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Sir Rutherford Campbell Guthrie (1899–1990)

by Sarah Tyrell

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Sir Rutherford Campbell Guthrie (1899-1990), politician and grazier, was born on 28 November 1899 at Donald, Victoria, son of Australian-born Thomas Oliver Guthrie, station manager, and his Scottish-born wife Jessie Blackwood, née Hannah. Following his mother's death in 1902, Ford—as he became known—was raised by his aunt, Ella Guthrie, in South Yarra.  He was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. In 1918 he interrupted studies at Jesus College, Cambridge (BA, 1921), to serve in the Royal Field Artillery, in which he was commissioned in April 1919. His height of 6 ft 2½ ins (189 cm) and strong build helped him to become a fine sportsman; he rowed for Cambridge.

In 1922 Guthrie returned to Australia. He followed in the steps of his uncle, James Guthrie, in establishing a Poll Hereford cattle and Corriedale sheep stud at his property Warrawidgee, near Linton, Victoria. On 29 November 1927 at Noorat he married Rhona Mary McKellar with Presbyterian forms. He became a batsman of some repute in the Western Plains District.

Enlisting in the Citizen Military Forces in 1935, Guthrie was commissioned in the 4/19th Light Horse Regiment two years later. On 27 June 1940 he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force as a captain, and in May 1941 joined the 9th Divisional Cavalry in the Middle East. At El Alamein, Egypt, in July 1942 he suffered a gunshot wound to the right arm. He was promoted to major that month and repatriated in March 1943. For gallantry in North Africa he was mentioned in despatches. After serving in northern Australia, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 18 April 1944.

A member (1946-74) of the Ripon Shire Council, Guthrie served three terms as president (1951-52, 1954-55, 1963-64). In 1947 he won the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Ripon for the Liberal Party, and in December 1948 was appointed minister of soldier settlement in the Hollway government; he also became commissioner of crown lands and survey and president of the Board of Land and Works. `Not particularly suited to the hurly-burly of politics’ (according to Thomas Austin, a later Liberal member for the seat), Guthrie lost Ripon to the Australian Labor Party in 1950. He remained active in the Liberal and Country Party as president (1956-60) and treasurer (1960-63).

Committed to serving primary industry and his community, Guthrie was an active member of numerous local organisations including the Central Highlands Regional Development Committee, Ballarat Legacy, the Ballarat Agricultural Society and the Australian Corriedale Association. He also served as a director of the Phosphate Co-operative Co. of Australia Ltd (chairman 1971-72), Federal Woollen Mills Ltd (chairman 1966-67) and Perpetual Executors and Trustees Association of Australia Ltd (1958-63). He was president in 1960 of the Melbourne Club. Appointed CMG in 1960, he was knighted in 1968.

Guthrie was a gregarious man. His private life was tinged with sadness due to the death of his younger son in 1973. His health deteriorated in his later years, following retirement to Gisborne. Lady Guthrie was killed in a car accident in 1989. Survived by his elder son, Sir Rutherford died on 20 February 1990 at Gisborne and was buried in Macedon cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at $2,221,471.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislavie Assembly, Victoria), 1990, p 43
  • Telegraph (Gisborne, Victoria), 27 Feb 1990, p 4.

Citation details

Sarah Tyrell, 'Guthrie, Sir Rutherford Campbell (1899–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 November, 1899
Donald, Victoria, Australia


20 February, 1990 (aged 90)
Gisborne, Victoria, Australia

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