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Teasdale, Sir John Smith (1881–1962)

by Clement Mulcahy

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

John Smith Teasdale (1881-1962), by J. Eagle, 1957

John Smith Teasdale (1881-1962), by J. Eagle, 1957

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2294036

Sir John Smith Teasdale (1881-1962), wheat-farmer and administrator, was born on 28 June 1881 at Alston, Cumberland, England, son of James Teasdale, stonemason, and his wife Jane, née Maughan. Educated locally, John worked for Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd at Darlington, Durham, and as a grain merchant. In 1911 he migrated to Western Australia with at least three of his brothers; they settled in the Bruce Rock district, at Belka and Totadgin. Drought destroyed their first crop in 1914. Local farmers met with John to discuss ways of improving their lot. By 1916 he was an executive-member of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of Western Australia. He supported orderly marketing and helped to found a co-operative, the Wheat Pool of Western Australia, in 1922. During the 1920s he visited Britain and the United States of America several times on the co-operative's behalf.

On 22 August 1929 at the district registrar's office, Perth, Teasdale married 23-year-old Luita Christina Waldeck. A staunch member of the Country Party, he lobbied the government for the Farmers' Debts Adjustment Act (1930). That year he advised wheat-growers throughout the State to 'concentrate their resources' by employing 'better methods of cultivation on smaller areas of first-class land'. President (1932-40) of the Primary Producers' Association of Western Australia, he intensified his commitment to controlled marketing when world wheat prices fell during the Depression. In 1932 he proposed that Prime Minister Lyons should call for a 20 per cent reduction in the acreage of all major wheat-producing countries. In December that year the radical Wheatgrowers' Union of Western Australia led a movement to withhold the delivery of wheat in an effort to force the establishment of a compulsory national pool. Teasdale opposed the proposal and pushed through the farmers' picket lines at Belka to ensure that his wheat was delivered. His wheat bags were slashed by the picketers. He became a founding director of Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd in 1933.

In 1939 Teasdale was appointed a growers' representative on the Australian Wheat Board. He chaired (1947) the Western Australian royal commission on wheat marketing and stabilization. In July 1950 (Sir) John McEwen dismissed the A.W.B.'s chairman and replaced him with Teasdale; justifying his action, he praised Teasdale's practical farming experience, commitment, negotiating skills, and understanding of the rural economy and international trade. Teasdale moved to Melbourne and remained chairman until his death. He supported research into new strains of wheat and endeavoured to develop new markets, but he opposed selling wheat to China on extended credit, an issue on which he was out-voted by the board.

Teasdale was appointed C.B.E. in 1948 and knighted in 1951. He advocated government support for the primary sector, but maintained that 'the produce of the land belongs in its entirety to the producer, subject only to the fulfilment of his lawful obligations'. Survived by his wife and their daughter, Sir John died on 2 July 1962 in his home at Kew and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • F. R. Mercer, On Farmers' Service (Perth, 1955)
  • J. Sandford, Walter Harper and the Wheat Farmers (Perth, 1955)
  • J. K. Ewers, Bruce Rock (Perth, 1959)
  • C. Ayris, A Heritage Ingrained (Perth, 1999)
  • West Australian, 22 July 1950, 3 July 1962
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 1962
  • private information.

Citation details

Clement Mulcahy, 'Teasdale, Sir John Smith (1881–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/teasdale-sir-john-smith-11835/text21179, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 October 2014.

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

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