Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Reid (1858–1919)

by Betty Crouchley

This article was published:

John Reid (1858-1919), merchant, was born on 25 October 1858 near Buninyong, Victoria, son of Scottish parents Gilbert Young Reid, farmer and later bootmaker, and his wife Mary, née McMillan. He was employed in J. C. Hutton's Melbourne ham and bacon business from 1877, becoming factory manager at Preston in 1880, and was sent to Queensland where he opened an agency at Fortitude Valley in 1882, a branch at Townsville in 1897 and curing works at Zillmere in 1898. Operating in most States, the firm became J. C. Hutton Pty Ltd in 1908, with Reid an active managing director in Queensland until his death. Despite droughts and economic depression its 'Pineapple' brand products, with their 'Don't Argue' trademark, monopolized Queensland markets and pioneered overseas outlets, especially in East Asia. To ensure regular supplies of pigs he invested in the nascent dairy industry in 1893, establishing with D. F. Denham, and becoming chairman of directors of, Silverwood Dairy Factory Co. Ltd, which operated butter and cheese factories throughout the Darling Downs. He was a strong advocate of Federation and a director of the Merchants' Co. Ltd, formed in 1902 to trade with northern New South Wales but defeated by logistics, drought and continuing Queensland tariffs. Other directorships were of Moreton Central Sugar Mill (chairman) and Gatere Plantation Ltd.

Before the Ryan Labor government, when the mercantile community exerted much influence on Queensland politics, Reid was an effective lobbyist, particularly concerning Wages Board legislation, dairying and tariffs. Respected for sound judgement and business acumen, he was dairying representative on the Queensland Chamber of Agriculture and an executive member of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, Brisbane Produce Merchants' Association, Queensland Chamber of Manufactures, and the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. In politics he was impatient with Philp and less conservative than many colleagues; he supported Kidston and was a trustee of his 'Progressive League'. Reid accepted only minor government appointments: more interested in business than politics, he refused Denham's 1911 offer of Legislative Council membership.

Reid had the work ethic of a shrewd, self-made man and was regarded as a just, though firm, employer. He supported Federal arbitration and conciliation legislation but not preference to unionists, and aroused union antagonism during the 1912 general strike by employing 'loyalists' and 'specials'. The labour movement retaliated by opposing, albeit unsuccessfully, his election to the Brisbane Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board.

Short, dapper, portly in later life, a genial host and bon vivant, Reid was a founder of Brisbane's bastion of Edwardian gaiety, the Brisbane Club (president 1911-12), and president of the National Cricket Association and Queensland Bowling Association. He had a fine tenor voice, and was an enthusiastic member of the Brisbane Musical Union and Brisbane Apollo Club.

Reid suffered from heart trouble from 1914 and died suddenly at the Brisbane Club on 4 January 1919. He was buried in Toowong cemetery after a Presbyterian service. His wife Ellen Elizabeth, née Hurlstone, whom he had married at Preston, Melbourne, on 23 November 1882, and five of their ten children survived him. His family inherited his estate, valued for probate at £73,766.

Select Bibliography

  • Commercial Publishing Co. of Sydney, Ltd, Annual Review of Queensland (Brisb, 1902)
  • C. Clark, Hutton's Centenary Recipe Book (Melb, nd)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1913, 2, p 961
  • Brisbane Courier, 8 Aug 1906, 6, 7, 31 Jan 1919.

Citation details

Betty Crouchley, 'Reid, John (1858–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 27 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 October, 1858
Buninyong, Victoria, Australia


4 January, 1919 (aged 60)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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