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Who was CB Alexander?

The stamp of the man

CB Alexander

Charles Alexander was, like all of us, shaped by his life and times. Unlike most of us, he was always enclosed and moulded by that smallest of clans, the family. Theirs was a tight, self-contained community.

Charles, as youngest of the large family, dutifully played his role as all the brothers worked in concert to make their fortune. Under the strong leadership of father William, then big brother David, then Jean, Charles always lived in the shadow of strong personalities.

And yet he exerted (or was allowed) his own freedoms. Land was purchased in his name. Stock were bought and traded by him. It was he who indulged his passion for fine motor cars in a succession of Rolls Royce vehicles.

We've seen how frugal the family was. The legends are legion. When the rabbit plague was at its height in 1937 the boundary of Tocal was fenced with rabbit-proof wire netting. Sharing the cost of the fencing with neighbour Gordon Vile, Charles requested that the netting be erected on Vile's side of the posts. By this measure, Tocal would gain at least a couple more acres of grazing land along the extensive boundary!

There are plenty of paradoxes. The Alexander's charity was mostly anonymous or at least not widely broadcast. They generally shunned the limelight and were social nonentities. And yet the Alexander name was made prominent on many edifices they built or supported.

Charles could be gruff and unbending. His demeanour could be aloof and abrupt, cold and reserved. He could be intimidating and unapproachable. But that was to strangers. To his friends he was loyal, generous, kindly but lonely.

Finally, those who knew him as children were unanimous in their impressions: he was a kindly, jovial, fun-loving man who took a keen interest in them.

In just one generation Charles' family moved from the poverty of the Glasgow slums, through the ranks of the working class, into the lofty realms of the landed gentry.

The life of this remarkable man gives the lie to the notion that '...the good is oft interred with their bones'. The legacy of Charles, who stood on the shoulders of a singular family of achievers, will endure while ever the bricks and mortar of Tocal College and Homestead remain. His character shines out from his testament and legacy to the youth of Australia.

Commemoration of 60 years from CB Alexander's death

Above: Friends of Tocal, students, staff and local historians gather on a bitter winter's day in 2007 to commemorate 60 years since the passing of Charles Alexander.

The information on this web page is taken from the book Who was CB Alexander? which sells for $10 plus postage [details]