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Mitchell, Sir Angus Sinclair (1884–1961)

by Owen Parnaby

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

Sir Angus Sinclair Mitchell (1884-1961), grain broker and Rotarian, was born on 1 April 1884 at Shanghai, China, second son of James Alexander Mitchell, a master mariner from London, and his Victorian-born wife Elizabeth, née Anderson. James settled at Williamstown, Melbourne, in 1885, joined the Port Phillip pilots and helped to found the Victorian Stevedoring Co. Ltd. Angus was educated at Scotch College. In 1905, with his brother-in-law J. B. Bellair, he established Mitchell & Bellair, mercantile and grain brokers. When William Lees of the Corn Exchange Trade Association, Liverpool, England, joined the partnership in 1924, the firm was one of the largest of its kind in Australia. At the Menzies Hotel, Melbourne, on 5 October 1910 Mitchell had married with Presbyterian forms Teenie Robertson MacKenzie. He retired from his firm in 1936 and accepted directorships of several public companies, among them Australian Cement Ltd and Noske Industries Ltd.

A public-spirited man with a strong Presbyterian background, Mitchell gave much of his time to community work. During the Depression he had initiated the Port Melbourne settlement for unemployed youth, later the Young Men's Christian Association Port Melbourne Youth Centre, of which he was chairman. In 1931 he joined the State executive and finance committees of the Boy Scouts' Association (treasurer 1940-61). He was also a sponsor of the Lord Somers' Camp for boys, and president (1951-61) of the Victorian Society for Crippled Children (and Adults).

Mitchell contributed to international understanding through his membership of Rotary. Having joined the Rotary Club of Melbourne in 1927, he was its president in 1931-32. He was governor (1934-35) of Rotary District 65 (which covered the whole of Australia, except for Queensland and New South Wales north of the Riverina). While a director (1937-38) of Rotary International, he led a goodwill mission of sixty-four Australian Rotarians to the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three days before the outbreak of World War II, Mitchell wrote to his friend Paul Harris, founder of Rotary, that 'friendliness, understanding, and goodwill were the only lines upon which nations could settle their differences'. Throughout the war Mitchell planned for reconciliation with Rotarians in Germany and Japan. As president (1948-49) of Rotary International, he travelled 100,000 miles (160,000 km), visiting Rotary clubs in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Oceania. His warmth, simplicity and sincerity made a deep impression on all who met him. Before his presidency ended, five clubs in Japan and two in Germany were readmitted to Rotary International. Mitchell was knighted in 1956.

Sir Angus was tall and well built, with close-cropped hair. He was tolerant and wise, and dispassionate in considering problems. After his wife died in 1947, he lived at the Hotel Windsor. He enjoyed trout fishing at Tawonga, and rarely missed a Test match or a football final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Survived by his three daughters, he died on 16 August 1961 at Malvern and was cremated. Mitchell's portrait by (Sir) William Dargie is held by the Rotary Club of Melbourne, which established an annual oration in his memory; the library at International House, University of Melbourne, is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Hunt, The Story of Rotary in Australia, 1921-1971 (Syd, 1971)
  • Age (Melbourne), 2 Jan 1956
  • Mitchell papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Rotary Club of Melbourne papers (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Owen Parnaby, 'Mitchell, Sir Angus Sinclair (1884–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mitchell-sir-angus-sinclair-11136/text19833, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 January 2019.

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

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