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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fullerton, William (Bill) (1909–1994)

by Dot Gauntlett

This article was published online in 2018

William Fullerton (1909–1994), fruit grower and fruit marketing director, was born on 29 December 1909 at Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland, eighth of nine children of Scottish-born parents Robert Fullerton, railway signalman, and his wife Isabella, née Smith. The family migrated to Australia aboard the Orvieto, arriving at Brisbane on 3 April 1911. Three years later they moved to a selection of 160 acres (65 ha), located between mounts Ngungun and Coonowrin, 2.5 miles (4 km) from the village of Glass House Mountains. The property was called Dunnottar, and would remain Bill’s home until 1979. Known as Willy when young, he attended Glass House Mountains State School (1917–23), after which he worked on the farm with his father.

In the late 1920s William and his younger brother, Alister, joined their father in the partnership R. Fullerton & Sons, growing pineapples. William followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a member of the United Fruitgrowers’ Co-operative Association, Glasshouse Mountains, as soon as he was old enough to join. The family took up more land in the nearby Beerwah district and in 1936 he was involved with three of his brothers—Hector, Robert, and Alister—in the formation of the Coochin Creek Fruitgrowers’ Co-Operative Association. On 12 October 1940 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Glass House Mountains, he married Jean Edith Shaw (d. 1980), whose parents were neighbouring farmers.

William and Alister, with their brother John, formed in 1956 a further pineapple-growing enterprise, Fullertons Elimbah Pty Ltd. On the family’s farms, Bill introduced labour-saving practices, such as mechanical harvesting and bulk handling, and utilised scientific methods, including tissue sampling (to determine plant nutrition) and the chemical management of weeds and nematodes. In 1966 he was one of four men whom the industry sent to Hawaii to study higher-density planting and the operation of large harvesting equipment. Fullertons Elimbah and R. Fullerton & Sons were consolidated in 1989 to form Fullerton Farms Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s largest pineapple producers.

From the mid-1940s several of the Fullerton brothers were members of sectional group committees of the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing (COD), a cooperative organisation established in 1923 by the State government to protect growers’ interests. William was on the COD’s pineapple sectional group committee from 1958 to 1985 (chairman, 1961–85); he joined the COD’s executive in 1970.

The COD had operated its own cannery, with the brand name of Golden Circle, at Northgate, Brisbane, from 1947. Legislation in 1964 placed the ownership, control, and operation of the factory in the hands of the Cannery Board, to which Fullerton was elected that year. Succeeding his brother James as chairman in 1974, he held the office until 1985. William had been a leader of a successful campaign in 1968 to stabilise the pineapple industry by means of a two-pool quota system for supplying the cannery, in which all growers would be required to become shareholders. Those who mainly sent their produce to the fresh-fruit market objected but the majority approved the plan. In 1979 he was appointed OBE for his services to the industry.

Community minded, Fullerton took pride in his association with the Glass House Mountains School of Arts, which he had joined in the 1930s (chairman, 1939 and 1950–60; trustee, 1957–93). After World War II, he and his friend Bob Murphy obtained cinema equipment and employed an operator, so that weekly pictures could be shown in the hall. Having organised renovations to the building, he led the celebrations of their completion in 1954. When young, he had been proficient at cricket and soccer. He was patron of the Beerwah–Glass House Mountains United Soccer Club (1986–94), the Glasshouse Mountains Sports Club, and the Glasshouse Mountains Bowling Club (1978–94), of which he was also president (1958–67, 1973–75, and 1978–79).

Although easygoing, Fullerton was astute and determined in everything he did. He educated himself through extensive reading. Deeply religious, he was an elder of the Uniting Church. In 1979 he moved to the town of Glass House Mountains. He died there on 20 February 1994 and was cremated. His four sons survived him; two of them, Kenneth and Barry, continued Fullerton Farms.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Reid, Ainslie, and Carole Fullerton, comps. The Story of the Family of Robert and Isabella Fullerton. Glass House Mountains, Qld: Fullerton Reunion Committee, n.d.
  • Glasshouse Country News (Beerwah). 'The Passing of a Pioneer.’ 24 February 1994, 1–2
  • Queensland Country Life (Brisbane). 'Pineapple Industry Leader Dies, Aged 84.’ 3 March 1994, 20

Citation details

Dot Gauntlett, 'Fullerton, William (Bill) (1909–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 25 October 2020.

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