Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Russell, Alex (1892–1961)

by William I. Whitton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Alex Russell (1892-1961), grazier, soldier, golfer and golf course architect, was born on 4 June 1892 at Geelong, Victoria, son of Philip Russell, grazier, and his wife Mary Gray, née Guthrie, both of whom were born at Geelong. The family owned Mawallok, a sheep-station near Beaufort. Alex was sent to Glenalmond College, Perthshire, Scotland, for his early schooling. Returning to Australia, he attended (1908-11) Geelong Church of England Grammar School where he became a prefect, captain of cricket, and a member of the football and shooting teams; he also gained prizes for mathematics, English and divinity. In 1912 he travelled to England and entered Jesus College, Cambridge, to study engineering.

On 9 October 1914 Russell was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery. While serving on the Western Front, he was wounded twice, awarded the Military Cross and promoted (1918) acting major. At Holy Trinity Church, Chelsea, London, on 14 September 1917 he had married Jess Lucy, daughter of F. W. Fairbairn. The young couple sailed to Australia and settled at Sandringham, close to the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Alex won the Australian Open in 1924, the Australian foursomes in 1924 and 1926, and the Victorian and South Australian championships in 1925. Jess won the national ladies' foursomes in 1926 and 1927, and came second in the ladies' amateur championship in 1927, 1930 and 1932.

In 1926 Russell assisted the Scottish architect Alister Mackenzie to design Royal Melbourne's new west course at Black Rock; he and Mick Morcom, the club's greenkeeper, supervised construction and the links were opened in 1931. The new east course, which Russell designed (1930) and helped to build, opened in 1932. He also designed courses at Lake Karrinyup, Perth (1928), Yarra Yarra, Melbourne (1929), and Paraparaumu Beach, near Wellington, New Zealand (1951).

For a short period in the mid-1920s Russell had been private secretary to Prime Minister S. M. (Viscount) Bruce. In 1932 Alex and Jess moved to Mawallok. He developed the station's merino stud, won prizes for his sheep, and presided (1950-51) over the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association. During World War II he worked for the Australian Red Cross Society as deputy-commissioner (1941-42) in the Middle East and chief commissioner (1943-46) of the field force which operated mainly in the South-West Pacific Area. In the eighteen months between these two appointments he served in the Militia as camp commandant at headquarters, I Corps, joined the Australian Imperial Force on 4 August 1943 and directed amenities organizations at headquarters, New Guinea Force, Port Moresby, and Land Headquarters, Melbourne. In October he was transferred to the Reserve of Officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was mentioned in dispatches.

Russell was appointed a knight of grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1948. He was president (1936) of the Old Geelong Grammarians, a committee-member (1944-48) of the Melbourne Club, a councillor (1929-55) and life member (1933) of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, and captain (1946-49) and president (1950-52) of the Barwon Heads Golf Club. In retirement he lived at South Yarra. Survived by his wife, and their son and two daughters, he died of hypertensive cerebrovascular disease on 22 November 1961 at Heidelberg and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His estate was sworn for probate at £223,068. Greg Nuttman's charcoal sketch of Russell is held by the R.M.G.C.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Ellis, The History of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • J. W. Barnaby, The History of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, vol 2 (Melb, 1972)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Golf (Syd, 1990)
  • J. Johnson, The Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Melb, 1991)
  • Pastoral Review, 19 Dec 1961, p 1411
  • private information.

Citation details

William I. Whitton, 'Russell, Alex (1892–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/russell-alex-11585/text20681, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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