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Anderson, Keith Stirling (1892–1986)

by Greg Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Keith Stirling Anderson (1892-1986), businessman and community leader, was born on 8 May 1892 at Portland, Victoria, seventh of eight children of William Primrose Anderson, a Melbourne-born merchant, and his wife Euphemia Elizabeth, née Brown, who was born in Scotland. William’s Scottish forebears Alexander and Cecilia Anderson had migrated to Australia in 1831 and settled at Portland in 1850. Keith, known as `K. S.’, was educated at Hamilton and Western District Boys’ College. He worked as an accountant with the family firm and studied commerce in Melbourne.

On 2 February 1915 Anderson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Posted to the 22nd Battalion, he served on Gallipoli, in Egypt and on the Western Front. In November 1916 he was commissioned and in May 1917 promoted to lieutenant. He was wounded in the leg in October, mentioned in despatches in May 1918, gassed in July and appointed adjutant in September. When the battalion mounted an attack on the night of 3-4 October near Péronne, France, he moved between headquarters and the front line, passing orders, directing the disposition of the men, taking command where necessary and controlling the firing line. He was awarded the Military Cross. His AIF appointment terminated in Victoria on 25 July 1919

Anderson tried farming near Heywood in an attempt to recover from the effects of mustard gas. Returning to the family business at Portland, he was the district representative (1922-34) of Dalgety & Co. Ltd then secretary (1934-38) and managing director and chairman (1938-51) of the Portland Co-Operative Butter Factory. He served as honorary secretary of the local sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (1918-19 and 1922-25) and as a borough councillor (1930-31).

With `energy, drive and initiative’, Anderson had campaigned from 1920 for a deep-water, all-weather port to be built at his home town. The Portland Harbor Trust Act was passed in 1949 and he was appointed chairman in 1950. It was widely held that the venture would fail. Financing the works proved a major challenge; at a critical time in 1952-53, the Australian Loan Council restricted public-sector borrowing, forcing the trust to obtain money from J. B. Were & Son and other private sources. Inspired by Anderson’s leadership, the trust developed two breakwaters enclosing a 250-acre (101 ha) artificial harbour, and built modern cargo berths, a rail system, a series of concrete bridges, a canal and roads. The harbour was officially opened in 1960. Anderson retired next year and wrote his account of the project, A Port is Built (1981).

Appointed CBE in 1961, Anderson won the Develop Victoria Council’s first community service award that year and a Portland citizenship award in 1962. He was an elder of the Presbyterian Church, a life member of the Portland Agricultural and Pastoral Society, a charter member (1942) of the Rotary Club of Portland and a foundation member (1947) of the Masonic Lodge of Memories. He died on 12 May 1986 in the town of his birth and was buried in its cemetery. Obituaries praised his life of selfless community service and his friendly and gentlemanly nature. Unmarried, he left no descendants, but his name remains prominent in Portland: it is borne by a wharf and a scholarship for secondary students.

Select Bibliography

  • N. F. Learmonth, The Story of a Port (1960)
  • Official History: Portland Sub-Branch R.S.L. 1917-1992 (1992)
  • Age (Melbourne), 17 Nov 1961, p 6
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17 Mar 1973, p 17
  • Portland Observer and Guardian, 14 May 1986, p 4.

Citation details

Greg Walsh, 'Anderson, Keith Stirling (1892–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/anderson-keith-stirling-12137/text21745, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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