Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Allan (1840–1901)

by D. B. Waterson

This article was published:

William Allan (1840-1901), pastoralist and politician, was born in Edinburgh, son of Alexander Allan, writer to the signet, and his wife Rebecca, née Fraser. He was sent to Oliphant's School in Edinburgh, Dunbar Academy and the Andersonian University in Glasgow. About 1857 he emigrated to Australia and acquired pastoral experience with his uncle, Alexander Campbell, in Victoria. Allan moved to New South Wales where after managing Bundure station near Yanco he bought Geraldra, Bland Creek. In 1871 he established a lucrative stock and station agency in Young and married Emily, daughter of Thomas Mate, Albury store-keeper and grazier; of their four sons and six daughters two males and a female died in infancy.

Allan moved to Queensland in 1874 and bought Whyenbah and Woolerina stations on the Balonne and Maranoa Rivers. After 1879 he developed Braeside, near Warwick, as a model stud and fattening property. With judicious investment and enlightened management his enterprises flourished. In 1882 he became a director of the pastoral and mercantile firm, B. D. Morehead & Co. His presidency of the Queensland Club, racing affiliations and high Masonic standing reinforced his influence in Brisbane's pastoral and mercantile establishment, where his opinions were taken seriously and his private power was great. In 1881 at Brisbane he published Immigration and Co-Operative Settlement on the Waste Lands of the Colony Along our Railway Lines, letters dedicated to the people of Queensland.

Although a mediocre speaker, an unoriginal defender of the status quo and an undistinguished parliamentarian, Allan was a successful politician. Shrewdly using his money, social prestige and ability to clank the parish pump he retained the constituencies of Darling Downs in 1881-83 and Cunningham in 1887-96 for the Conservatives in spite of growing sectional consciousness among agriculturists. His major contribution, however, was made in the field of pastoral politics. A leader of Darling Downs freeholders in the show-down against the Shearers' Union at Jondaryan, he helped to form and manage the pioneer Pastoralists' Association and its offshoots, the United Pastoralists' Association and the Federated Employers' Union of Queensland. In March 1891 he joined the Pastoralists' Federal Council of Australia. He speedily recognized the proletarian challenge and made effective use of his personal talents and influence in defeating it. He organized and helped to sustain the propertied elements for the 'conservation of their common interests and the social order'. In 1897 he was appointed to the Legislative Council. He died suddenly at Sydney on 19 October 1901 and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Waverley cemetery.

Intelligent, well read and widely travelled, Allan was typical of the new group of cultivated and 'improving' pastoralists who superseded the old Queensland squatting fraternity. Although never an original thinker or innovator he had an attractive urbane personality and an 'irresistible manner' which appealed to his social and financial inferiors. A shrewd and successful pastoral investor and pragmatic advocate of his class interests, this bluff Presbyterian has a secure, if minor, place in Queensland history.

Select Bibliography

  • D. B. Waterson, Squatter, Selector, and Storekeeper (Syd, 1968)
  • 'Mr. William Allan, M.l.A., F.R.G.S.', Australasian Pastoralists' Review, vol 1, no 4, 16 June 1891, p 102
  • 'Obituary: Hon. William Allan', Pastoralists' Review, vol 11, no 9, 15 Nov 1901, p 614
  • Brisbane Courier, 21 Oct 1901.

Citation details

D. B. Waterson, 'Allan, William (1840–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


19 October, 1901 (aged ~ 61)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.