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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gallop, Edward Robert Cowper (1893–1969)

by Rosemary Broomham

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Edward Robert Cowper Gallop (1893-1969), engineer and public servant, was born on 5 June 1893 at Toowoomba, Queensland, third child of English-born parents Edward Gallop, bank accountant, and his wife Lena, née Rommett. Young Edward was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and joined the Department of Public Works on 24 August 1911. He became a field-assistant in 1912 and was licensed as a surveyor in 1916. On 7 April 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He reached England in July 1917 and served in France with the 3rd Field Company, Engineers, from March 1918 to January 1919.

Discharged in Sydney on 2 June, Gallop returned to the Department of Works as a surveyor in the Murray River waters branch. In July 1921 he was promoted supervising mechanical engineer (grade 2) and transferred to water supply and sewerage. At St John's Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane, on 10 December 1928 he married Augusta Dorothy Picton Greenish, a nurse. From November 1936 he was employed as supervising local government engineer in the Department of Works and Local Government. In 1941 he was assigned to the administrative staff of the State War Effort Co-ordination Committee (which was created to speed up the production of charcoal, the base fuel for producer gas—the only effective substitute for petrol); he was also co-ordinating engineer for New South Wales (1942-45) with the Allied Works Council.

On 11 July 1945 Gallop was appointed permanent head of the Housing Commission of New South Wales, having stipulated that he bring several of his Allied Works staff with him. Hampered by persistent shortages of labour and building materials, by mid-1947 the Housing Commission had completed only a few hundred dwellings. Soon after his appointment, the first Commonwealth and State housing agreement provided effective finance to ameliorate a shortage estimated at 69,000 dwellings in Sydney alone. Despite the Menzies government's preference for state-assisted home-purchase from 1949, Gallop remained convinced that there would always be a need for public housing and maintained that rental accommodation should remain the first priority.

Given the level of emergency, the aggressive and authoritarian traits ascribed to Gallop by his colleagues were appropriate for the task. Under his chairmanship the commission gained a reputation for ruthlessness, especially for impinging on planning controls of the Cumberland County Council and of various municipalities. For economy and efficiency, Gallop kept his own staff small and employed contract labour for building. He did not welcome interference and took pride in describing the commission as the first home-building organization empowered to plan every detail from land acquisition to construction. Slum clearance was the one area where he seemed unable to cut through the demands of competing vested interests.

When suspended in 1949 by the minister for housing, Clive Evatt, over the principles employed in allocating prime land, he refused to accept the decision on the ground that it had no legislative basis. Backed by Premier James McGirr, Gallop prevailed. After attempting to abolish the commission in 1953, Evatt resigned from the Cahill ministry on 1 April 1954. These events ensured the Housing Commission's bureaucratic independence from excessive political manipulation.

In housing styles Gallop appeared to favour individual brick-and-tile bungalows, but he also presided over the construction of thousands of timber and fibro cottages, as well as crisis-accommodation in converted military camps. Flats were limited to 10 per cent. Through Gallop's determination and administrative skill, 45,000 dwellings were provided by the time he retired in 1958. In that year he was appointed C.B.E. He belonged to the North Sydney Bowling, Royal Automobile and Schools clubs, and enjoyed fishing. Survived by his wife and son, Gallop died on 12 June 1969 at his Cremorne home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • New South Wales Housing Commission, Homes for the People (Syd, 1947) and Housing in New South Wales (Syd, 1957) and Annual Report, 1942-62
  • J. Roe (ed), Twentieth Century Sydney (Syd, 1980)
  • M. Kelly (ed), Sydney, City of Suburbs (Syd, 1987)
  • Commonwealth Housing Commission, Final Report, 25 Aug 1944
  • New South Wales Contract Reporter, 74, no 28, 9 July 1969, p 5
  • Australian Journal of Administration, Sept 1989
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Dec 1936, 3 Mar 1942, 7 June 1945, 13 June 1947, 8, 9, 16, 17 June, 8 Sept, 19, 20, 27 Oct, 5 Nov 1949, 8 July 1953, 4 May 1955, 21 Feb 1957, 31 May, 12 June, 16 Oct 1958.

Citation details

Rosemary Broomham, 'Gallop, Edward Robert Cowper (1893–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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