Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Herbert Tranter (1868–1935)

by R. J. Wood

This article was published:

Charles Herbert Tranter (1868-1935), banker, was born on 2 October 1868 at Little River, Victoria, son of Charles Evenden Tranter, schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Ann, née Roberts, both English born. Joining the Geelong branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia as a junior clerk in 1884, three years later Charles was appointed accountant at Murchison in the Goulburn Valley where the bank had financed much of the district's agricultural development. In 1889 he was transferred to the inspector's office, Melbourne, where he shortly became securities clerk, supervising loan documents. At 24 Tranter was appointed inspector's accountant, responsible for the weekly returns from over one hundred branches. He had charge of the branch network routine during the traumatic period of the bank's suspension and reconstruction in 1893, and its subsequent painful recovery. On 29 November 1893 at Carlton he married Ada Alice Cary (d.1931) with Congregational forms.

In March 1900 Tranter was promoted assistant inspector and in July 1906, as inspector, was one of the triumvirate controlling the bank's branches. In 1913, during eight months paid leave, he travelled in Europe and in 1917 was sent to conduct a detailed inspection of the London branch and to relieve the manager for five months. In 1924-29 Tranter managed the Melbourne office, overseeing much of the bank's lending for the development of secondary industry in Victoria. He was appointed general manager on the death of H. L. Heron in September 1929. A more public man than Heron, with a mind open to fresh ideas and with a close involvement in the Rotary movement, he was eminently suited to lead the bank through the Depression. Courteous and kindly, he was seen in 1930 as 'a dark star in the banking firmament'. As chairman of the Melbourne Associated Banks, he represented their views to the Senate committee on the Labor government's controversial Central Reserve Bank bill (1930). Although not opposed to the establishment of a genuine central bank, Tranter objected to the potential risk of political control which might result from the compulsory deposit of trading bank funds.

A ready public speaker, Tranter expressed intelligently the conservative viewpoint of the time. As the Depression intensified, he pointed out the folly of parrot cries for 'release of credit' to solve difficulties: 'if we mortgage the future we have to pay for it', he warned. Though he accepted the need for currency depreciation due to the adverse balance of payments, he counselled cautious action to prevent a loss of confidence.

A man of simple tastes, he enjoyed bowls, billiards and photography. By May 1934 his health had deteriorated. He took six months leave, then retired in October. Tranter died of a coronary occlusion on 3 October 1935 at his Oakleigh home and was buried in Springvale cemetery. On 28 November 1932 at Flemington he had married with Baptist forms Jessie Isabel May, his 25-year-old housekeeper, who survived him with their 2-year-old daughter. His Victorian estate was sworn for probate at £37,174.

Select Bibliography

  • Select Committee of the Senate Appointed to Consider and Report Upon the Central Reserve Bank Bill, Reports, Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth, Senate), 1929-31, p 465
  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, Apr 1913, Jan, May, Oct 1934, Oct 1935
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Feb 1930
  • Age (Melbourne), 4 May 1934, 4 Oct 1935
  • CBA archives (Westpac Banking Corp, Sydney).

Citation details

R. J. Wood, 'Tranter, Charles Herbert (1868–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 October, 1868
Little River, Victoria, Australia


3 October, 1935 (aged 67)
Oakleigh, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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