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Green, William Allan McInnes (1896–1972)

by Martyn Webb

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

William Allan McInnes Green (1896-1972), civil engineer and town clerk, was born on 24 January 1896 at Port Adelaide, son of Thompson Green, riveter, and his wife Margaret, née Kelly. Educated at Adelaide High School, Allan joined the South Australian Railways on 11 March 1914 as a draftsman. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 March 1916, served on the Western Front in 1917-18 with the 2nd Tunnelling Company and was promoted temporary sergeant in January 1919. Following his discharge in Adelaide on 27 February 1920, he resumed his former employment, while studying part time at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries and at the University of Adelaide (B.Eng., 1928).

Resigning from the railways on 9 June 1928, Green became designer and computer to the Adelaide City Council. He was associated with the design of many large works, assisted in the reconstruction of the city's markets and baths, and provided advice on amending the State's building codes. On 5 April 1932 he married Edyth Irene Thomas with Congregational forms at the Stow Memorial Church, Adelaide. An associate-member (1932) of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and an associate (1934) of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (fellow, 1945), he moved to Tasmania in 1934 as assistant-engineer, architect and building surveyor to the City of Launceston where he designed a number of public buildings and remodelled the town hall.

On 17 May 1937 Green was appointed building surveyor to the Perth City Council. In October 1945 he formally succeeded W. E. Bold as town clerk. Public criticism of Bold's administration, chiefly stemming from D. L. Davidson, the commissioner for town planning, had culminated in 1938 in a royal commission which found that Bold had grown careless in his responsibilities. Green's appointment was intended to restore credibility to the office of town clerk and to revive the spirit of planning in the State. Gifted with a breadth of knowledge, sincerity and a great capacity for industry, Green grew to understand how the City of Perth operated. In 1952 he toured Europe and North America, and saw for himself what could be done by decisive civic action.

With Green's encouragement, Professor Gordon Stephenson (from England) and J. A. Hepburn prepared an ambitious exercise in regional planning: published as an advisory plan in 1955, their report formed the basis of the Perth Metropolitan Region Scheme (1963). Meanwhile, it was Green's confidence that the city could build the basic sporting venues—a stadium, a swimming pool and a residential village—that made Perth's bid for the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games a successful one. He then took a leading role in marshalling the city's resources, in co-ordinating and supervising the works programme, and in designing the Perry Lakes Stadium and the Beatty Park Aquatic Centre.

As town clerk and Perth's chief executive-officer, Green was renowned for his ability to master long and complex agendas. It was said that his will lay behind every important decision. Green was generally inaccessible to the press. He argued that, since he could always make his views known to the Perth City Council, there was no need for him to be in the public eye. The absence of overt party politics in local government in the council favoured his no-nonsense, straightforward approach. As an engineer he was quick to grasp essentials, as an architect he had a flair for seeing things as a whole, and as an administrator he believed in thorough preparation and research. He was either the designer or the adviser for practically every building constructed by the city council between 1944 and 1966. In 1963 he was appointed C.M.G. His appointment was extended to 1966, by when he was three years beyond the stipulated age for retirement. He was Western Australia's most experienced, qualified and versatile local government officer.

Green was a kindly, perceptive, articulate and resolute man who, in serving the city council to which he was devoted, found a congenial place in which to develop and practise his talents. He died on 5 September 1972 at Shenton Park and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Local Government Journal of Western Australia, 1972, p 14
  • M. Webb 'The Inaugural Allan McInnes Green Oration', Local Government Administration (Perth), 20, no 13, 1983, p 17
  • Daily News (Perth), 24 Feb 1960, 14 Jan, 28 July 1962
  • West Australian, 24 Feb 1966, 8 Sept 1972
  • Perth City Council, staff files, W. A. McI. Green (State Records Office of Western Australia).

Citation details

Martyn Webb, 'Green, William Allan McInnes (1896–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/green-william-allan-mcinnes-10354/text18335, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 November 2018.

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

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