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John Boyd Cramsie (1871–1944)

by John Atchison

This article was published:

John Boyd Cramsie (1871-1944), meat expert, was born on 2 March 1871 at Balranald, New South Wales, second son of John Cramsie (1832-1910), storekeeper, and his Scottish wife Lilias, née Rankin. His father, who had migrated from Belfast, later became a pastoralist and represented Balranald in the Legislative Assembly in 1880-87. John Boyd was educated at Sydney Boys' High School and Queen's College, St Kilda, Melbourne. He gained proficiency in sheep management around Narrabri and on the family property, Glendon, Wellingrove.

In 1891 Cramsie became manager of Strathdarr station in western Queensland. As manager of the Longreach Wool Scouring, Extract & Boiling Down Co. from 1896, he built and developed its works at Clear Lagoon and Ilfracombe. On 30 June 1897 at Glendon, New South Wales, he married Jessie Halling McIntyre of Waterloo station. He left Queensland on medical advice and in 1902 with Edward James Comerford set up Comerford, Cramsie & Co., stock and station agents, at Moree, New South Wales, and invested in grazing, individually and in the Willarie Pastoral Co. Extensive travel made Cramsie optimistic on Australia's future and an enthusiast for the meat industry.

Leaving Moree in 1912 he visited England, Europe and the United States of America to study marketing. On his return in 1914 he began a short-lived meat export business. Next year in Sydney he founded Cramsie & Lethbridge Ltd, stock, station and financial agents.

Cramsie was deputy-chairman of the Metropolitan Meat Industry Board in 1919-24 and was chairman in 1926-31. He effectively reorganized and rebuilt the Homebush abattoirs, and in 1931 rebutted a report by A. G. Noble alleging irregularities. In 1922-24 he was first chairman of the Australian Meat Council, seeking a sound export system, helped by expanded mixed farming and closer settlement. He urged State governments to introduce standardized grading and meat encouragement bills, and also tested markets in Asia. In 1923 he became first chairman of the New South Wales State Meat Advisory Board and initiated improvements in transport methods and loading facilities. He was a vice-president of the Graziers' Association of New South Wales, a council-member of the Stockowners' Association of New South Wales and a life member of the Farmers and Settlers' Association; he was also general editor of Management and Diseases of Sheep in Australia (Sydney, 1920). In 1927 he chaired the royal commission on bushfires.

Late in 1924 Cramsie had resigned all his positions to study meat processing in North and South America and marketing in Britain and Europe. In London he gave evidence to the 1925 royal commission on food prices and to the Imperial Economic Committee. He returned to Sydney convinced of the need for capital investment and scientific research. Confident about the potential of northern Australia, he acclaimed Sir George Buchanan's 1925 report on Northern Territory development and administration. After the announcement of the 1932 Ottawa conference provisions, he lobbied the Lyons government to take advantage of them. In 1933 he reported the registration of a company to build a railway from Bourke, New South Wales, to Birdum in the Northern Territory.

In the 1930s Cramsie envisaged group settlement of a 'peasant population of British stock' on improved lands in eastern Australia, especially between Port Macquarie and Tweed Heads. As Australian representative of several Jewish organizations, he supported Jewish colonization in the Kimberley and on Melville Island. To help rural unemployment, he suggested self-subsistence closer settlement schemes. Through the Millions Club in Sydney he advocated a register of unemployed and a list of jobs available for skilled migrants.

Cramsie was president of the Woollahra electoral conference of the United Australia Party, but failed to win pre-selection for the 1937 by-election. He was a council-member of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. In his spare time he enjoyed coursing, motoring and surfing, but liked best week-end cruising in his yacht, Scot Free.

Cramsie died on 26 November 1944 at his Edgecliff residence and was buried with Presbyterian forms in Waverley cemetery. He was survived by a son and two daughters, to whom he left his estate, valued for probate at £7166.

Select Bibliography

  • Agricultural Gazette (New South Wales), May 1924
  • Agricultural Bureau Record, 18 Apr 1934
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Apr 1919, 18 June 1924, 9, 23 Apr, 10 Nov 1925, 10 Nov 1931, 12 July 1932, 10 Jan 1933, 19 Mar, 8 Dec 1934, 2 Nov 1936, 29 May 1937, 22 Sept, 17 Nov 1938, 9 May 1939, 27 Nov 1944
  • E. A. Beever, A History of the Australian Meat Export Trade, 1865-1939 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1968)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Cramsie, John Boyd (1871–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 March, 1871
Balranald, New South Wales, Australia


26 November, 1944 (aged 73)
Edgecliff, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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