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Alexander Jobson (1875–1933)

by Colin Forster

This article was published:

Alexander Jobson (1875-1933), public accountant, soldier and financial writer, was born on 2 April 1875 at Clunes, Victoria, son of Christopher Jobson, English-born merchant, and his second wife Elizabeth Cameron, née McColl, from Scotland. Educated at Clunes State School and Eton (Queensland) Public School, at 14 Jobson started as a junior clerk with the Australian Mutual Provident Society in Melbourne. He studied accountancy and in 1896 qualified as Associate of the Institute of Actuaries (London).

Jobson moved to Sydney in 1902 and became actuary for Australasia for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States of America. On 5 September 1905 he married Madaline Ruth, daughter of Judge Alfred McFarland, at St Thomas Anglican Church, North Sydney, and next year began his own business as a consulting accountant and actuary. In 1910-16 he also wrote on company finances in his column 'Profit and Loss' which appeared weekly in the Sydney Sun. He was noted for his frank analysis; indeed, his criticisms of the Co-operative Assurance Co. resulted in the Sun and Jobson being sued for £50,000 damages for libel in 1914. The action was unsuccessful, Jobson's article being considered 'fair comment on a matter of public interest'.

Jobson devoted much time to military activities. He had joined the Victorian Scottish Regiment in August 1898, was commissioned in December 1899 and promoted captain in August 1902. On moving to Sydney he transferred to the New South Wales Scottish Rifles with the rank of lieutenant and was promoted captain in 1903 and major in 1909. He transferred in that rank to the 25th Infantry Regiment in July 1912, and next July was promoted lieutenant-colonel and appointed to command the 34th Infantry Regiment, Australian Military Forces. In July 1915 he took command of the 35th Infantry Regiment but on 10 February 1916 he was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force with the rank of colonel to command the 9th Infantry Brigade. He was promoted temporary brigadier general and in May embarked at Sydney.

Jobson's brigade reached France in November after training in England and saw action first in the Armentières sector in November-December 1916, then at Houplines, Le Touquet, Ploegsteert and Messines. Jobson was mentioned in dispatches on 1 June 1917 and recalled the preparations for, and participation in, the battle of Messines as the most interesting part of his war service. Twice during the earlier months of 1917, during Major General (Sir) John Monash's absence, he temporarily commanded the 3rd Division. Although Monash had praised his 'active mind and great industry' and placed great trust in his leadership at Messines, Jobson was not by nature suited for active command. Charles Bean commented that he was 'a man of many fine and endearing qualities, of marked ability and absolute probity, but constitutionally incapable of facing battle conditions'. Offered the opportunity to resign by Monash, Jobson accepted. On 25 August he relinquished command of the 9th Brigade and on 9 December his A.I.F. appointment was terminated. That month he was again mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the 1918 New Year honours.

After returning home Jobson became State president of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia in 1918. In October that year he was given command of the 2nd Battalion, 53rd Infantry Regiment, A.M.F., with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and honorary brigadier general, and in December 1919 was promoted colonel. In February 1921 he was transferred to the reserve of officers. In January 1918 he had resumed his financial writing in Sydney newspapers and in 1920 he began publication of the Australian Investment Digest (later to be called Jobson's Investment Digest of Australia and New Zealand), a monthly publication summarizing and criticizing latest company reports. A fellow of the Australasian Corporation of Public Accountants, and generally acknowledged as one of the keenest and most searching of financial critics, he established a considerable professional reputation. He held numerous business directorates; in particular he was appointed a director of the A.M.P. Society in 1925 and vice-chairman in 1932.

Survived by his wife and only child Alexander, Jobson collapsed and died in King Street, Sydney, from coronary artery occlusion on 7 November 1933 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His estate was sworn for probate at £11,102. One of his sisters, Nancy Jobson, was a prominent educationist and another, Isabella Kate Jobson, saw active service as a nursing sister in World War I.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1916-18 (Syd 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 1 June: 25, 28 Dec 1917
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Apr 1906, 2-4 July 1914, 2 Jan 1918, 21 June 1923, 8, 11 Nov 1933
  • Sun (Sydney), 6 July 1914, 24 Apr 1916, 10 Jan, 22 Mar 1918
  • Punch (Melbourne), 4 May 1916
  • A. Jobson file (war records section, Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Colin Forster, 'Jobson, Alexander (1875–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 26 June 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

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