Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Anderson, Alfred William (1888–1956)

by Barbara Le Maistre

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Alfred William Anderson (1888-1956), butcher and entrepreneur, was born on 4 June 1888 at East Brighton, Melbourne, third child of John Charles Anderson, butcher, and his wife Elizabeth, née Jervis, both Victorian born. Raised as a Methodist, he was aged 8 when John moved the family to Western Australia and took up market-gardening. Alf attended half a dozen schools before leaving Jandacot State School at 14. Having tried various jobs, about 1911 he opened a butchery in Perth; because he lacked refrigeration, he gave away leftover meat on Saturdays to gain customers. He married Elizabeth Maud Gilbert on 22 June 1912 at St Luke's Anglican Church, Cottesloe; they were to have six children.

Moving to Sydney, in April 1918 Anderson set up as a sausages and smallgoods manufacturer on the corner of George and Bathurst streets, and registered two companies, A. W. Anderson Pty Ltd and Anderson's Sausages Pty Ltd. He opened branches in the suburbs and later at Newcastle; by 1923 he also had wholesaling interests at the Homebush Bay abattoirs. In 1924 he set up freezing and canning works at Lismore, and next at Tuncester. To overcome the wholesalers' monopoly at Pyrmont, in 1925 he developed meat-chilling at rural Byron Bay for the Sydney market, leasing premises and improvising rolling-stock by packing ice into ordinary railway-vans. During the Depression he developed the veal trade on the north coast, produced fertiliser by-products from 1933, and acquired meatworks in Queensland at Wallangarra and Karumba.

Becoming dissatisfied with wartime policies and dreaming of government by Independents, Anderson launched his own political party, the One Parliament for Australia, at Sydney Town Hall in June 1943; for the occasion he sang a comic song and impersonated a Norwegian sea-captain. He contested the Federal seat of Richmond at the August elections; though defeated, he received 20 per cent of the primary vote.

In the late 1940s A. W. Anderson Pty Ltd became large wholesale butchers, specializing in beef, veal and pork, meatworks proprietors, meat exporters, and manufacturers of 'Anderson's Famous Sausages and Smallgoods'; the firm's annual turnover was about £4 million. Anderson acquired grazing interests in Queensland through Euroka Springs Pastoral Co., and bought refrigerated ships and barges at army disposal sales. Concentrating on exports to the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, he established a retail butchery at Rabaul and another in a refrigerated barge in Port Moresby. In 1950 he founded Andersons Island Industries Ltd in the Territory (where he spent much time) and in 1953 a holding company, Andersons Meat Industries Ltd. He also helped to set up the Byron Whaling Co. Pty Ltd in 1954.

Unconventional, with a streak of showmanship and a grassroots mentality, Anderson liked a gamble: he owned racehorses and bred them at his Warema stud near Cabramatta, Sydney, raced ponies and invested heavily in night trotting until the sport was banned. He called one of his horses Sausajax, but had to rename it (Flax) when the Australian Jockey Club objected. Although he lived for many years in 'Bookmakers Row' (Lang Road, Centennial Park), his lack of pretension sometimes dismayed those around him. Known as 'Big Ando' (which he detested), he was over six feet (183 cm) tall and weighed almost twenty stone (127 kg). With wide cheeks, 'a knobby nose', arched eyebrows and 'bright hazel eyes', he was talkative and down-to-earth: he attributed the success of his sausages simply to using the best meat. A diabetic, Anderson died of heart disease on 6 August 1956 at his Strathfield home and was buried in Waverley cemetery. His wife, three sons and three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Meat Trades Journal, 1947
  • People (Sydney), 14 Mar 1951
  • Sunday Herald, 26 Mar 1950
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June, 6 Aug 1943, 8 Aug 1956.

Citation details

Barbara Le Maistre, 'Anderson, Alfred William (1888–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/anderson-alfred-william-9350/text16417, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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