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Tanner, Alfred John (Jack) (1887–1955)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Alfred John (Jack) Tanner (1887-1955), livestock expert, was born on 9 May 1887 at Shrawardine, Shropshire, England, son of Alfred Tanner, farmer, and his wife Priscilla, née Craig. He was educated at Wellingborough Grammar School and his long association with the livestock trade began with his family's Herefords.

Shortly before World War I Tanner brought a shipment of Lincoln and Shropshire sheep to Australia. Impressed by the country's prospects, he decided to stay. He first worked for the Weston family of Kadlunga, South Australia. Moving to Blacktown, Sydney, he began sheep-breeding and dealing in the County of Cumberland before joining George and Henry Badgery's stud-stock auctioneering firm. He married 34-year-old Jean Way Weston of Kadlunga on 24 February 1914 at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney. When Badgery Bros was taken over by Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. Ltd, Tanner stayed on for about five years; he then joined the Commonwealth Wool & Produce Co. Ltd in January 1932 and managed the stock department. In 1942-46 he was mainly responsible for stud beef cattle shows and sales.

By shrewd judgement and dedication, Jack Tanner quickly built up an Australian and world-wide reputation as a livestock authority who specialized in beef cattle. Firmly convinced that Britain was the hub of the industry, he regarded British breeds as more suitable for Australia than those of North America (with the exception of Canadian Aberdeen Angus) and made numerous trips abroad to buy stock and to keep abreast of recent trends. He judged at shows in New Zealand and in Australia; in 1949 he judged the Hereford section at the Royal Agricultural Society's show at Shrewsbury, England. Tanner classed many studs and herds throughout eastern Australia and helped to found studs at Milton Park near Bowral for Anthony Hordern, at Hobartville, Richmond, New South Wales, and at Netherby, Warwick, Queensland. He was perhaps best known for the stud he founded for John Biddlecombe at Golf Hill, Shelford, Victoria, which was based on Herefords from the Tocal dispersal sale.

From January 1949 Tanner was the highly respected stud-stock expert for Dalgety & Co. Ltd until he retired in 1954. Honorary secretary of the Aberdeen-Angus Society and publicity officer of the Shorthorn Society, he wrote clearly and incisively about beef cattle in the Sydney Morning Herald, Pastoral Review and Australasian. He helped to establish stud cattle sales in the Northern Territory at Brunette Downs in 1953 and in Queensland at Cloncurry next year. A council-member from August 1932, he was made an honorary life-member of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales in 1953.

The genial, bespectacled, pipe-smoking Tanner sailed in the Orcades for Britain and the United States of America in May 1955, carrying retainers from several cattle breeders to select and buy stock on their behalf. He also hoped to see his aged mother, but died of heart disease on 21 May at sea between Colombo and Aden. His wife survived him; they had no issue.

Select Bibliography

  • Pastoral Review, 16 May, 16 June 1955
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Sept 1925, 21 Mar, 27 Aug 1932, 25 Feb 1938, 10 Nov, 8 Dec 1950, 9 Mar 1951, 6 Feb, 27 Mar, 22 May 1953, 18 Mar 1954, 21 Jan, 4, 29 Apr, 24 May 1955
  • Australasian, 28 Mar 1936
  • Bulletin, 1 June 1955.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Tanner, Alfred John (Jack) (1887–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tanner-alfred-john-jack-957/text15315, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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