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Alexander Joseph Monger (1869–1947)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Frederick Charles Monger

Frederick Charles Monger (1863-1919), speculator and politician, and Alexander Joseph Monger (1869-1947), pastoralist and businessman, were born on 25 January 1863 and 26 January 1869 at York, Western Australia, sons of John Henry Monger junior, merchant and grazier, and his wife Henrietta Joaquina, née Manning. Both were educated at Wesley College, Melbourne.

Frederick returned in 1879 to join his father's business. With Neil McNeil and seven others, he launched the Wealth of Nations gold-prospecting syndicate in 1892. Relinquishing his partnership in J. H. Monger & Co. in 1895, with a loan of £3000 he speculated as an investor and agent. Associated with many mining ventures, he was joint owner of Wooramel station, Carnarvon, and the Excelsior Hotel at Cue. On 18 April 1895, in St George's Anglican Cathedral, Perth, he married Ethel Margaret Sherard; they had four daughters. Monger gambled on the turf (in 1897 his horse Snapshot won the Perth Cup), but he suffered substantial losses. He appeared in the Supreme Court in 1899 and, after protracted proceedings, was declared bankrupt on 20 March 1903 with an indebtedness of £40,000.

A member of the York Municipal Council in 1892, Monger withdrew in October and took his father's former seat of York in the Legislative Assembly. Financially embarrassed, he resigned in 1899 but was immediately re-elected. He again resigned in 1903, to be returned after his successor R. G. Burges's death in October 1905. He was defeated in 1914. A Forrest ministerialist, Monger later followed the Liberal League. He did not join his brother Alexander in the Country Party from 1913 because of its caucus-like pledge, but after the pledge requirement was relaxed he unsuccessfully contested York for the party in 1917.

He had gained valuable amenities for York. He boasted that he secured the State's first agricultural railway, from York to Green Hills, but it ran at a loss and thereafter Monger opposed state-funded railways. He supported the Kalgoorlie water scheme, opposed interests bringing tick-infested cattle from the Kimberley to Fremantle, and fought the female franchise. On 26 September 1906, in response to Western Australia's losing the remainder of its tariff autonomy, the Legislative Assembly passed a resolution submitted by Monger that favoured secession. His bill to provide for a referendum on the subject was defeated in November.

Frederick Monger had been a member of the Perth Stock Exchange. A generous, gentlemanly person, he died of cancer on 15 November 1919 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Alexander also joined his father's business in York. As both father and son were volatile and 'impassionate', they fell out. Alexander took a camel team to Coolgardie. There, with £2000 borrowed from Dalgety & Co. Ltd, he established a store and built two others at Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie. He floated Monger's West Australian Stores Ltd in London in 1897 with its head office at Fremantle; it was overcapitalized and went into voluntary liquidation in 1904. In partnership with (Sir) Ernest Lee Steere, in 1900 he had bought the 30,000 acre (12,141 ha) Woongondy estate which, much improved, they resold to the State government. With Lee Steere and A. Watson, Monger owned Hamelin Pool station. From his father's estate he bought Daliak near York and, advised by G. L. Sutton, developed it into a show property. Monger was a founder of the Fremantle Freezing & Meat Works and chairman of the Western Australian Meat Exports Co. On 29 August 1906 in Perth he married Florence McCracken with Methodist rites; they had a daughter and two sons. They lived from 1909 at Faversham House, the Monger home at York which he restored.

Conservative and a leader (known as 'the Czar'), Alexander supported primary producers' co-operation. As chairman of the York Association in 1912, he scathingly rebutted the Rural Workers' Union log, which aimed to bring them within the Commonwealth arbitration system. This led to the formation of the Farmers and Settlers' Association (Primary Producers' Association, 1920) of which Monger was president in 1912-24. A March 1913 resolution that a political party should be formed was based on his motion to the F.S.A.; through the association Monger powerfully influenced the emergent Country Party. Never a parliamentary aspirant, however, he rejected an association request to contest the York seat in 1917. He clashed with Sir John Forrest about the implications of a third political party; he opposed Premier Scaddan's land distribution policy; and he disagreed with (Sir) James Mitchell over his government's agricultural settlement programme in uncertain rainfall areas. In 1915 Monger's conservative executive undermined the party's radical parliamentarian, James Gardiner. Complaining in 1924 that the Country Party was keeping the Nationalists in office, Monger resigned as president of the Primary Producers' Association over a rift between its executive and parliamentary wings.

Typical of Perth's 'St George's Terrace farmers', Alexander Monger was a familiar figure, daily waving his handkerchief at the William Street intersection to ascertain the wind's direction. He was State chairman of the Mutual Life Association of Australasia, chairman of the Perpetual Executors Trustees & Agency, Sydney Atkinson Motors Ltd, Australian Outturns Ltd, Berry Barclay and Foy & Gibson Pty Ltd. From its inception in 1933 to 1944, he was chairman of Co-operative Bulk Handling, and as a founding trustee of the Wheat Pool of Western Australia, he understood international wheat marketing.

Monger was a foundation member of the Western Australian Bush Nursing Trust in 1920, a member of the Fairbridge Farm School Committee, and on the Council of the Church of England Schools. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1941. Tall, dark and personable, the 'Beau Tibbs of Perth', he moved in exclusive circles. In 1941 he gave Faversham House to the Australian Red Cross Society for use as a convalescent hospital in World War II. Monger died in Perth on 3 November 1947 and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £22,702.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • F. R. Mercer, On Farmers' Service (Perth, 1955)
  • R. Pervan and C. Sharman, Essays on Western Australian Politics (Perth, 1979)
  • C. T. Stannage (ed), A New History of Western Australia (Perth, 1981)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Western Australia), 1906, p 1871, 2271, 2829
  • University Studies in History, 3, no 2, Oct 1958
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 9 Nov 1904
  • West Australian, 24 Feb, 6 May 1914, 4 Nov 1947
  • oral history transcript from Mrs A. J. Monger, 1975 (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Monger, Alexander Joseph (1869–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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