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Behan, Sir Harold Garfield (Paddy) (1901–1979)

by Doug Tucker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Sir Harold Garfield (Paddy) Behan (1901-1979), grazier and local government leader, was born on 22 February 1901 at Rockhampton, Queensland, son of Thomas Behan, a surveyor from Ireland, and his native-born wife Mary Beatrice, née Landy. Brought up on Garfield station, Jericho, he bore permanent scars from being severely burnt at the age of 12. He was educated at Nudgee College, Brisbane, and Brisbane Grammar School. When his father retired from the Jericho Shire Council in 1922, its members appointed 'Paddy' (as Harold was generally known) to the vacancy. In 1926 the Behans moved to Bilbah Downs, a property in the neighbouring shire of Isisford. Within weeks Paddy became a local councillor and continued to belong to the Isisford Shire Council (except for a short interval in 1936) for fifty-three years; in 1951-79 he was its chairman. He was also a member (1926-79) of the Blackall hospitals board. On 25 June 1928 Behan had married a nurse Frances Kathleen Hockings at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Nundah; widowed not long after, he married another nurse Phyllis Ethel Estelle Turner on 8 June 1935 in the sacristy of St Patrick's Church, Blackall.

A delegate to the annual conference of the Local Government Association of Queensland, in the mid-1930s Behan played an important role in forming the Western Queensland Local Government Association. Following Phyllis's death, he married a 26-year-old nurse Kathleen Bridget Costello at St Mary's Church, Ipswich, on 16 September 1942. That year, he joined the executive committee of the L.G.A.Q.; in 1948 he was elected junior vice-president and in 1949 senior vice-president. One of the more prominent personalities at its conferences, he enjoyed widespread respect and popularity. He was a born raconteur, blessed with an encyclopaedic memory, and had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of yarns and anecdotes with which he entertained fellow delegates, often at the Gresham Hotel where he stayed during his frequent trips to Brisbane. In May 1952 he was elected unopposed to the presidency which he held for twenty years.

In 1948 Behan had promoted the establishment of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations (later the Australian Local Government Association) to represent their interests at the national level; he was a State representative on this body until 1973 and was thrice president. With (Sir) Allan Sewell, Behan investigated local government in Darwin: on their recommendation, it received the status of a city in 1959. He also advised on the establishment of local government in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

Meantime, as a grazier Behan had been active in pastoral circles and constantly involved with the wool industry. He was a member of the executive and president (1962-68) of the Central and Northern Graziers' Association. Combined with his role in the L.G.A.Q., his position as a councillor (from 1944) of the United Graziers' Association of Queensland strengthened his efforts to secure State legislation for the control of animal and vegetable pests on rural lands. When the Queensland government set up a co-ordinating board in 1944, Behan was the local government representative and remained on it until 1975. As a member (1964) of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, he was the graziers' representative on the Queensland Employers' Federation from 1965. Appointed M.B.E. (1958) and C.M.G. (1967), he was knighted in 1977 'for distinguished service to local government and primary industry'.

Survived by his wife, their son and two daughters, by the son and daughter of his first marriage and by the daughter of his second, Sir Harold died on 7 August 1979 in Brisbane and was buried in Pinaroo lawn cemetery, Aspley. His detailed knowledge and understanding of rural problems, coupled with his negotiating ability, stamina and willingness to go anywhere to discharge the responsibilities of office, made him a legend in Queensland local government circles.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Jounquay, The Isisford Story (Isisford, Qld, 1975)
  • R. Kerr, Freedom of Contract (Brisb, 1990)
  • Local Govt Association of Queensland, Annual Conference Proceedings, 1942, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1972
  • Locgov Digest, 6, no 5, Aug-Sept 1972, p 2
  • Notable Queenslanders 1975
  • D. Tucker, A History of Local Government in Queensland (manuscript, held by author)
  • D. Tucker, taped interview with Mr J. C. H. Gill (Oct 1987, held by author).

Citation details

Doug Tucker, 'Behan, Sir Harold Garfield (Paddy) (1901–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/behan-sir-harold-garfield-paddy-9474/text16667, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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