Alan Walter Campbell (1880-1972)


Queensland Primary Producers Co-Operative Association (known usually as Primaries until a later merger with Mactaggarts in 1975, it became Primaries Mactaggarts, then after a year or so Primac) was formed in 1920 by Alan Walter Campbell, one of the state’s leading businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Alan Walter Campbell, was born on 27 June 1880 at Apple Tree Gully, near Inverell, New South Wales, sixth of eleven children of John Campbell, a native-born station overseer, and his wife Mary Georgina, née McIntyre, from Scotland. The family moved to Bullerawa station in the Narrabri district where Alan was privately educated, mainly by Scottish tutors.

Alan joined the Sydney wool brokers, John Bridge & Co. Ltd, in 1895 and rose to be company secretary. In 1906-07 Campbell toured properties in Queensland to determine whether the firm could obtain sufficient wool clips to warrant expansion interstate. A branch of John Bridge & Co was subsequently established in Brisbane. At the age of 28 he was elected a director.

On 26 June 1909 he married Millicent Beatrice Cutter at St John’s Anglican Church, North Sydney. In 1910 Campbell was appointed sub-manager of the company’s Brisbane branch.

At the age of 36 Alan enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Forces on 3 January 1917. On 16 November 1917 he embarked on board SS Canberra bound for the middle east where he fought with the rank of Corporal in the Imperial Camel Brigade and the 1st Light Horse Regiment. He survived and returned to Australia in March 1919. View his military record here.

Upon his return to Australia he wasted no time in finalizing ‘one of the most unusual business agreements’ filed in the State. In 1920 Campbell formed the Queensland Primary Producers’ Co-operative Association Ltd which took over the local business of John Bridge & Co. for £75,000 in paid-up shares. The new firm began operations in May 1920, with Campbell as its general manager; he joined the board as managing director in August 1922.

Under his guidance, ‘Primaries’ surmounted its initial uncertainties, the Depression, strong competition and World War II: its ability to attract support ensured that it ultimately became Queensland’s largest primary industry co-operative. An early supporter and a trustee of the Australian Country Party, Campbell was particularly active in attempts to safeguard protection for rural industries.

In November 1920 he was also instrumental in the formation of QANTAS. He provided business mentoring to the founders Sir Hudson Fysh, Paul McGuiness and Sir Fergus McMaster and was one of the early investors in the company. According to Sir Hudson Fysh, Campbell was present at the meeting in Brisbane’s Gresham Hotel when the paperwork to register the company was executed. Alan Campbell was the temporary secretary once the company was established and became a board member. It was Campbell at the board meeting on 23 February 1933 who moved the motion for QANTAS to join with Imperial Airways in order to provide regular flights to and from Britain.

He was closely connected with the formation of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd, and provided business advice during the discussions which led to its registration in November 1920. Having acted as QANTAS’s temporary secretary in Brisbane, Campbell joined its advisory board. At the board meeting on 23 February 1933 he moved the resolution to associate QANTAS with Imperial Airways Ltd.

In 1935 ‘Primaries’ built it’s imposing four storey brick wool store on over half an acre the co-operative had acquired between 1929 and 1933.

Under construction 1935

(Photo: JOL 407489)

The contractors for the wool store were Stuart Brothers Completed 1935

(Photo: JOL 406268)

“The ‘Primaries’ wool store was transformed in the mid-1990s to 66 apartments built around an atrium with a restaurant and shops on the ground level. It was amongst the first of several former wool stores to be converted to residential use during the revitalization of the Newstead/Teneriffe area in the 1990s. The project won the Lord Mayor’s Award for Urban Renewal in the Queensland Housing and Construction Awards for 1995.”

Brisbane Heritage Places

During World War II Campbell was foundation president (1941-43) of the Australian-American Association; he was also chairman (1941-46) of the Queensland State Wool Committee and later of the Australian Growers’ Wool Marketing Committee. A specialist on marketing who advocated a reserve-price scheme within the auction system, he published a Statement on ‘Post J.O.’ Wool Marketing (1950) and Controlled Wool Marketing (1963).

He kept abreast of rural problems, and was a dedicated supporter of free enterprise and of the co-operative movement. Appointed O.B.E. (1962) and C.M.G. (1967).

On the 3rd October 1963 a brand new Beech P35 Bonanza aircraft was registered VH-AWC to Queensland Primary Producers Co-operative Society, Longreach, Qld. The Beech P35 Bonanza aircraft was one of only 467 P35s built. The registration VH-AWC was derived from the initials of Alan Walter Campbell O.B.E., C.M.G.

During its time with Queensland Primary Producers, the log book was frequently certified by Fred Bird. Having done just on 2,000 hours flying in just 4 years the plane was sold in September 1967 to Hawker de Havilland, Archerfield, QLD (possibly traded on a new plane).

Primaries first company plane, V Tail Beech Bonanza, purchased brand new in 1963 with registration VH-AWC (Alan Walter Campbell)

Queensland Air Museum

Alan retired in September 1968 at the age of 88, but remained a director of ‘Primaries’ (which then had assets of $18 million) up until his death on the 6 December 1972 at Clayfield, Brisbane. Alan was 92 and was survived by his son and daughter.

Queensland Country Life article 26 September 1968. Courtesy of Ian Bassett (Primaries Taroom) Facebook post 8/9/22

* Last updated 21/01/2021

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Sources: ANU Biographies, UNSW AIF Project, Your Brisbane Past & Present, Queensland Air Museum

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