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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Maitland, Alan Cathcart (1898–1979)

by M. D. Prentis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Alan Cathcart Maitland (1898-1979), managing director, was born on 18 November 1898 at Braidwood, New South Wales, fifth child of Ernest Leslie Maitland, an English-born police magistrate, and his wife Marion Loyalty, née Doyle, who came from Maitland. Alan was educated at King's College, Goulburn, and The King's School, Parramatta. The family's financial situation obliged him to leave school at the age of 14. He worked briefly for a bank at Parramatta and for a small insurance company at Newcastle before being employed (from 15 May 1916) as a junior clerk at the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd, Sydney. On 3 January 1917 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; he served on the Western Front with the 34th Battalion and the 4th Machine-Gun Battalion.

Discharged from the A.I.F. on 30 October 1919 in Sydney, Maitland was made Mercantile Mutual's inspector for the Northern Rivers. In 1923 he was posted to Sydney where he rose to chief clerk in 1935, company secretary in 1942 and manager in 1947. His reliability and quickness won him the confidence of superiors and colleagues. At St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 6 October 1923 he had married 19-year-old Sybil ('Betty') Iredale Brennand; they lived at Strathfield and were to have three children before being divorced in 1948. Maitland was a Freemason, captain (1943-45) of Strathfield Golf Club and active in the Returned Soldiers' and Sailors' Imperial League of Australia.

Following his appointment as managing director of Mercantile Mutual on 1 April 1948, Maitland engineered the friendly takeover of Australian General Insurance Co. Ltd and also served as its managing director. In seventeen years at the helm, he brought about considerable change in Mercantile Mutual. He took a particular interest in diversifying into life insurance, and in enlarging and improving the investments, income from which increased twenty-fold while premium income multiplied by almost ten and company assets by seventeen. He made judicious promotions and appointments, and dealt with crises (such as reinsurance treaties) with tact and skill. Maitland demonstrated diligence, foresight in his investments, and loyalty to the company. On one occasion the board had to force him to take a holiday. Active in the Insurance Institute of New South Wales, he was a council-member (from 1948), a fellow (1952) and president (1952-53) of the Australian Insurance Institute. He was also a director (1949-71) of the Church of England Insurance Co. of Australia Ltd.

At St Anne's Anglican Church, Strathfield, on 2 April 1948 Maitland had married 40-year-old Marcia Eadith Walker. They moved to Bellevue Hill in 1958. He was interested in horse-racing and belonged to the Australasian Pioneers', the Union and Royal Sydney Golf clubs; after a back injury he took to bowls. He loved orchids and cultivated them by the hundred. Although he retired on 31 October 1965, he continued as a director (1966-71) of Mercantile Mutual. President (1949-51) of The King's School Old Boys' Union, he donated the Alan Maitland cup for music. He died on 13 May 1979 in St Luke's Hospital, Darlinghurst, and was cremated; his wife survived him, as did the son and younger daughter of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Mayfield, Servant of a Century (Syd, 1978)
  • P. C. Wickens, Insurance Institutes in Australia 1884-1984 (Syd, 1984)
  • Maitland papers (The King's School Archives, Parramatta, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

M. D. Prentis, 'Maitland, Alan Cathcart (1898–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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