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Wright, Peter Arundell (1920–1990)

by Neville Crew

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Peter Arundel(l) Wright (1920-1990), grazier, was born on 7 March 1920 at Thalgarrah, New South Wales, youngest of three children of New South Wales-born parents Phillip Arundell Wright, grazier, and his wife Ethel Mabel, née Bigg (d.1927). Peter was educated at home and subsequently as a boarder (1933-37) at The Armidale School. He was later an Old Boys’ Union representative (1983-90) on the council. In 1938 he was employed at Armidale as a laboratory assistant for a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research project on internal parasites in sheep. Next year he returned to the family property, Wallamumbi.

Having served as a trooper in the 12th Light Horse Regiment, Militia, Wright enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 5 August 1941 and joined the 1st Armoured Brigade. He was deployed at bases in New South Wales and Western Australia before being discharged as medically unfit on 3 August 1944 with the rank of corporal. On 1 September 1945 at Perth College Chapel, Mount Lawley, Western Australia, he married with Anglican rites Mary Elizabeth (Jane) Riley. They lived on Wallamumbi for six years, before moving to their own holding Lana, at Uralla, chosen because of its secure water supply. Its 8150 acres (3298 ha) were stocked with Hereford cattle and merino sheep. He undertook a pasture improvement program, and employed rotational grazing to reduce internal parasite populations. In 1960, at Wright’s instigation, Lana became a dedicated fauna reserve. In the Armidale and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings he wrote about ‘Pasture Improvement in New England’ (1964) and living with native fauna (1975).

Wright played a leading role in community activities such as a scientifically based rabbit-eradication campaign and best-practice grazing field days, and supported the local one-teacher school. He was president (1946-48) of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales. A federal councillor of the Australian Society of Animal Production, he was an active member of the Australian Rangeland Society.

Joining the New State Movement when it re-formed in northern New South Wales after World War II, Wright became executive chairman and president. He was chairman of the trust of the New England National Park (1959-75), and of the New England Rural Development Association, which had a close relationship with the department of adult education at the University of New England.

Wright was a member (1971-81) of the university council, serving on its finance and rural properties management committees from 1970 to 1983. A strong supporter of the move to establish a school of natural resources, he became a foundation member in 1971. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in rural science in 1983. He was an active member and benefactor of Wright College’s senior common room. His portrait, painted by Yve Close, hangs in the Wright Centre; a digitised copy is displayed at the entrance to the Dr Peter Wright memorial archives room at The Armidale School.

Humble, thoughtful and generous, Wright could also be tenacious in helping causes in which he believed. Survived by his wife and their two sons and two daughters, he died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm on 16 October 1990 near Armidale and was cremated. His sister, the poet Judith Wright, wrote of that ‘marginal sort of grace’ that, she felt, had softened ‘our arrogant clan’; he had been one of those

like Yeats’ fisherman.
A small stream, narrow but clean.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Franklin (ed), The New England Experience (1988)
  • J. Wright, Judith Wright: Collected Poems 1942-1985 (1994)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Jan 1968, p 6
  • Wright College Association Newsletter, spring 1990, p 1
  • Armidale Express, 19 Oct 1990, p 7
  • Australian Veterinary Journal, June 1991, p 220
  • Armidale & District Historical Society Journal, Aug 1991, p 116
  • B883, item NX41928 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Neville Crew, 'Wright, Peter Arundell (1920–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-peter-arundell-15653/text26848, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 June 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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