Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bain, George Keith (1888–1961)

by Carol Liston

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

George Keith Bain (1888-1961), company manager, was born on 28 February 1888 at Ashfield, Sydney, youngest of six children of Lewis Potter Bain, a broker from Scotland, and his native-born wife Annie, née Learmonth. Lewis had widespread banking connexions and in 1877 established himself as a stock and share broker. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Keith joined Dalgety & Co. Ltd. He was an 'expert motor driver', 5 ft 10½ ins (179 cm) tall, with blue eyes and dark hair, when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 September 1916. He served in France and Belgium from June 1917 and was promoted lance sergeant with the 5th Divisional Supply Column. In March 1918 he transferred to the 5th Divisional and in October to the 1st Divisional mechanical transport companies; he was confirmed as company quartermaster-sergeant in March 1919.

Discharged in Sydney on 7 November, Bain returned to Dalgetys and on 18 January 1922 at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, married Muriel Australie Carter (d.1948), a descendant of Conrad Martens. To the dismay of his conservative father, in 1921 Keith had joined Australian Guarantee Co. Ltd, a private finance company, as secretary at £8 a week. After it was restructured in 1925 as a public company, Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd, he and Muriel became shareholders. Bain was prominent in the growth of the hire purchase, finance and motor-vehicle industries by providing finance to purchase motorcars and trucks. His firm had close relations with the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Pty Ltd and with motor dealers such as Larke, Neave & Carter Ltd.

Bain took over as general manager of A.G.C. and of Traders Finance Corporation in May 1939. By then the number of cars registered in New South Wales had risen from some 28,000 in 1922 to almost 328,000. The emergence of money-lending groups like A.G.C. made the finance industry more respectable. Bain was a councillor of the Employers' Federation of New South Wales from 1937 and, as its president (1943-44), deplored the effect on wartime production of lawless strikes, especially on the coalfields. On retiring in 1956, he became a director of A.G.C. In the late 1950s the company was restructured, with the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac) as a major shareholder.

Known as 'G.K.' in the motor trade, Bain was regarded as 'a good bloke' who operated by instinct rather than by the book. Tall and jovial, he was the butt of many jokes about his large girth. He valued personal contact with his business associates and staff. A committee-member of the New South Wales Club, he was captain of the Australian Golf Club during the war and won its A.I.F. Cup. From the mid-1920s he lived in Tarrant Avenue, Bellevue Hill, and later had a holiday house at Palm Beach. On 13 November 1954 he married a former army nurse Clerice ('Claire') Marie McMahon at St Canice's Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bay. Survived by her, and by the son of his first marriage, Bain died on 21 February 1961 in St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated with Anglican rites. His portrait by Paul Fitzgerald is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • Motor Traders Association Journal, Apr 1961
  • Sun (Sydney), 25 Oct 1944
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1944
  • newsclippings book (held at Australian Guarantee Corporation, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Carol Liston, 'Bain, George Keith (1888–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bain-george-keith-9406/text16533, 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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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