Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Milton Cromwell Alder (1887–1961)

by A. F. Deer

This article was published:

Milton Cromwell Alder (1887-1961), insurance general manager, was born on 5 May 1887 at Marrickville, Sydney, fourth of seven children of Alfred Keen Alder, portrait-painter, and his wife Charlotte Eliza, née Barnes, both English born. Educated at Petersham Superior Public School and Sydney Boys' High School on a scholarship, Milton won the university prize for general proficiency and medals for algebra and geometry at the 1903 junior public examinations. In August he joined the Citizens' Life Assurance Co. (Mutual Life & Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd from 1908). Alder soon qualified as an associate of the Institute of Actuaries, London. On 22 February 1913 at the Newtown Methodist Church he married Pearl Roberts Anderson; they lived at Marrickville for twenty years and he played for the Kingston Methodist cricket team.

Appointed assistant secretary to the M.L.C. in 1923, he worked closely with its managing director (Sir) John Garvan. Alder rose from secretary (1927) to assistant to the managing director (1938) and was general manager from 1941. He was president of the Actuarial Society of Australia and New Zealand (1921), of the Insurance Institute of New South Wales (1924) and later of the Incorporated Australian Insurance Institute. Founding joint-secretary (1925) and president (1929-30) of the State branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, he was, as well, president of the Council of Social Service of New South Wales, honorary treasurer of Toc H and of the Sydney group of Round Table, a trustee of the Institute of Public Affairs, chairman of the Rochdale Pastoral Co. and director of Alliance Holdings Ltd. In addition, he served on the appointments board of the University of Sydney (1935-49) and for twelve years on the standing committee of the International Chamber of Commerce.

For one so energetic, Alder was unusually shy and modest. All who knew him found in him uncompromising integrity, absolute honesty of thought and extraordinary quickness of mind. He disliked 'cant, humbug, any sort of hypocrisy or bluff', but he was stirred by emotion, sentiment and compassion.

A member of the standing committee of the Diocese of Sydney, Alder was involved with Church of England property and finances: he was honorary treasurer of the Home Mission Society, a churchwarden and honorary treasurer of his parish church, St Mark's, Darling Point, and a member (1959) of the Archbishop's Commission. He was also interested in the problems of the elderly: while he was its president (1956-57), the Rotary Club of Sydney, with the Council of Social Service and Sydney City Council, launched the Old People's Welfare Council; Alder became vice-chairman.

On retiring as general manager in 1955, Alder was made deputy-chairman of M.L.C.'s board. He belonged to the Australian Club, studied etymology and enjoyed gardening at his Point Piper home. Survived by his wife, son and three daughters, he died on 23 March 1961 in St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated with Anglican rites; his estate was sworn for probate at £41,625. The Alder memorial wing of the Chesalon Church of England Parish Nursing Home, Harris Park, was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Foster, High Hopes (Melb, 1986)
  • R. H. Scott, The Economic Society of Australia, its History 1925-1985, (Melb, 1990)
  • Rotary Club of Sydney, Annual Report, 1956-57
  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, May 1961, p 242
  • MLC News, May 1961
  • University of Sydney Union, Union Recorder, 11 May 1961
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Apr 1929, 26 Mar 1954
  • Anglican, 14 Apr 1961
  • family information.

Citation details

A. F. Deer, 'Alder, Milton Cromwell (1887–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 May, 1887
Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


23 March, 1961 (aged 73)
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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