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Campbell, Alan Johnston (1895–1982)

by Keith Moore

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

Alan Johnston Campbell (1895-1982), grazier and political party organiser, was born on 31 July 1895 at Dubbo, New South Wales, fourth of five children of Charles Campbell, a grazier from Scotland, and his Victorian-born wife Sarah Ann Eliza, née Occleston. Alan’s father owned a property near Nyngan, but sold up and in 1903 moved the family to Wallen station, near Cunnamulla, Queensland. Later he was to acquire Merino Downs, Roma. Educated by governesses and at Toowoomba Grammar School (1908-10), Alan worked on Wallen until 1914. On 14 December that year he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He saw action with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment on Gallipoli (July to December 1915) and, as a lance corporal, in the Sinai and Palestine (from January 1916). Suffering from conjunctivitis and `defective action of the heart’, and blinded in the right eye by a bomb blast, he was admitted to hospital in May 1917. He was then employed on depot duties until repatriated in April 1919 and discharged on 16 June.

After the war Campbell managed Merino Downs and in 1929 acquired an adjoining property, Dalmally. He was chairman (1933-50) of the family’s pastoral company Charles Campbell & Sons Pty Ltd and active in the Roma branch of the Maranoa Graziers’ Association. Concerned about the declining profitability of wool, as founding president (1933) of the Australian Woolgrowers’ Association he became convinced of the benefits of political representation. In 1935 he formed one of the first branches of the Queensland Country Party at Roma and in March next year was elected to the inaugural State council. The party was unsuccessful in the 1938 election; in protest against the central organisation an autonomous western division was set up in 1940, with Campbell as president.

Campbell objected to the merger next year of the parliamentary wings of the Country and United Australia parties. Both parties experienced a dramatic loss of members, and in October 1943 the parliamentarians agreed to return to the QCP; Campbell was elected president. After the party was restructured in June 1944 as the Australian Country Party—Queensland, the disharmony between the parliamentary and organisational wings evaporated. T. H. Thelander asserted: `It was largely under the expert guidance of Campbell that a … rejuvenation of the organization now took place’. Impressed by the Australian Labor Party’s organisation, Campbell centralised power and rebuked parliamentarians whom he believed were neglecting their constituents. By 1951 the highly disciplined structure had attracted 35,000 members.

Due to poor health, Campbell resigned as president in 1951, but continued to occupy less strenuous executive positions at both State and federal levels, becoming a life member in 1956. Five years earlier he had liquidated his interest in the family company and moved to Brisbane. He travelled the world and was elected (1956) a fellow of the Queensland branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. Tall and handsome, he had been a committed bachelor until, on 19 August 1965 in the register office, Kensington, London, he married Barbara Jane Dunn, a 34-year-old registered nurse from Brisbane. In 1968 he resigned as a Country Party trustee when the Queensland central council insisted on using trustee account funds to meet the party’s administrative debts. He was appointed CMG in 1973. A family history was published in 1974 and his memoirs of the Queensland Country Party in 1975. He was a member of the Queensland Turf and Queensland clubs. Survived by his wife, he died on 5 March 1982 at Auchenflower and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Country Life, 11 Mar 1982, p 29
  • S. Walker, interview with A. Campbell (typescript, 1974, National Library of Australia)
  • T. H. Thelander, The Nature and Development of Country Party Organization in Queensland 1936-1944 (BA Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1974)
  • Campbell papers (State Library of Queensland)
  • private information.

Citation details

Keith Moore, 'Campbell, Alan Johnston (1895–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/campbell-alan-johnston-12284/text22055, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 October 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 17

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