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Weir, Stanley Price (1866–1944)

by Neville Hicks and Judith Raftery

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

Stanley Price Weir (1866-1944), army officer and public servant, was born on 23 April 1866 at Norwood, Adelaide, son of Alfred Weir, carpenter, and his wife Susannah Mary, née Price. Educated at Norwood Public School, Stanley joined the South Australian Lands and Survey Department in 1879 and at 19 enlisted in the Volunteer Military Force. On 14 May 1890 at the Christian Chapel, Norwood, he married Rosa Wadham (d.1923). Weir was an active member of the Churches of Christ and president (1924) of their conference. Commissioned in the South Australian Militia in 1890, he continued to serve with the Australian Military Forces, commanding the 19th Infantry Brigade from 1912 and gaining promotion to colonel next year. Meanwhile, he had steadily advanced in his civil employment.

On 17 August 1914 Weir was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant-colonel and given command of the 10th Battalion. Embarking in October, the battalion trained in Egypt and on Lemnos, and was one of the first two A.I.F. units to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Five days later, half its officers and soldiers had become casualties. Despite his age, Weir impressed Charles Bean with his powers of endurance, but fell ill in September and had to be evacuated. He rejoined his command in Egypt in March 1916. Transferred to the Western Front, the 10th Battalion was involved in the fierce fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm in July and August. Exhausted, Weir asked to be relieved and returned to Australia where his A.I.F. appointment was terminated on 14 December. For his gallantry and his consistent skill, tact and judgement in command, he won the Distinguished Service Order. He was also mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Russian Order of St Anne (with swords). Aide-de-camp (1917-20) to the governor-general, he retired from the A.M.F. in March 1921 as an honorary brigadier general.

His repatriation ahead of the bulk of returning servicemen combined with the South Australian government's policy of preference for veterans in its employment to propel Weir to the top of the public service. He had become the State's first public service commissioner in 1916. Given the task of classifying and regularizing the service, he proved ineffectual: he was unable to cope with political and personal conflicts within the service and the government, and was soon disregarded by individual ministers and by the cabinet. Amendments to the Public Service Act in 1925 cleared the way for his replacement in 1930. In the eighteen months before his retirement in 1931, he was simultaneously chairman of the Central Board of Health and the Children's Welfare and Public Relief Board. Succeeding Ramsay Smith, he avoided controversy in the first of these roles, while performing the second with energy, compassion and insight.

Prominent in religious, charitable and welfare activities, Weir continued this work after his retirement. To the end of his life, he remained a public servant in the best sense of the term. He was general secretary of the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society and contributed to the formal training of social workers; he was also an honorary matrimonial conciliation commissioner, president of Our Boys' Institute and a member of such bodies as the Masonic Lodge and the Cheer Up Society which had a strong service orientation. On 27 April 1926 at Kensington Park, Adelaide, he had married Lydia Maria Schrapel. Survived by his wife, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died on 14 November 1944 at his home in St Peters, Adelaide, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 1 (Syd, 1921)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916 (Syd, 1929)
  • H. R. Taylor, The History of Churches of Christ in South Australia, 1846-1959 (Adel, 1959)
  • Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Public Service of South Australia (Adel, 1975)
  • B. Dickey, Rations, Residence and Resources (Adel, 1986)
  • D. Jaensch (ed), The Flinders History of South Australia. Political History (Adel, 1986)
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 16 Nov 1944
  • Public Service Board (South Australia), personnel card (State Records of South Australia)
  • minutes of Public Service Commissioner's Office (South Australia), and Central Board of Health (South Australia), and Children's Welfare Dept and Public Relief Board (South Australia), and Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society (State Records of South Australia)
  • Board of Management of Our Boys' Institute (State Library of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Neville Hicks and Judith Raftery, 'Weir, Stanley Price (1866–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weir-stanley-price-9040/text15923, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 15 December 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 12

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