Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Herbert Green (1878–1968)

by Jim Manion

This article was published:

William Herbert Green (1878-1968), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 11 October 1878 in Brisbane, son of Charles Green, ironfounder, and his wife Eliza, née Welding or Vaughan. After his father became a partner in a Mackay foundry in 1881, he was educated at Mackay public school and sent to Way College, Adelaide, for a Methodist education. Apprenticed in 1896 to a Townsville pharmacist, Cromwell Ridgley, in 1901 he completed his professional education at the Queensland College of Pharmacy, Brisbane. Registered on 22 January 1902, he returned to Townsville and bought Ridgley's business. He owned four shops by 1914, and by 1920 W. H. Green Ltd controlled eight branches in North Queensland. Eventually there were at least sixteen pharmacies in the chain but the requirement in the Pharmacy Act 1933 for professional managers forced the company to disband.

On the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Green served for three and a half months on Thursday Island as sergeant-compounder with the Kennedy Regiment of the Citizen Forces.

In 1920 Green both became mayor and was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Townsville. A member of the Northern Country Party and deputy leader of the United Party of Queensland in the assembly, he was principally an advocate of northern interests and northern separation. His election, however, had been an aberration of the city's predominantly Labor electorate and in 1923 he was defeated; a bid for the Federal seat of Kennedy in 1926 failed.

A Methodist lay preacher like his father for over fifty-five years and superintendent of a Sunday school for thirty-five, Green served on most of the committees administering the Methodist Church in Queensland and was secretary or treasurer of many of the Queensland Methodist loan funds. He was treasurer of the Methodist King's College at the University of Queensland for twenty-five years and a foundation member and president of the interdenominational Queensland Council of Churches. His lifelong support of the temperance movement stemmed no doubt from his mother's pioneer involvement at Mackay. Treasurer of the Queensland Temperance League to 1940, then chairman to 1965, he represented Australia at international temperance conferences, including Lucerne in 1948 and Paris in 1952, and was vice-president of the World International Bureau against Alcoholism. He was chairman of temperance private hotels in Sydney, Brisbane and Toowoomba.

Green lived entirely in Brisbane from 1930. He was chairman of the Equitable Probate and General Insurance Co. Ltd and the Indooroopilly Toll Bridge Co., and was a director of the Atlas Insurance Co. and Busby's Ltd. A Freemason from 1905, he was district grand master of North Queensland in 1922 and State grand master in 1929-30 and 1932-33; in 1931 and 1935-45 he was pro-grand master under the governor. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1958 in recognition of his numerous church projects, charitable works and donations.

On 29 October 1903 at Townsville, Green married Clara Cockerill; they had five children. After she died in 1930, he married her sister Frances Gertrude on 13 July 1933 at Hamilton, Brisbane. When she too died, he married Georgina Singleton at Glasgow, on 4 October 1948 during a visit to Scotland. Green died in Brisbane on 18 March 1968 and was cremated. He left to his family an estate valued for probate at $75,925 with instructions to trustees not to invest in mining companies. His son-in-law Rev. Arthur Preston summed up his work: 'A life that was so full, a life that was so useful, a life that was so dedicated to humanity'.

Select Bibliography

  • Methodist Church Jubilee Souvenir (Townsville, 1926)
  • B. A. Hedges, The Methodist Church in Townsville (Townsville, 1976)
  • Chemist and Druggist of Australasia, 2 Dec 1901, 1 Feb 1902, 1 Sept 1914, 1 Jan, 1 Feb 1915
  • United Grand Lodge of Queensland, Ashlar, 5 June 1968
  • Australasian Journal of Pharmacy, May 1968
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 Feb 1904, 23 Feb 1920, 1 Jan 1958, 19 Mar 1968
  • Australian Temperance Advocate, Feb, Apr 1968
  • The Activities of William Herbert Green (manuscript, held by Queensland Temperance League, Brisbane).

Citation details

Jim Manion, 'Green, William Herbert (1878–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 25 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 October, 1878
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


18 March, 1968 (aged 89)
Brisbane, Queensland, 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.