Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jacobs, Sir Roland Ellis (1891–1981)

by Alison Painter

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

Sir Roland Ellis Jacobs (1891-1981), businessman, was born on 28 February 1891 in Adelaide, youngest of six children of Samuel Joshua Jacobs, a South Australian-born merchant, and his wife Caroline, née Ellis, from Victoria. Roland was educated at Geelong College, Victoria, and the Adelaide Shorthand and Business Training Academy. Rejected on medical grounds for active service in World War I, he served as a training and administrative officer in army camps in South Australia. On 29 August 1917 at New Farm, Brisbane, he married with Jewish rites Olga Hertzberg (d.1969). After working in several clerical positions he became South Australian agent for the Perth firm F. A. Henriques Ltd, acquired in 1930 by the Sydney-based company Mauri Bros & Thomson Ltd, suppliers to the brewing industry. Appointed assistant-manager and then manager, in 1942-43 he was president of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce.

In 1948 Jacobs joined the board of his father’s old firm, the South Australian Brewing Co. Ltd. Two months later he was named managing director and in 1951 chairman. His strong leadership in this dual role was a crucial factor in the development of the company after the difficult times of the Depression and World War II. In 1950 he selected a competent general manager in C. R. Aitken, allowing him to devote more time to the promotion of the company and the brewing industry. In June 1961 Jacobs stepped down as managing director but he continued as chairman until March 1965 and finally retired as a director two years later. He was chairman (1965-74) of the Executor Trustee & Agency Co. of South Australia Ltd.

Committed to community service, through his corporate associations Jacobs raised funds for the more than thirty organisations that he represented. He was president of the Crippled Children’s Association of South Australia (1947-51); the Australian Advisory Council for the Physically Handicapped (from 1951); the South Australian branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1949-65); and Meals on Wheels (1964-69). Vice-president of the South Australian division of the National Heart Foundation from 1960, with Sir Ivan Jose he supported the establishment in 1963 of the Medical Foundation, University of Adelaide. He served on the board of management of the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals (1954-57).

In the 1940s Jacobs had sat on the State advisory committee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and in 1948-65 on the committee of the South Australian Orchestral Association. He was a founding member (1960-64) of the board of governors of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. President of the Rotary Club of Adelaide (1938-39) and of Adelaide’s Commonwealth Club (1952), he was also a member of the Adelaide Club. He was knighted in 1963.

Sir Norman Young, Jacobs’s successor as chairman of the SA Brewing Co., said: `He had great charm, modesty, simplicity and impeccable manners. He never pretended. He commanded both respect and affection’. Although born into the Jewish faith, Jacobs was not a strict follower of its rituals. On 30 November 1970 he married Esther Cook MBE, formerly Lipman, a widow and daughter of Vaiben Louis Solomon, in a civil ceremony at her Leabrook home. Survived by his wife and the two daughters and son of his first marriage, Sir Roland died on 28 June 1981 at Leabrook and was buried in Centennial Park cemetery. His portrait by Sir William Dargie is held by his daughter Doreen Bridges AM.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Cudmore (compiler), History of the South Australian Brewing Company Limited (1988)
  • N. S. Young, Figuratively Speaking (1991)
  • J. Healey (ed), S.A.’s Greats (2001)
  • News (Adelaide), 13 Sept 1961, p 20
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 30 June 1981, p 3
  • private information.

Citation details

Alison Painter, 'Jacobs, Sir Roland Ellis (1891–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jacobs-sir-roland-ellis-12691/text22877, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 December 2014.

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

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