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Stirling, Kenneth George (1935–1973)

by Colin Lawton

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

Kenneth George Stirling (1935-1973), accountant and benefactor, was born on 8 December 1935 in Adelaide, elder son of George Leonard Stirling, a railway engineman from Western Australia, and his South Australian-born wife Flora Elizabeth Joy, née Russell. Ken attended Quorn Public School and Scotch College, Adelaide, worked in an accountant's office, studied part time at the University of Adelaide (B.Ec., 1960) and qualified as an associate-member (1960) of the Australian Society of Accountants. At St Columba's Church of England, Hawthorn, on 28 April 1962 he married Bronte Stokes Gooden.

From 1960 Stirling was employed in accountancy and administration at Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd, Port Pirie, and at Broken Hill South Ltd and P. G. Pak-Poy & Associates Pty Ltd in Adelaide. In 1969 he became secretary and a director of Samin Ltd, a reprocessor of copper residues. The firm had a considerable shareholding in Poseidon Ltd; when Samin shares were first traded on Australian stock exchanges in January 1970 they immediately rose to very high levels. The paper value of Stirling's interests in Samin embarrassed him. According to his wife, 'he believed he hadn't earned the money the mining boom brought him' and 'his main concern was to use it for the good of the community'.

Stirling took a keen interest in the history of his mother's family property, Callanna, near Marree, and consulted records in the South Australian Archives. He joined the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia and contributed to its report on the Oraparinna area of the Flinders Ranges. His other interests included railway history, civil liberties, and the Adelaide University Graduates' Union, on which he served in 1970-73. After selling some of his Samin shares, he made several anonymous gifts in 1970: $50,000 to the Libraries Board of South Australia to accelerate the transfer of government and other records to the State archives, $200,000 to the Australian Conservation Foundation to establish national parks in South Australia, and $100,000 to the University of Adelaide to set up an educational radio station.

Assisted by Stirling's donation, the S.A.A. acquired important records from several government departments. The money he gave to the A.C.F. helped to establish national parks at Montacute and Mount Scott, both near Adelaide, and in the extension of existing reserves at Scott Creek, in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and Warrenben, on Yorke Peninsula. The University of Adelaide's radio-station 5UV, opened in 1972, became a model in the field of public broadcasting.

In 1971 Samin was taken over by Poseidon. Stirling regarded himself as a supernumerary, resigned in 1972 and found a job in a solicitor's office. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and son, he died suddenly of myocardial infarction on 8 November 1973 at the university oval and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at $289,903. In 1990 the State government acquired land in the Adelaide Hills for the Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park.

Select Bibliography

  • R. M. Gibbs, Bulls, Bears and Wildcats (Adel, 1988)
  • Libraries Board of South Australia, Annual Report, 1969/70, p 4, 1970/71, p 13, 1971/72, p 15
  • N.C.S.S.A. Newsletter, no 43, Nov 1973, p 27
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Colin Lawton, 'Stirling, Kenneth George (1935–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stirling-kenneth-george-11773/text21057, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 November 2014.

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

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