Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Angus, William (1871–1965)

by J. G. Daniels

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

William Angus (1871-1965), agriculturist, was born on 4 June 1871 at Keithhall, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, son of Alexander Angus, farmer, and his wife Agnes, née Cassie. Angus had a technical education at an Aberdeen teachers' college and in London before going in 1897 to the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated B.Sc. (Agriculture) in 1900. He then taught at Stirling High School and the Knox Institute, Haddington, lectured at the West of Scotland Agricultural College, Glasgow, and the Yorkshire College, Leeds, and became principal of Cheshire County Council Agricultural College at Holmes Chapel.

In December 1904 Angus arrived in South Australia by the Himalaya to become professor (later director) of agriculture and secretary to the minister of agriculture. His work took him all over the State and led to the establishment of five government experimental farms. In 1906-07 the departments of fruit, dairying, poultry and veterinary affairs were put under his control. He experimented with wheat, potatoes and manures, lectured to farmers, published numerous articles and taught and examined at Roseworthy Agricultural College. In the department he stressed the need for statistics and the dissemination of information about scientific farming. In 1908 his powers were amended to cover only experimental agriculture. On 25 March 1907 he had married Edith Porter at Gilberton. He had briefly been a second lieutenant in the 16th Australian Light Horse in 1906-07.

In October 1910, following a change of government, a parliamentary select committee on the export depot and agricultural department condemned the government's unprofitable management of egg-marketing. Evidence was heard from two senior officers of Angus's lack of tact and failure to delegate responsibility to heads of sections. He did not appear before the committee, and resigned. Although he was 'a man of strong views', early principals at Roseworthy also sometimes had strained relations with the department.

Angus then spent a year farming with his brother John at Noora, joined the Liberal Union and helped defeat the Labor government at the 1912 elections. He offered himself as an experienced candidate, who had made 'land and its management and productive capabilities his especial study', and became a member of the House of Assembly for Victoria and Albert in 1912-15 and Albert 1915-21. He chaired royal commissions on the Aboriginals (1913 and 1916) and on the wheat scheme and rural industries (1918, 1919 and 1921), and was a member of the 1918 commission on the acquisition and disposal of wheat. He was chairman of committees in 1920 and secretary of the parliamentary Liberal Party.

In 1921 Angus returned to farming, successively at Loxton, Hackham, Gumeracha, and inner-suburban Gilberton where he planted experimental wheat plots. In 1934-44 he taught at Scotch College, Mitcham. Well liked as a teacher, he reorganized the agricultural science course, established a model farm and planted a small orchard. Interviewed by the Advertiser in 1960, he claimed he had collaborated in wheat-breeding experiments with William Farrer, Frederick Guthrie and Daniel McAlpine, whom he met at Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science meetings. Angus had chaired the agricultural section of the 1911 congress in Sydney and contributed a paper, 'The relation of science and this section to the further development of Australian agriculture'.

Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died in a private hospital at College Park on 15 May 1965, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908)
  • Journal of Agriculture and Industry of South Australia, Dec 1904, Jan 1905
  • Journal of Agriculture (South Australia), May, July 1905, Apr 1906, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov 1910
  • Scotch College Magazine (Mitcham, South Australia), 48 (1965)
  • Observer (Adelaide), 24 Dec 1904, 20 Aug, 8, 15 Oct, 31 Dec 1910, 8 May 1920, 23, 30 Apr 1921
  • Register (Adelaide), 26, 29 Jan, 14 Feb 1912
  • private information.

Citation details

J. G. Daniels, 'Angus, William (1871–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/angus-william-5033/text8381, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 26 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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