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Alister Archer (1890–1965)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published:

Alister Archer, 1948

Alister Archer, 1948

National Library of Australia

Alister Archer (1890-1965), cattleman, was born on 6 June 1890 at Larvik, Norway, son of James George Lewis Archer, a Queensland station-owner of Scottish descent, and his wife Louise Stewart, daughter of Sir Robert Mackenzie. Educated at Larvik Grammar (1896-1905) and High (1905-08) schools, Alister came to Queensland in 1909 to learn the cattle business and began jackerooing on Torsdale, one of Archer Bros Ltd's stations in Central Queensland. In 1910 he helped to drove two hundred head of stud cattle to the Gulf country, to which he later returned as head stockman on Magoura station. Robert Stubbs Archer, managing director of the family pastoral firm, described his fair-haired and grey-eyed kinsman as 'a smart stockman and drover with his head screwed on the right way', and thought that he would make a first-class station-manager.

When World War I began, Archer was with his parents in Norway, but came back to Queensland and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 July 1915 at Rockhampton. He was commissioned in December and transferred from the infantry to the 5th Light Horse Regiment which disembarked at Suez in April 1916. Appointed troop officer, 4th (Anzac) Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps, in November 1916, he learned 'how to handle and ride the brutes . . . none too pleasant at first'. In July 1918 (when the brigade was disbanded) he was posted to the 14th Light Horse Regiment with the rank of captain. He had served in Egypt at the defence of the Suez Canal and in campaigns that led to the fall of Damascus.

Seconded in April 1919 as aide-de-camp to Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel, he led the light horse in the victory march through London in May. After a brief visit to Norway he returned to Australia with Chauvel in September; Archer's appointment terminated in December. On 1 October 1919 at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney, he had married his cousin Joan Marie, daughter of Robert Stubbs Archer.

In 1920 Archer was appointed manager of Gracemere stud-farm, near Rockhampton, and secretary of Archer Bros Ltd. His duties included the preparation and showing of stud beef-cattle at Queensland and Sydney shows. Gracemere Hereford Stud, established in 1862, continued to contribute to the upgrading of northern cattle herds and at the 1925 Brisbane Exhibition was awarded a trophy by the Hereford Herd Book Society of England. Archer became a partner in the firm next year and its managing director in 1932. Argentinian chilled beef had excluded Queensland frozen meat from the British market and the northern beef industry in Australia was at an ebb. Although pure-bred herd bulls sold for less than £5 in 1936, Archer maintained his herds at their high standard and bred 'bulls which we know will stand up to tropical conditions'.

Following the dissolution of the partnership of Archer Bros Ltd, in 1949 the directors approved the sale of Gracemere to Alister and his wife. They carried on the station's tradition of gracious hospitality. A prolific correspondent with a keen sense of humour, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Central Queensland; he was proud of his family and preserved the large collection of Archer papers. Survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, Archer died on 10 April 1965 at Rockhampton and was buried in the private cemetery at Gracemere.

Select Bibliography

  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • L. McDonald, Cattle Country (Brisb, 1988)
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 20 Apr 1965
  • A. Archer letters to Norway, 1915-18, general correspondence, 1929-38 (State Library of New South Wales) and 1944-53 (privately held)
  • Archer family papers (Rockhampton and District Historical Society).

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Archer, Alister (1890–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 July 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

Alister Archer, 1948

Alister Archer, 1948

National Library of Australia

Life Summary [details]


6 June, 1890
Larvik, Norway


10 April, 1965 (aged 74)
Rockhampton, Queensland, 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.