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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sanderson, Archibald (1870–1937)

by Donald Grant

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Archibald Sanderson (1870-1937), journalist, fruit-grower, lawyer and politician, was born on 1 April 1870 at Brie Brie station near Glenthompson, Victoria, fifth child of John Sanderson, pastoralist and wool merchant, and his wife Agnes, née Roberts, both Scottish born. (Sir) John Sanderson was Archibald's elder brother. The family moved to England and Archibald attended Haileybury College and, later, Christ Church, Oxford (B.A., 1892). He then worked in New Zealand as a parliamentary reporter for the Christchurch Press and sub-editor for the Wellington Evening Press. In 1894 he rode a bicycle from Melbourne to Coolgardie, Western Australia, where he cycled through the goldfields with camera and notebook reporting for the Christchurch Press and the New Zealand Times. In 1895 he taught briefly at Perth High School, before joining the new Perth Morning Herald as leader-writer and assistant editor. He visited England and France in 1899 and in 1900-03 was a sub-editor on Arthur Lovekin's Perth Daily News.

Sanderson had bought land in the Darling Ranges and developed a prosperous fruit-growing property, Lesmurdie, while working as a journalist. His father wrote: 'A wife and a seat in Parliament will follow in due course'. Sanderson, described locally as 'the one Blue Blood in the district', used his influence to push the upper Darling Range district's development. From 1903 he studied law, 'a good background for political work', and was called to the Bar in 1906 at the Inner Temple, London, and admitted to the Western Australian Bar on 26 November 1907.

At Warlingham, Surrey, on 9 October 1906, he married Maude Louisa Rose, daughter of Bishop Henry Hutton Parry. Maude thought Sanderson 'a striking looking fellow. Tall with dark hair and the bluest of blue eyes and a pleasant, sensitive mouth'. Returning to Australia, he expanded Lesmurdie by extending the house, building a church and school, and engaging more servants. He failed several times to enter State and Federal parliaments, was a founder and first president of the Western Australian Liberal Club in 1911, and next year was elected as a Liberal to the Legislative Council for the Metropolitan-Suburban Province. He held the seat until 1922 when he resigned to stand, again unsuccessfully, as an Australian Country Party candidate for the Senate. He had been consistently laissez-faire in a conservative Upper House. He deplored the 'nightmare of socialistic enterprises' in Western Australia, but more often than his Liberal colleagues he supported bills from the Labor-controlled assembly, and he praised 'the value of the Labor Party's public services'. An opponent of Western Australia's entry into Federation—'our country was given away for a mess of pottage'—later he also opposed secession, 'this most ridiculous of causes'.

Until late in life Sanderson contributed articles on travel, history and contemporary politics to Perth newspapers. He also published occasional pamphlets such as Liberalism and Labour in Western Australia (Perth, 1911). Sir Hal Colebatch described him as 'one of the most scholarly, courageous, and accurately informed journalists Western Australia has had'. Parliamentary colleagues admired his speeches, his foresight and high standards. He lived the life of a gentleman at Lesmurdie—in 1927 he entertained the Duke and Duchess of York—and was a member of the Australian Round Table. Sanderson died on 18 June 1937 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery, Guildford; his wife, three daughters and four sons survived him. His estate showed a deficiency of £1141.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • L. W. Matters, Australasians Who Count in London and Who Counts in Western Australia (Lond, 1913)
  • H. Sanderson (ed), Lesmurdie (Perth, 1979)
  • J. Slee and B. Shaw, Cala Munda (Perth, 1979)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Western Australia), 4 Aug 1915, 22 Aug 1922
  • West Australian, 19 June 1937
  • Sanderson papers (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Donald Grant, 'Sanderson, Archibald (1870–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 29 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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