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Grant, Alexander Charles (1843–1930)

by Chris Tiffin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Alexander Charles Grant (1843-1930), pastoralist and businessman, was born on 12 August 1843 at Inverness, Scotland, son of Peter Grant, sugar merchant of Demerara, West Indies, and his wife Jessie, daughter of John Macdonald of Ness Castle, Inverness. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, the Royal Academy of Halle, Germany, and Montgrennan House, near Irvine, Scotland. Early in 1861 Grant arrived in Queensland to work for his uncle Chesborough Claudius Macdonald on Cadarga in the Burnett district. At first an unpaid jackeroo, then superintendent of the store and the cattle, he also drove 20,000 sheep north to Macdonald's Logan Downs, near Clermont. In 1868 Grant and his brothers bought Dartmoor, inland from Mackay, but sold out in 1870 when the country proved unsuitable for sheep. He established Wrotham Park on the Mitchell River in 1874. Although he sold meat to the Normanby and Palmer goldfields, he failed to find a partner for a wholesale meat concern. This failure and severe malaria led him to sell his share of Wrotham Park in 1878.

While seeking health in travel overseas, Grant wrote a fictionalized account of his experiences, published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1879-80 and reprinted as Bush Life in Queensland or John West's Colonial Experiences (Edinburgh, 1881); there were two later editions. Returning to Queensland in 1879, he married Sarah Elizabeth North at Ipswich on 28 November and joined the mercantile and pastoral firm, B. D. Morehead & Co. His practical background soon made him indispensable and he was rapidly promoted to manager of the stock and station business and to a junior partnership. Through the senior partners, Morehead and William Forrest, he made valuable political and financial contacts. In great demand as an assessor in hearings before the land boards inaugurated by the Crown Lands Act of 1884, he travelled widely throughout Queensland, seeking lower valuations for pastoralists. Although the firm was old and respected, it was badly shaken by the Queensland National Bank crash which brought not only deflated land values and bankruptcies but also a whiff of scandal since Morehead had been a director of the bank. In the resultant reshuffle Grant emerged as managing director of the new company, Morehead's Ltd, with a 30 per cent shareholding. Morehead & Co. had sponsored the Queensland Meat Export and Agency Co. Ltd which allowed Queensland to enter the frozen meat trade. From the 1880s Grant campaigned for local sale of wool rather than sending the clip to Sydney or London. In spite of opposition the Brisbane wool sales were successfully established in 1898.

A captain in the Queensland Scottish Volunteers until 1890, Grant was also a trustee of the Brisbane Public Library in 1896, a member of the Johnsonian Club and vice-president of the Queensland Stock Breeders and Graziers' Association in 1898. In the drought of 1900-01 he lost heavily. Convinced that the best days of pastoralism were over, fearful of radical political trends and concerned about his children's prospects, he decided to seek refuge in the United States of America. Selling up all his Queensland interests in 1902, he took his wife, three sons and eight daughters to California. He died in Los Angeles on 8 January 1930.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • Government Gazette (Queensland), 3 May 1890, 3 Jan 1891
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1901 (4), 365
  • Queenslander, 17, 31 May, 1 June 1902, 16 Jan 1930
  • J. L. F. Mitke, The History of Our Race (manuscript, 1969, privately held)
  • manuscript and correspondence FM4/3653, 6463 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Groom papers (National Library of Australia)
  • 167 Box 59 (Australian National University Archives).

Citation details

Chris Tiffin, 'Grant, Alexander Charles (1843–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grant-alexander-charles-6451/text11043, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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