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Palfreyman, Achalen Woolliscroft (1875–1967)

by James G. Cooper

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Achalen Woolliscroft Palfreyman (1875-1967), businessman, was born on 21 July 1875 at Wynyard, Tasmania, son of Rev. Isaac Hardcastle Palfreyman and his wife Martha Lucy, née Albury. One of a family of seventeen he was educated at his father's Hobart private school. At 14 he began work as a newspaper cadet but soon became office-boy at George Peacock's jam factory. The main reason for this success was his ability to play the organ for factory morning prayers: later he was also a strong baritone.

In 1891 Palfreyman, (Sir) Henry Jones and Peacock's son Ernest formed a partnership to take over the factory, Palfreyman persuading his father to invest £500 to make him an equal partner. He was regarded as a business prodigy with an uncanny mastery of book-keeping and the firm's day-to-day affairs. In 1898 he joined another of George Peacock's sons, William, in Sydney in a firm which became the Australasian Jam Co. Pty Ltd; in 1901 he moved to Melbourne, having married Ellen Gwendoline Reid, at his father's undenominational King Street Church, North Hobart, on 28 March 1900.

The Hobart partnership was replaced in 1903 by a limited liability company, H. Jones & Co. Pty Ltd, and in November 1909 a Melbourne-based holding company, Henry Jones Co-operative Ltd, took over H. Jones & Co., Australasian Jam Co. and two other Sydney businesses. The group organization, which eventually extended to South Africa, New Zealand and every Australian State, was criticized as monopolistic, yet in fact did not pursue policies harmful to the consuming public. On Jones's death in 1926 Palfreyman was appointed chairman, a position he retained until 1965. A firm believer in manufacturing only the best quality goods, he was highly regarded as a businessman. He saw the co-operative's activities broaden to cover the growing, processing and exporting of fruit, sawmilling, hops and vegetable growing, cattle and sheep raising, flour milling, insurance, shipping and broadcasting.

Like Jones, Palfreyman invested in the IXL Prospecting Co. and the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co. His company, Consolidated Tin Dredging, later taken over by Ready Mixed Concrete, pioneered the recovery of tin in the Malay States by bucket dredges. He was also a director of Victorian Construction Pty Ltd which built the Oodnadatta-Alice Springs Railway and he was involved with the Timms Bridge Construction Co. which partially built the Hobart floating arch bridge in 1938. He was a director of the Commercial Bank of Australia and was reputedly the largest individual shareholder in Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd.

Charming, dignified and warm-hearted, Palfreyman was of average height, slim build and immaculate dress. Confident and articulate, he read widely, was a great letter-writer and had a special interest in language. Neither a club man nor a participant in community affairs, he indulged in horseracing under the name 'A. Woolliscroft', winning the Australian Cup with Defence, last son of Carbine, in 1918. Later he raced in partnership with (Sir) Eugene Gorman.

Palfreyman died on 24 October 1967 at his 14-acre (5.7 ha) home Clovelly, Toorak, and was cremated; he was survived by one of his two daughters. Believed to have been one of Australia's wealthiest men, he left an estate valued for probate at $6,622,975.

Select Bibliography

  • Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 20, no 1, 1973
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 11 Jan 1965
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Oct 1967
  • Australian Financial Review, 26 Oct 1967
  • Mercury (Hobart), 26 Oct 1967, 16 Feb 1975
  • private information.

Citation details

James G. Cooper, 'Palfreyman, Achalen Woolliscroft (1875–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/palfreyman-achalen-woolliscroft-7945/text13829, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 November 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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