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James Douglas Collier (1893–1970)

by John Levett

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with John Stanley Gordon Collier

James Douglas Archer Collier (1893-1970), journalist and librarian, and John Stanley Gordon Collier (1895-1968), architect, were born on 17 April 1893 at Hamilton-on-Forth, Ulverstone, Tasmania, and 2 May 1895 at Zeehan, sons of James John Collier, Congregational clergyman, and his wife Rosa Mabel, née Tomlins. Both boys were educated at Leslie House School (later Clemes College), Hobart.

Five ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, with fair hair and hazel eyes, in 1909 Archer joined the Commercial Bank of Tasmania. From 1911 he was employed as a journalist on the Hobart Mercury and attended lectures at the University of Tasmania where he acquired a lifelong interest in literature. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 July 1915, Collier reached France in June 1916 as a corporal in the 47th Battalion. He was commissioned on 28 June 1917. At Paschendaele, Belgium, on 12 October he was wounded and made a prisoner of war; for some weeks he was believed to have been killed. Released from Germany, he arrived in England in February 1919 and was given leave to study journalism at the Polytechnic Institution, London. In September he embarked for Australia where he had the mixed pleasure of reading his own obituary. When his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 18 December, he rejoined the Mercury and served as Tasmania district president (1921-22) of the Australian Journalists' Association.

Although he lacked professional qualifications, in 1922 Archer Collier was appointed librarian of the Tasmanian Public Library. On 28 February 1923 he married Vivien Erskine Copeland Dean in St David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart. A regular contributor of literary articles and reviews to newspapers and periodicals, he edited the second volume of R. W. Giblin's The Early History of Tasmania (1939), to which he also contributed several chapters.

Archer Collier was a member (president 1944-46) of the Australian Institute of Librarians (later the Library Association of Australia) from its foundation in 1937. In 1943 Kenneth Binns, librarian of the Commonwealth National Library, praised his 'able and untiring efforts in the face of continued discouragement and difficulty' in providing library services for the people of Tasmania. Next year Collier was appointed Tasmania's first State librarian; he was to hold the post until his retirement in 1954. He was actively involved in his work and under his aegis much progress was made. His most important contribution was in developing a State-wide children's library service, later used as a model by overseas librarians.

Under the auspices of the British Council, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Tasmanian government, Collier spent nine months in 1951 studying library developments in Britain and the United States of America. He was a council-member (1943-50) of the University of Tasmania, and served on the Adult Education Board and on the central committee of the Associated Youth Clubs. A founding member of the Hobart Remembrance Club, he was State president of the Workers' Educational Association, and belonged to the Tasmanian Theatre and Fine Arts Society and to the Hobart Orchestral Society. The Collier Room at the State Library was named in Archer's honour. Survived by his wife, son and three daughters, he died on 9 July 1970 in Hobart and was cremated.

John Collier enrolled at the University of Tasmania in 1913, then enlisted in the A.I.F. on 20 August 1914. Sent to Egypt with the 7th Battalion, he was discharged in April 1915 on being commissioned in the British Army. He saw action in the Middle East and on the Western Front with the East Lancashire Regiment. Returning home in 1919, he resumed his studies, graduating B.A. (1922) from the University of Tasmania and B.Arch. (1924) from the University of Sydney.

In 1925 Collier entered the New South Wales Public Service and from February 1937 worked as an architectural draftsman in the Department of Works and Local Government. Mobilized in November 1940, he was posted to the Militia's 54th Battalion and served in Western Australia. By September 1942 he had risen to lieutenant colonel and had command of the battalion. His appointment terminated on 30 June 1944. Returning to Sydney that year, he joined the Housing Commission of New South Wales as deputy chief architect, a position he held until his retirement in 1955. Five ft 8½ ins (174 cm) tall, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair, John was a member of the Legacy Club of Sydney. He died, unmarried, on 27 October 1968 at Rose Bay, Sydney, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • R. Munn and E. R. Pitt, Australian Libraries (Melb, 1935)
  • K. Binns, Library Services in Tasmania (Hob, 1943)
  • Library Association of Australia (Tasmanian Branch), Library Opinion, 2, no 11, Nov 1954
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5 June 1951, 17 May 1954, 29 Oct 1968, 10 July 1970.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Levett, 'Collier, James Douglas (1893–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 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

Life Summary [details]


17 April, 1893
Ulverstone, Tasmania, Australia


9 July, 1970 (aged 77)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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.