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Bell, Colin Basil (1902–1976)

by Margaret Bridson Cribb

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

Colin Basil Peter Bell (1902-1976), grazier, was born on 22 May 1902 at Canning Downs, near Warwick, Queensland, second child of Colin Basil Peter Bell, station-manager, and his wife Sibyl Frances, née Needham, both native-born; he was a great-grandson of Thomas Bell who had acquired Jimbour station, near Dalby, in 1844, and a grandson of Sir Joshua Bell. Educated at The Southport School and Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), young Colin began his working life in the time-honoured tradition of pastoralists' sons as a jackeroo, at Portland Downs, Queensland, in 1921. Having been employed as an overseer (1923-28) on Evesham station, between Longreach and Winton, he spent two years in England at an uncle's stud and training stable. Back in Queensland, on 4 March 1930 Bell married Hilda Walsh in St Alban's Anglican Chapel, The Southport School. Uncharacteristically, the young couple began their married life on a dairy farm near Boonah, but soon acquired Dandaraga, a sheep station near Ilfracombe, and subsequently added Rocklea in the same district.

His rise to power within two of the State's most important and established interest groups—the United Graziers' Association of Queensland and the Queensland Employers' Federation—began with his active involvement in the Central and Northern Graziers' Association, one of a number of largely autonomous district bodies whose delegates constituted the U.G.A. As C.N.G.A. president (1953-58), Bell played a prominent role in the successful resolution, in favour of the employers, of the 1956 shearers' strike. Moving to Brisbane, he became president (1959-71) of the U.G.A. He developed an enviable reputation as a highly effective lobbyist on behalf of the interests he represented: some saw the 1960s as the golden era of the association, despite severe droughts which hit sheep-owners hard. Under Bell's leadership, the U.G.A. strongly supported Sir William Gunn's reserve-price scheme for wool which was introduced in 1970. The association assisted members to obtain freehold of their land, and monitored the consequences of containerization on beef exports and the effects of land development under the brigalow scheme.

Bell was also president of the Queensland Employers' Federation for a record fifteen years from 1958. In this capacity, combined with his role in the U.G.A., he became the acknowledged spokesman on industrial relations for all Queensland employers and carried authority with State governments. A member of the federal Graziers' Council and of the Australian Woolgrowers' Council, he was chairman of the United Graziers' Co-operative Shearing Co. Ltd and of the State board of the Co-operative Insurance Co. He was, as well, a director of the Queensland Country Life newspaper and a foundation member of the State Rural Reconstruction Board. In 1968 he was appointed C.B.E.

For relaxation, Bell bred, trained and trialled sheepdogs, with much success. Tall and in later life heavily built, he 'could be over-bearing, autocratic, rude and fearfully aggressive at times', but charming, kind and considerate at others. One of his most remarkable abilities was 'to converse easily with graziers on any issue and usually persuade them to a consensus view'. Survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, he died on 17 August 1976 in Brisbane and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Kerr, Freedom of Contract (Brisb, 1990)
  • Queensland Country Life, 5 June, 6 Nov 1958, 5 Mar, 2 July 1959, 19 Aug 1976
  • Queensland Newsletter, 19 Aug 1976
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 2 July 1959, 13 May 1971, 18 Aug 1976
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 1959, 8 June 1968.

Citation details

Margaret Bridson Cribb, 'Bell, Colin Basil (1902–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bell-colin-basil-9478/text16675, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 October 2018.

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

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