This is the story of a remarkable Australian: a community leader and a pioneer of the canning industry, philanthropist and businessman with rare gifts in marketing, finance and what today is known as human resources management. Andrew Walker Fairley was three years old when he arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1887 with his parents and five brothers. After completing his schooling in Tasmania he joined the family business, Fairley’s Emporium in Shepparton, before establishing a profitable farming and property partnership with his brother John Frederick (Fred) Fairley. When he was 37 he was called in to help save the struggling Shepparton Fruit Preserving Company.
Ab Fairley, as he was known to family, friends and business associates, was still chairman and managing director of SPC when he died in 1965 at the age of 81. In those four decades he had turned a factory in a weatherboard shed into a cannery with an international reputation; the SPC brand was known and respected around the world. He was knighted in 1951.
Sir Andrew Fairley also played a major role in the development of his adopted home town and for 20 years was a Commissioner of Victoria’s State Electricity Commission. For more than 30 years he was married to Neta (formerly Mineta Stewart) but they had no children. The bulk of his considerable estate was used to establish the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation and in the 50 years since his death it has distributed millions of dollars to assist the people of Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley.