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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cochran, Samuel Fogo (1898–1972)

by Jack Watson

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

Samuel Fogo Cochran (1898-1972), public servant and administrator, was born on 30 May 1898 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of David McGilvray Cochran, journeyman ironturner, and his wife Agnes Clelland, née Fogo. The family migrated to Queensland in 1910. Educated at Glasgow and at Ipswich, in January 1914 Sam joined the Queensland Railway Department and worked as a clerk at Ipswich. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 February 1917, served in France with No.4 Railway Section, was promoted lance sergeant in November 1918 and was discharged in Brisbane on 3 January 1920. After he rejoined the railway department, he studied accountancy. On 15 December 1921 he married 17-year-old Pearl Isobel Lupton in the Presbyterian Church, Booval.

From May 1923 Cochran was based in Brisbane as a shorthand reporter in the Department of Justice. In 1927-37 he served as secretary to a number of royal commissions, including those on railways, the wheat and flour industries, racing and gaming, transport, and electricity. He was appointed assistant under-secretary in the Premier's and Chief Secretary's Department in September 1937. Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Queensland in 1938-50, he was its sole commissioner in 1948-50. His leadership and enterprise, personality and irrepressible energy, ensured a reorganization in the provision of electricity to southern Queensland and the establishment of a decentralized system of supply.

Cochran's experience, knowledge and enthusiasm ensured that his skills were in demand during World War II. His political awareness, capacity to identify issues and ability to make decisions were reinforced by his command of administrative detail. A member of several State wartime committees, he was deputy-director of rationing for Queensland and temporarily (in 1943) director of rationing in Australia. When the Federal government assumed emergency control of electricity supply, Cochran was appointed regional controller for Queensland. He was also a member (from 1944) of the Commonwealth Secondary Industries Commission.

On 10 July 1950 he was appointed chairman of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Joint Coal Board, and moved to Sydney. The board had been set up in 1947 to control the production and distribution of coal, and to develop the industry. Cochran tackled the serious problems, promoted mechanization and advocated better labour relations. Once sufficient quantities had been produced for local requirements, he identified and developed overseas markets for high quality coal. Charm, diplomatic tact and negotiating skills lay behind his forceful leadership. In 1957 he was appointed C.B.E. He retired in May 1963, having made a notable contribution to an efficient and prosperous industry.

Although something of a loner, Cochran was good company, a keen golfer and a talented pianist. A fellow of the Australian Society of Accountants, in his retirement he took up directorships of Thiess Holdings Ltd and Evans Deakin Industries Ltd, but in 1968, following a stroke that left him completely disabled, he returned to Queensland. He died on 24 January 1972 at the Broadbeach Nursing Centre and was buried in the Allambee Garden of Memories, Nerang. His wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • M. I. Thomis, A History of the Electricity Supply Industry in Queensland, vol 2, 1938-1988 (Brisb, 1990)
  • J. Priest, The Thiess Story (Brisb, 1981)
  • Australian Coal, Shipping, Steel and the Harbour, 1 Aug 1950
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 16 Jan 1944, 11 June 1950
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 1950, 28 Oct 1958
  • personnel records (Queensland Department of the Premier, Economics and Trade Development, Brisbane)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jack Watson, 'Cochran, Samuel Fogo (1898–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 October 2020.

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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