCosker, Malcolm. ‘Don Anderson Forged New Cattle Progress.’ Queensland Country Life, 17 January 1991, 11
  • McVeigh, Tom. ‘Tribute: Mr J. H. Anderson, M.B.E.: Doyen of Farm Leaders.’ Bound typescript, 2012. Papers of J. H. (Bert) Anderson 1917–1994, 28996. State Library of Queensland
  • State Library of Queensland. 28996, Papers of J. H. (Bert) Anderson 1917–1994

Additional Resources

Citation details

Bill Ransome, 'Anderson, John Herbert (Bert) (1899–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/anderson-john-herbert-bert-27837/text35584, published online 2019, accessed online 14 December 2019.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019