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Elphinstone, Augustus Cecil (1874–1964)

by A. L. Lougheed

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Augustus Cecil Elphinstone (1874-1964), businessman and politician, was born on 13 September 1874 in London, son of Henry Walker Elphinstone, clerk, and his wife Harriet Ann, née Eldred. Educated at Forrest House College, Woodford, he joined the staff of the Bank of England and in 1892 spent a year at Charters Towers, Queensland. Returning to England in 1894, he was fourteen years in insurance, becoming general manager of the Welsh Insurance Corporation, and serving seven years in the Territorial Army.

Elphinstone returned to Queensland in 1912 and was briefly a tobacco farmer near Bowen. He moved to Brisbane in 1914 as one of the founders of the Queensland Cement and Lime Co. at Darra, first as general manager in difficult formative years, and then on the board. In 1917, when the entry of the United States of America into the war created potential shortages of motor car parts, Elphinstone acquired a large shipment of Bosch magnetos and began selling motor accessories from a basement in Queen Street. Elphinstone Pty Ltd, which he launched in 1918, later became public and is still trading. In August-November 1918, he served in the Australian Imperial Force.

He also entered politics in 1918 as Nationalist member for Oxley in the Legislative Assembly. In 1921 he joined the Country Party, announcing that he hoped to provide it with 'strong leadership and administrative ability'. He was one of the main figures in the creation of the United Party in November 1922 and was asked to resign from the Country Party. Despite frequent quarrels, he stayed in the renamed Country and Progressive National Party. But, infuriated by internal feuds and what he saw as unfair business competition by a party member, he resigned in 1929, tried to form a small centre party and, standing as an independent, lost his seat.

According to Bernays, Elphinstone was tall, clean-shaven and pleasant looking with the cultivated manners of an English public school boy. Able and fluent, he could speak on many topics, but was at his best in destructive analysis of government economic proposals. He had the capacity to be a great premier but, through vanity and his ability to make enemies even in his own party 'he ended up by being nothing'.

Besides maintaining his business interests, Elphinstone became a grand master of the Royal Society of St George, president of the Empire Marketing League and president of the Wholesale Automotive Suppliers Association of Queensland. He was one of the original trustees and sometime president of the Graceville Bowling Club. On 5 October 1897 at Chingford, Essex, he had married Louisa Dinah Lloyd; they had five children. When he died in Brisbane on 24 March 1964, he was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate, valued for probate at £18,372, was left entirely to his family.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland: Our Seventh Political Decade 1920-1930 (Syd, 1931)
  • Australian Historical Publishing Co., Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1922, p 40, 1927, p 49, 432, 706
  • Brisbane Courier, 18 Nov 1921, 13 June 1923, 24 Aug 1928, 20 Feb 1929
  • Daily Mail (Brisbane), 4 Sept 1923
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 25 Mar 1964
  • Z. Abidin, The Origins and Development of the Queensland Country Party 1909-32 (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1958).

Citation details

A. L. Lougheed, 'Elphinstone, Augustus Cecil (1874–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/elphinstone-augustus-cecil-6110/text10471, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 28 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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