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Beattie, William Anderson (1902–1980)

by H. J. W. Stokes

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

William Anderson Beattie (1902-1980), by unknown photographer, c1961

William Anderson Beattie (1902-1980), by unknown photographer, c1961

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/319

William Anderson Beattie (1902-1980), agricultural consultant, was born on 4 July 1902 at Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand, son of Melbourne-born Robert Martin Beattie, medical practitioner, and his wife Jane Bowie, née Anderson, a New Zealander. Educated at Auckland Grammar School, Bill attended Auckland University College (B.A., 1923; LL.B, 1924). He proceeded to Trinity Hall, Cambridge (B.A., 1947; M.A., 1949), where he gained a first-class pass in the law tripos in 1925. Back home, he practised as a barrister and solicitor in Auckland and at Dargaville before becoming a farmer at Tangiteroria in the mid-1930s. Beattie campaigned to improve the breeding and marketing of pigs, and was a member of the National Pig Industry Council. He played Rugby Union, was a long-distance runner and won prizes for marksmanship.

Having come to Australia on business in December 1939, Beattie understated his age when enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 October 1941. Posted to the 4th (2nd/4th) Independent Company, he served in the Northern Territory for six months and on Timor from September 1942 to January 1943: he averred that however bad Northern Territory beef might be, it was preferable to Timor water buffalo. On 11 September Beattie transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force and was commissioned two months later. In 1944-45 he performed intelligence duties in Australia, the Solomons, New Guinea, the Moluccas and the Philippines. His appointment terminated on 8 November 1945.

'An extremely able man with a very logical mind, considerable adaptability and a capacity for good honest work', on 13 May 1946 in Melbourne Beattie was engaged as a senior research officer by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to undertake a comprehensive survey of the Australian beef cattle industry. He travelled throughout the country in a utility truck. Although sorely tempted, he once helped to ferry beer across Coopers Creek, South Australia, on a hot day without opening a bottle. His reports, presented in 1952-53, stressed the need for improved breeding and pastures, and for new railways to bring stock to market in better condition. He advanced these ideas in the press and at a meeting with Federal parliamentarians in June 1952. Two years later he published a successful textbook, Beef Cattle Breeding and Management (Melbourne).

Having left the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in 1952, Beattie joined the Australian Estates Co. Ltd as assistant-general manager; he divided his time between the head office in Melbourne and cattle properties in North Queensland. From 1955 to 1958 he participated in a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization project to foster primary production in South American countries. He held directorships in Wright, Stephenson & Co. Ltd and other companies, and established his own stock and farm management consultancy in Melbourne. Beattie was Victorian president (1964-68) of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and served on the council of the Institute of Public Affairs from 1964 (chairman 1975-77). He wrote extensively on the economic development of Australia and the Third World. Unpretentious and unassuming, he was liked and respected by his associates.

On 5 January 1927 Beattie had married Annie Isabel McLean in the Presbyterian Church, Whangarei, New Zealand. They were divorced in 1942. His second wife was Lillian Grace, née Holder, with whom he lived at St Kilda and Caulfield, Melbourne. On 8 September 1956 he married Kathleen Mary (Kay) Tucker-Smith in the United States of America. There were no children of his marriages. Survived by his wife, he died on 14 July 1980 at Ringwood, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • IPA Review, July-Sept 1980
  • Country Life, 10 July 1947
  • Age (Melbourne), 20 Sept 1962
  • Herald (Melbourne), 5 Sept 1964
  • CSIRO Archives, Canberra.

Citation details

H. J. W. Stokes, 'Beattie, William Anderson (1902–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 28 October 2016.

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

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