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Shand, Donald Munro (1904–1976)

by John Atchison

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

Donald Munro Shand (1904-1976), grazier and airline founder, was born on 20 September 1904 at Drummoyne, Sydney, fourth child of James Barclay Shand, a native-born accountant, and his wife Ann, née Donald, who came from Scotland. James was later a member (1926-44) of the Legislative Assembly. Don was sent to Epping Public, Cleveland Street Intermediate High and Burwood Commercial schools. While employed by a Sydney wool firm, he attended classes at Sydney Technical College. He worked on various grazing properties in the Armidale district before becoming a wool and skin buyer. At St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 24 May 1927 he married the twice widowed, 48-year-old Evelyn Wigan, née Hawkins, formerly Hyde. They settled at Woodville, a 4000-acre (1619 ha) property at Puddledock, near Armidale.

Prompted by an article on improved pastures in Farm Topics (1928), Shand began the arduous task of converting heavily timbered country into agricultural tillage and supplemented his income by selling wood to residents of Armidale. Through the Depression, he worked long and hard hours. In 1935 he started to produce fat lambs. By 1939 he had acquired a considerable reputation for cultivating large-scale crops of soy beans and peas, as well as chrysanthemums for pyrethrum and opium poppies for morphine.

Shand contested the House of Representatives seat of New England for the Country Party in 1940 and 1949; on each occasion his preferences helped the co-endorsed candidate, respectively Joseph Abbott and David Drummond, to victory. During World War II Shand had set up Women's Agricultural Security Production Services groups, using female students from Teachers' College, Armidale, and local women to harvest crops and as casual labour. With the co-operation of other landholders, he organized mass production of primary products as part of the war effort.

Believing that Australia could not reach its potential without regional development, Shand became founding chairman of East-West Airlines Ltd in 1947. His cousin J. W. Shand was a director. The company had planned to fly between Grafton and Moree, but switched to Tamworth-Sydney and other routes. Low population densities and too few paying customers proved obstacles. Backed by local graziers including A. S. Nivison and P. A. Wright, East-West expanded into aerial agriculture—spreading superphosphate, seeding, and crop dusting. Shand oversaw the successive purchase of Avro Anson, Lockheed Hudson, Douglas DC-3 and Fokker Friendship aircraft. He developed a close link with Trans-Australian Airlines and in 1960 Lester Brain became a director of East-West. Next year, with the support of the New South Wales cabinet, Shand withstood pressure from Senator (Sir) Shane Paltridge and the Commonwealth government to accept a takeover offer from Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. In the early 1970s East-West extended its routes to Maroochydore, Queensland, and Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and emerged as an innovator in providing cheap, direct charter flights, with bulk-booking of hotel and resort accommodation.

During World War II the Federal government had appointed Shand to an advisory body to investigate new crops. On a visit to the United States of America in 1943, he realized that Australia was ignoring a prospective commercial industry. He smuggled home grains of hybrid sorghum maize and established a trial plot on Woodville. Helped by correspondence with Eugene Funk, and other plant breeders at the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Ames, U.S.A., and at the Max-Planck-Institut für Züchtungsforschung, Scharnhorst, West Germany, he built a base from which the Shand Selected Seed Co. (from 1969 Dekalb Shand Seed Co. Pty Ltd) sold hybrid maize seed. By the early 1970s, as beef prices plummeted and the sheep and wool industry endured crisis, his Woodville field-days attracted thousands of visitors from all parts of eastern Australia. In 1976 he was appointed C.M.G.

Shand was a man of ideas, always looking for new ventures. Some projects, such as promoting the outback as a tourist destination and the water-bombing of bushfires, came to fulfilment; others, such as growing orchids and daffodils for the North American market and stocking dams with South African 'Tirasia' fish, proved unviable. Shand relaxed from the rigours of a taxing life by building over one hundred dams with a bulldozer he kept at Puddledock. Evelyn died in 1951. On 24 May 1952 at St Paul's Church, Armidale, Shand married another 48-year-old widow Beryl Constance Downe, née Coventry. He was 'a burly six-footer [183 cm], with ruddy cheeks and matching laughter'. An entertaining, colourful raconteur, he held court in Tattersall's Hotel with grazing families who came to town for the Thursday sales and shopping forays. He died on 7 November 1976 at Woodville and was cremated. His wife survived him; both his marriages were childless.

Select Bibliography

  • A. J. Smith, East-West Eagles (Brisb, 1989)
  • Farm Topics, 15 May, 1 Aug 1928
  • Armidale Express, 26, 28, 30 Aug, 6 Sept 1940, 11, 16 Nov, 7, 12 Dec 1949, 8, 10, 12 Nov 1976
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Nov 1943, 23 Jan 1945, 4 June 1951, 25 Oct 1961
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 29 Oct 1961, 4 Dec 1969
  • Bulletin, 4 Mar 1972
  • Northern Daily Leader, 9, 11 Nov 1976
  • Shand papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Shand, Donald Munro (1904–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shand-donald-munro-11662/text20835, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 September 2014.

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

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