Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Philip, Sir William Shearer (1891–1975)

by Richard Trembath

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

Sir William Shearer Philip (1891-1975), accountant and charity worker, was born on 18 August 1891 at Williamstown, Melbourne, second child of William Philip, a master mariner from Scotland, and his Victorian-born wife Catherine Louise, née Lamont. Educated at Scotch College, young William joined Flack & Flack, accountants, in 1909. On 11 November 1915, the day that he completed his accountancy examinations, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force.

After sailing to England, he was sent to the Western Front in November 1916 as a company sergeant major in the 37th Battalion. In January 1917 he was commissioned. South-west of Albert, France, on 9 April 1918 he commanded a section of the front line during an enemy artillery bombardment which lasted twelve hours. His 'foresight and coolness' minimized casualties among his men and he was awarded the Military Cross. In May, near the Ancre flats, he led a party in a bold raid which 'brought back two prisoners, both of whom fought hard'. That month he was promoted lieutenant. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Australia on 27 July 1919.

At the Methodist Church, Hawthorn, on 8 December 1920 Philip married Irene Laura Cross, a 27-year-old typist. Having returned to Flack & Flack, he became a partner in 1925, and senior partner in 1935 on the death of Edwin Flack. He oversaw the firm's expansion in Australia and New Zealand. Philip was also a senior partner in the allied firm, Price, Waterhouse & Co., for ten years before he retired from accountancy in 1956. He had joined the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia in 1928: he was a member (1936-54) and chairman (1946-48) of its Victorian council, and a member (1944-50) of its general council. In 1940-45 he served as business adviser to the Australian Army Medical Corps. He also served as a member (1942-48) and chairman (1947-48) of the Charities Board of Victoria.

The main focus of Philip's voluntary activities, however, was the Alfred Hospital: he was a member (1935-75), treasurer (1939-48) and president (1948-75) of its board of management. During his presidency he oversaw an expansion of medical services, and an extensive rebuilding programme which included a new block that was named (1963) after him. In 1946 he had established a medical research fund which ensured that outstanding staff would be drawn to the Alfred. His contribution to the health system was motivated by the belief that 'the highest standard of medical care should be made available to all the people', a conviction that others saw as his personal creed.

In 1961 Philip was appointed C.M.G. In January 1975 he was knighted. A member of the Melbourne, Australian and Royal Melbourne Golf clubs, Sir William enjoyed excellent health for most of his life. He had a formidable memory, especially for the 'figures' with which much of his professional career and charitable interests were concerned. Survived by his two daughters and two sons, he died on 25 August 1975 in his home at Toorak and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • History of Scotch College, Melbourne, 1851-1925 (Melb, 1926)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1914-18, vol 6 (Syd, 1942)
  • A. M. Mitchell, The Hospital South of the Yarra (Melb, 1977)
  • Chartered Accountant in Australia, Oct 1975, p 57
  • private information.

Citation details

Richard Trembath, 'Philip, Sir William Shearer (1891–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/philip-sir-william-shearer-11382/text20335, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 August 2019.

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

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