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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Campbell, David Alexander Stewart (1898–1970)

by Murray Goot

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

David Alexander Stewart Campbell (1898-1970), wool-buyer and editor, was born on 29 July 1898 in North Sydney, eldest son of Gerald Ross Campbell, barrister, and his first wife Mary Fraser, née Stewart (d.1902). By 1903 the family moved to Moss Vale. David was taught by a governess until he went to Tudor House preparatory school. In 1912-16 he boarded at Scots College, Sydney; proving himself to be a better athlete than a scholar, he failed his Intermediate certificate and the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal Capital Territory. Late in 1916 he enrolled in a three-month woolclassing course at Sydney Technical College, then worked as a jackeroo on a grazing property.

On 4 February 1918 Campbell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, with brown eyes and hair, he served as a gunner in Egypt and, after the Armistice, in France with the 6th Field Artillery Brigade. In England, he was granted leave to study at Bradford Technical College and gain experience in woolclassing with the nearby firm, (Sir) James Hill & Sons. Back in Sydney, he was discharged on 16 November 1919. In the early 1920s he worked in Melbourne where he learned the wool trade. From 1922 (until retiring in 1963) he was a wool-buyer for the Bradford topmaker, Cooper, Triffitt & Co. Ltd, through its Victorian subsidiary, Sims, Cooper & Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd.

Shortly after returning home, he became engaged to a nurse Evelyn Grace Elizabeth, daughter of George Edward Rennie. They were married on 30 December 1924 at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, Sydney; they lived at Double Bay before moving in turn to Rose Bay, Wahroonga and Pymble. Campbell was a member of the University Club (in 1921 he had attended extension lectures in Japanese at the University of Sydney and was later to enrol as an evening student in economics), the Royal Automobile Club of Australia and the Royal Sydney Golf Club. To his earlier interests, tennis and cricket (he rarely missed a Test match), he added golf.

During World War II Campbell was controlling wool appraiser in New South Wales for the United Kingdom Wool Purchase Arrangement and a member of the Technical Advisory Committee (Wool). From 1949 he was Cooper Triffitt's senior wool-buyer in Australia, and a director of Sims, Cooper, W. Jackson & Co. Pty Ltd and of the Sydney Exchange Co. He served the wool industry in wider capacities: as chairman of the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers' Association (nineteen occasions between 1938 and 1962), of the Australian Council of Wool Buyers (1952-55, 1957-59) and of the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee (Australia to Europe Shippers' Association) (1958-70), and also as a member (1963-70) of the Australian Wool Board. In addition, Campbell was a member of the New South Wales Technical Education Advisory Council (1949-70) and of the University Extension Board (1953-70), an adviser to the Department of Education on wool and textiles, and an examiner in woolclassing. He provided an annual award for the best-classed clip.

Widely read in economics and politics, he took a keen interest in public affairs. With a close friend (Sir) Norman Cowper, he belonged to the secretive Old Guard and was dedicated to the overthrow of Jack Lang. From the 1920s Campbell wrote frequent letters to the Sydney Morning Herald and in 1938 staunchly defended appeasement. In 1946, although an indifferent public speaker, he campaigned for (Sir) Ivan Dougherty (Liberal) against the incumbent 'firebrand' of East Sydney, Eddie Ward.

A foundation director (1932-60) of the Australian Institute of Political Science, Campbell regularly contributed (1931-34) to the Australian Quarterly and was its editor from 1935 until 1959. Cowper described the journal as a continuing 'monument' to Campbell's 'industry, enterprise and wide-ranging interest in political and social questions'. A regular traveller to Britain, Campbell was a council-member (from 1938) and president (1949) of the State branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and was president (1955-57) of its Commonwealth council; he was, as well, a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute (Royal Empire [Commonwealth] Society) and chairman (1966-70) of the Sydney group of Round Table. On 1 September 1970, while driving his motorcar at Willoughby, Campbell died of myocardial ischaemia. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at $123,183.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Barrett, Falling In (Syd, 1979)
  • H. King, At Mid-Century (Syd, 1982)
  • L. Foster, High Hopes (Melb, 1986)
  • A. Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier (Syd, 1989)
  • Australian Quarterly, 42, no 4, Dec 1970, p 2
  • Pastoral Review, 17 Sept 1970, p 769
  • Scots College Old Boys' Union, Lang Syne, Dec 1970, p 3
  • private information.

Citation details

Murray Goot, 'Campbell, David Alexander Stewart (1898–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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