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Sir William Charles Angliss (1865–1957)

William Angliss, n.d.

William Angliss, n.d.

from Pastoral Review and Graziers' Record, 16 July 1957

The name of Angliss has been so much a part of the pastoral industry for so long it is difficult to realise that the founder of that tradition has only just died. But by living—and enjoying life—into his 93rd year Sir William Angliss had long outlived his own generation and for many years had been looked upon as an elder statesman, with that benevolent wisdom and understanding that comes with age. Although an extremely busy man controlling his own widespread interests and helping innumerable public bodies, his door was always open to anyone seeking his advice and many can testify to his sound judgment in business and his human approach on all matters. Less than a week before his death on 15th June he was working as usual in his city office, and to the end he remained Australia's most colourful millionaire and one of the greatest pioneers of our meat export industry.

Sir William had several mottos which, he believed, led to his success, the first being "work hard," and another "look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves." He practised both, but it was probably his ability to work out percentages—to convert the live weight of stock to dressed weight—quickly in his head that put him in the forefront of the meat trade. He had no peer at being able to "see" a profit in a line of stock, and he was prepared to back his judgment with all the optimism he had in the great future of his adopted land.

He was born on 29th January 1865 at Dudley, Worcestershire, England. His father was a tailor, but he began work with his uncle, who had a butcher's shop in Peckham, London, and after gaining some experience in the business emigrated to the United States, where for a short time he managed a butcher's shop on Staten Island, New York. In 1884 he decided to try his luck in Australia and sailed for Queensland, landing at Rockhampton with a few shillings in his pocket. He was unable to get a job at the local meatworks so he moved south to Brisbane, where he stayed a year, and then to Sydney and later Melbourne. At the age of 21 he opened his first shop—in Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne—but he had to borrow money to buy the shop fittings, and the horse and cart he drove to market to buy his meat. He seldom worked less than 80 hours a week in those early days, and through his thrift and hard work soon bought the retail and contract business of William Anderson. He speculated in the land boom of the early 1890's and lost heavily, but nevertheless was able to retain and expand his business until it became the biggest chain of meat shops in Australia.

Sir William entered the frozen meat trade in the 1890's by shipping to the Western Australian goldfields, and shortly afterwards contracted to supply the Australian contingent at the Boer War. Then he started shipping to Britain, and as business improved he built his own Imperial meatworks at Footscray, Victoria, absorbed the Riverstone Company in New South Wales, and bought the Redbank works at Brisbane and Lakes Creek works at Rockhampton. At their peak the Angliss meatworks processed nearly three million sheep and lambs, plus several thousands of cattle, each year, and during World War I enormous quantities of canned meat were manufactured for the services. W. Angliss and Co. (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. became Australia's leading meat export organisation, but in 1934 it was absorbed by Union International—the Vestey family interests—for an undisclosed sum believed to have been about £1,500,000 and Sir William was retained as chairman in an advisory capacity.

Allied with the growth of his meat business Sir William Angliss was directly associated with the development of many sheep and cattle properties in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. At the time of his death he was still chairman of Queensland Stations Pty. Ltd., Vanrook Pastoral Co. Pty. Ltd., and Bluff Downs Pastoral Co. Pty. Ltd., all of which he had steered through the difficult depression years and retained because he had confidence in Australia's future. He was also joint managing partner of Kidman, Angliss and Co., and Kidman and Angliss, owned a controlling interest in Miranda Downs Pastoral Co., was a director of Augustus Downs Pastoral Co. Pty. Ltd., and owned Banool Station, Kerang, Victoria. In addition, he controlled his family interests in the ownership of Greystones and Glenmore, near Bacchus Marsh, Vic., and was governing trustee for his family in Donors Hill, Q.

In other fields Sir William Angliss was equally prominent and successful. For 40 years, from 1912 until his retirement in 1952, he was a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, and for 53 years continuously was chairman of the Eagle Star Insurance Co. He was a director of many other companies, and also served on innumerable committees helping worthy causes. His gifts to charity during his life were most generous, and under his will a £1 million trust will provide income for charities in Victoria and Queensland.

Sir William Angliss, who was knighted in 1939, married Miss Jacobena Grutzner, of Whittlesea, Vic., in 1919, and they had one daughter, Eirene. She married Mr. David Knox, son of Sir Robert and Lady Knox, and died in 1945 after the birth of her daughter, Diana, who has since been looked after by Sir William and Lady Angliss.

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'Angliss, Sir William Charles (1865–1957)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

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