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Maruff, Allan Peter (1911–1979)

by Dawn May

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Allan Peter Maruff (1911-1979), by unknown photographer, 1970

Allan Peter Maruff (1911-1979), by unknown photographer, 1970

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L87722

Allan Peter Maruff (1911-1979), tea-planter and medical practitioner, was born on 14 February 1911 at Ferozepore, Punjab, India, son of Frederick William Maruff, assistant civil surgeon, and his wife Margaret Amy, née William. Allan attended the University of Calcutta and won a gold medal for botany. On 20 May 1935 he was appointed assistant-surgeon, fourth class, in the Indian Medical Department. At St Francis Xavier's Church, Calcutta, on 21 March 1936 he married Dorothy Enid Haenon with Catholic rites.

During World War II Maruff served as a medical officer in the Indian Army. In 1946 he sailed to Britain where he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, London, in 1948. He emigrated to Australia in 1949. After a term as a Commonwealth medical officer in Port Moresby, he moved to Queensland and settled at Innisfail in 1954. Gaining a reputation as an expert in tropical diseases, he gave his time generously and travelled long distances to visit his patients.

Between 1883 and 1918 the Cutten brothers had struggled to establish a tea-plantation at Bingil Bay. In 1936 the Queensland Bureau of Tropical Agriculture began experimenting with tea at South Johnstone. It was Maruff, however, who demonstrated the feasibility of a commercial tea-growing industry in North Queensland. In 1959 he bought a block of land at Nerada, near Innisfail. He planted 15,000 seedlings in 1960, but lost most of them in a drought. Installing an irrigation system, he tried again with a more drought-resistant strain. By 1968 he had invested $300,000 in the project. Four men worked full time on the plantation, caring for more than 2.5 million trees on 100 acres (40 ha). Maruff engaged local engineering firms to improve the design of a mechanical harvester; as a result of this initiative, Australian machines were later exported to Malaysia and South Africa.

To raise capital, Maruff went into partnership in 1970 with Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd to form Nerada Tea Estates Pty Ltd. The new company built a factory at Nerada which had an innovative monorail system for conveying bins of green leaf to the withering-troughs. Problems with mechanical harvesting, marketing and cash flow caused the firm to lose money and production ceased on 30 June 1972. In the following year the plantation and factory were sold to Tea Estates of Australia, which operated them successfully. Maruff began an experimental tea, coffee and pepper plantation near Brisbane. He visited his new venture regularly, but continued to live and work at Innisfail.

Actively involved in the local community, Maruff was a Johnstone shire councillor (1976-79), president of the Innisfail branch of the Australian Labor Party, a member of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia and a supporter of the Queensland Society for Crippled Children. He died of cirrhosis of the liver on 19 July 1979 in Brisbane and was buried in Pinaroo lawn cemetery, Aspley; his wife, three daughters and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. J. Taylor, The Lost Plantation (Cairns, Qld, 1982)
  • Walkabout, Feb 1968, p 27
  • private information.

Citation details

Dawn May, 'Maruff, Allan Peter (1911–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/maruff-allan-peter-11077/text19717, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 12 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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