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Grant, Alfred Frank Gallard (1917–1983)

by Chris McConville

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

Alfred Frank Gallard Grant (1917-1983), land developer, pastoralist and racehorse-breeder, was born on 20 March 1917 at Murwillumbah, New South Wales, son of Walter Alfred Grant, farmer, and his wife Elsie, née Gallard, both born in New South Wales. Alfred started dealing in cattle aged 17, and by 21 had acquired seventy dairy cows, leased a property on the Tweed River and hired a manager for his farming enterprise. He used the profits to put himself through an accounting course and then moved to Melbourne, where he worked as a clerk in an accounting firm and a stock and station agency.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 November 1939, Grant served in the Middle East (1940-42) with the Army Canteens Service and in the Solomon Islands (1944-45) with the 2/1st Movement and Transportation Group. He was discharged in Australia on 3 November 1945 as a sergeant. On 27 October 1943 at Scots Presbyterian Church, Melbourne, he had married Olive Patricia O’Leary (d.1981). Resuming civilian work as a travelling salesman, in 1949 he turned to selling real estate for a firm that soon appointed him manager of a new branch office in Toowoomba, Queensland, and then promoted him State manager. In 1955 he started out on his own to develop coastal properties in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Visits to Florida, United States of America, and Hawaii convinced Grant that the Gold Coast offered excellent opportunities for canal and country club developments, and that it was possible to convert flood-prone swamps into prime building blocks by pumping water out of sand along the Nerang River. With the architect Karl Langer, he pioneered `man-made waterway estates’ in south-east Queensland; using sophisticated town planning principles they created Miami Keys and Rio Vista in 1957. (Sir) Bruce Small’s and Stanley Korman’s canal estates soon followed. In 1961 Grant began work on an estate at Kawana Waters, on low-lying coastal land between Caloundra and Mooloolaba. However, he faced a number of problems, including poor drainage and apparent buyer resistance to the flat terrain and inadequate services. He later developed further waterfront and country club estates, and built restaurants and bowling clubs.

Continuing to pursue his farming interests, Grant planned an innovative scheme combining intensive agriculture with fattening cattle. His pastoral company cleared coastal scrub at Beerwah and Sippy Downs and planted tropical legumes and grasses, intending to bring cattle from inland Queensland, fatten them on the improved pastures and send them by train to southern markets. The project was to meet with mixed success.

Having accumulated a substantial fortune from his various agricultural endeavours and property development, Grant concentrated on horse-racing and breeding. His horse Intrepid Clipper won the Queensland Derby in 1969. Early in the 1970s Grant built up Gainsborough Lodge, near Toowoomba, into an elaborate breeding property, importing the expensive stallions Beau Brummel, Charlton and Rock Roi. By 1974 it was the largest and possibly best-equipped stud in the Southern Hemisphere, with an airstrip, a horse hospital and an all-weather training track alongside architect-designed breeding barns and training stable. Now the dominant figure in Australian stud-breeding, Grant set out ambitiously to create a second stud, Wellcamp, on 3000 acres (1214 ha) adjacent to Gainsborough. In 1976 he sold more than one hundred yearlings.

By the 1970s Alfred Grant Pty Ltd was probably the biggest family-owned real estate company in Queensland. Grant divided his interests between Alfred Grant Holdings Ltd, a publicly listed property development company (in which he held three-quarters of the stock) and Alfred Grant Pastoral Properties Pty Ltd. Capitalised in 1974 at over $12 million, Alfred Grant Holdings soon ran into severe financial difficulties. In 1975 the development rights for the troubled Kawana Waters estate were sold. In March 1977 three subsidiaries collapsed and Grant declared himself bankrupt. The stud was liquidated and a dispersal sale of the thoroughbred stock was held in July. Next year Grant abandoned his last remaining agricultural enterprise, at Sippy Downs. He returned to the family farm in the Tweed Valley.

Known as the `shy man of real estate’, Grant did not mix in the rambunctious political circles of the Gold Coast in the 1960s and 1970s. However, he had helped to transform the coast of south-east Queensland, creating a distinctive urban form. Survived by his three daughters, he died of pneumonia on 11 November 1983 at Auchenflower, Brisbane, and was buried in Pinnaroo lawn cemetery, Aspley.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Jones, A Sunny Place for Shady People (1986)
  • South Coast Bulletin, 17 Sept 1958, p 29
  • Nambour Chronicle, 2 Feb 1967, p 1
  • Herald (Melbourne), 22 Mar 1974, p 2, 11 July 1977, p 1
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 12 Nov 1983, p 5.

Citation details

Chris McConville, 'Grant, Alfred Frank Gallard (1917–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grant-alfred-frank-gallard-12559/text22609, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 October 2018.

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

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