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Pittard, Alfred James (1868–1950)

by Weston Bate

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

Alfred James Pittard (1868-1950), businessman, politician and municipal councillor, was born on 3 August 1868 at Ballarat West, Victoria, son of James Alfred Pittard, bootmaker, and his wife Annie, née Drew, both English born. At 12 he left Dana Street State School, Ballarat West, to work for a plumber at Geelong but returned by 1891 to his father's shoe-shop in Bridge Street. Alfred took control of the business early in the twentieth century and later moved to Sturt Street, with branches in Lydiard Street and at Maryborough. He gained a reputation for efficiency and fair dealing.

Typically for Ballarat, his moral and intellectual mainsprings came from church and mutual improvement society activities. He read strongly, especially political economy, and debated contemporary issues with opponents like the silver-tongued James Scullin. His social conscience found expression throughout his life in strong contributions to the Ballarat orphanage, benevolent asylum, mental hospital, public library, Town and City Mission, the Ballarat East branch of the Australian Natives' Association, the Charities Board of Victoria and the Eureka Stockade Committee. A foundation member of Ballarat Rotary he was district governor in 1933. As Sunday school superintendent and lay preacher at St Peter's Church of England at Ballarat West (where he was married) and a vestry member at St Paul's at Ballarat East, he linked the traditionally divided Ballarat community.

Elected to the Ballarat East town council in 1908, Pittard was mayor in 1913-14 and again in 1920-21 prior to the amalgamation of the two towns. From initial opposition to the proposal he was converted to strong advocacy at a town-planning conference in 1920. With W. D. Hill, he was responsible for a smooth transition to 'Greater Ballarat'; they both believed passionately that the union would help to promote the decentralization of industry on which Ballarat's revival depended. Gold mining was finished. Pittard retired from council after a further term as mayor in 1926, but continued to serve on the Ballarat Water Commission and Sewerage Authority (chairman 1934-50), the Country Fire Brigades Board and the Provincial Sewerage Authorities Association (chairman 1944-49).

From 1931 until he retired in 1949 he was the local member of the Legislative Council. An independent of liberal persuasion and an effective debater, he pressed for decentralization and served on numerous parliamentary committees. For this and his community work he was appointed C.B.E. in 1946.

A strong, lean man of medium height, with a big nose and a sharp but friendly eye, Pittard was a racing cyclist in his youth and a keen lawn bowler later on. On 6 March 1895 he had married Alice Mary Crocker whose father George was a prominent draper and councillor in Ballarat West. They had one daughter and a son Alan, whose career matched his father's in municipal, business, parliamentary and institutional affairs. Alice was as public spirited as her husband. She served prominently for many years with such bodies as the Ladies' Clothing Society, Baby Health Centres Association, National Council of Women, Ballarat Hospital, Red Cross Society, Victoria League, Ladies' Art Society, New Settlers' League, Girl Guides and the School of Domestic Arts. After Alfred died on 16 May 1950, she continued the work they had shared. He was buried in Ballarat new cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Ballarat Courier, 23-26 May 1921, 17, 18 May 1950
  • Age (Melbourne), 17 May 1950
  • Argus (Melbourne), 17 May 1950
  • Ballarat rate books and mayor's reports (Public Record Office Victoria).

Citation details

Weston Bate, 'Pittard, Alfred James (1868–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 April 2019.

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

View the front pages for Volume 11

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