Busteed, John (1895–1964), economist, was born 30 June 1895 at Mayfield, a suburb of Cork city, son of John Busteed, ship's steward, and Mary Busteed (née Hickey). Educated at the North Monastery School, Cork, he was the first recipient of the Honan scholarship to UCC (1913), but on the outbreak of the first world war joined the Irish Guards before completing his studies. Wounded while fighting in France, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant for bravery and became a machine-gun instructor at the Guards school at Bisley.
In 1918 he returned to UCC to resume his studies, and was awarded a first-class honours B.Comm. degree (1920). In 1921 he won the NUI travelling studentship in economics, but instead of undertaking a postgraduate degree course he persuaded J. J. McEligott (qv), then managing editor of the Statist, to give him a job and supervise a research degree. In time he became assistant editor and manager of the investments section of the Statist. Attending lectures on advanced statistics and advanced mathematics at the University of London, he was later elected a fellow of the Statistical Society of London. On his return to UCC he succeeded Timothy A. Smiddy (qv) as professor of economics and dean of the commerce faculty (1924–64) and graduated M.Comm (1926).
Busteed was appointed a member of the committee on economic statistics in 1924. Aware of the dearth of statistics relating to the Irish economy, in 1926 he suggested criteria by which the Irish economy might be measured in a paper read before the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, ‘Economic barometers’ (1926). In 1937 he read a paper before the society entitled ‘The problem of population’, in which he forecast that developed economies would encounter the problems of declining populations.
Throughout his career he served on numerous commissions and committees. In 1927 he was appointed to the commission on workmen's compensation, and he later sat (1934–8) on the Brennan commission on banking, currency, and credit (for which he wrote the second minority report, examining the sterling link, Irish government debt, and the regressive nature of Irish taxation). He advocated the establishment of a national monetary authority to manage the national debt and to control the issue and redemption of coinage. In October 1939 he sent a memorandum to McElligott, then secretary of the Department of Finance, calling for an open discussion on the link between the Irish and British currencies. In 1957 he sat on the commission on Irish taxation.
A member of the executive board of the Economic Research Institute and a foundation council member of the Irish Management Institute, he was a member of the governing body of UCC and the senate of the NUI (June 1944–October 1959). A close friend of Alfred O’Rahilly (qv), he wrote the foreword to O'Rahilly's Money (1941) without reading the book. Busteed was deeply interested in adult education, and he and O'Rahilly also cooperated on the development of adult education in Cork city (1930) and on a Rowntree survey of poverty in the city (1944).
During the second world war Busteed served as a captain in the Irish army. One of the original panel of chairmen of the Cork area council for the building industry, he presided over merger negotiations for two years between the Irish Trade Union Congress and the Congress of Irish Unions, to form the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in 1959. He was an honorary member of the Cork chamber of commerce and was instrumental in persuading the chamber to set up a bureau of economic research to gather statistical data relating to banks, agricultural credit, taxation, tariffs, trade balances, etc. under his directorship at UCC. Active in promoting the savings-bank movement, he was a lecturer at the Irish Institute of Bankers.
One of very few professional economists in the country at the time, he did not share the ideological orthodoxy of his peers – although neither did he, according to J. J. Lee, ‘provide a sustained alternative to the official mind’ (Ireland, 580). In regular articles in the Irish Press, he expressed his belief that Ireland's hope rested in promoting industrialisation, at whatever cost in effort and burdens. In addition, he wrote articles for the Irish Statesman on Irish currency (2, 9 August, 15 November 1924) and on the abolition of income tax (7 March 1925). His other publications included A statistical analysis of Irish egg production, prices and trade (1926), Ireland's industrial prospects (n.d.), and ‘Agriculture and employment in the Free State 1926–30’ (Studies, xix (1930)). He also contributed many articles to the Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. In failing health for about a year, he died 9 August 1964 at the Bons Secours nursing home.
He and his wife Mary had three sons and two daughters and lived at Ceann Mara, Blackrock Road, Cork.