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Braddon, Sir Henry Yule (1863–1955)

by H. McCredie

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Sir Henry Yule Braddon (1863-1955), businessman and financier, was born on 27 April 1863 near Calcutta, India, second son of (Sir) Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon, and his first wife Amy Georgina (d.1864), née Palmer. He was brought up at Lucknow until he went to Germany in 1869, where he was educated at Dusseldorf. He spent 1874-75 at Caen, Normandy, France, and in April 1875 went to Alleyn's College of God's Gift (Dulwich College), London. In April 1878 he left to join his father in Tasmania (and was very disappointed at the lack of active bushrangers); he attended Launceston Church Grammar School and late in 1879 joined the Commercial Bank of Tasmania. In 1882 he transferred to the Bank of Australasia at Invercargill, New Zealand.

A notable all-round sportsman Braddon had represented Northern Tasmania at cricket, and played Rugby for Invercargill Club and Otago Province and seven times for New Zealand as full-back. He was a member of the 1884 team that toured New South Wales, where he remained and joined Dalgety & Co. Ltd as a clerk at Newcastle. He played six times for the colony, against Great Britain in 1888, Victoria in 1889 and Queensland in 1890-92. In 1892 he captained the New South Wales eight in intercolonial races.

On 2 September 1891 Braddon had married Bertha Mary Mathews Russell of Invercargill at St Anne's Church of England, Strathfield. With Dalgety's for forty-four years, he became secretary in Sydney, sub-manager of the Sydney branch in 1904, manager in 1906 and Australian superintendent in 1914-28. Under his leadership the company prospered and expanded. He soon became prominent in business circles: he was president of the Employers' Federation of New South Wales in 1905-07, of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce in 1912-14 and of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia in 1913-14 and 1920-21. In 1907-24 he was a part-time lecturer in business methods at the University of Sydney, and in 1909 published Business Principles and Practice; throughout his life he promoted commercial education. With (Sir) T. R. Bavin in 1911-13 he sat on the royal commission into food supplies and fish.

On the outbreak of World War I Braddon was a founding vice-president of the New South Wales division of the British Red Cross Society and was a member of its council throughout the war. In 1914-20 he was also president of the Australian Comforts Fund (Citizens' War Chest Committee): its executive met every weekday. In 1916 he was a founder of the Universal Service League and a member of its financial committee, and for two years was a member of the State Recruiting Committee: all his three sons were on active service, and all survived the war. He was also a director of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1915-17 and honorary treasurer of the Benevolent Society in 1916-18.

Braddon was appointed commissioner to represent Australia in the United States of America in September 1918 and, soon after his arrival in October, set up an office in New York. Although the governor-general Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson had limited his original 'very wide and comprehensive' mission to trade matters, he reported secretly to London in 1919 that 'Braddon had been undoubtedly accepted in America as more than a Commercial Agent'. The quantity of American imports had risen sharply during the war and he insisted that every matter concerning Australia be put first to him to decide if it were 'diplomatic' and to be passed on to the British Embassy, or 'commercial', when he would deal with it himself. He left America in June, and in London helped to organize the commercial side of the high commissioner's office. He returned to Sydney by November and published American Impressions in 1920. Appointed K.B.E. that year, he was awarded the Belgian King Albert Medal in 1921.

After the war Braddon was again prominent in financial circles: he was a director of many companies including Sydney Ferries Ltd, W. R. Carpenter & Co. Ltd, and the Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Co. (Australia) Ltd; in 1921-27 he was a member of the Sydney section of the Board of Trade and in 1922-24 a director of the Commonwealth Note Issue Board. He gave innumerable lectures on business and finance, including unemployment, paper money, income tax and the financial position of Europe and Australia; some he published as pamphlets. After he retired as Australian superintendent of Dalgety's in 1928, he was appointed to the Council for Prevention and Relief of Unemployment in 1930. He was a director of the Mutual Life & Citizens' Assurance Co. Ltd in 1933-55, a local director of the Bank of New Zealand in 1929-54, and chairman of the Sydney boards of Babcock & Wilcox Ltd in 1930-48 and of the Union Trustee Co. of Australia in 1942-54.

Braddon's activities were almost innumerable. He had been appointed to the Legislative Council in 1917, and after it was reconstituted in 1933, was elected for a six-year term in 1934; he bitterly opposed J. T. Lang's financial policies, actively campaigned for the Nationalists in the 1930 elections, and next year defended Bavin from his critics. Braddon was a member of the university senate in 1919-29, sat on its finance committee and the University Extension Board in 1920-29 and encouraged it to found a chair of commerce. He was also president of the Women's Hospital, Crown Street, in 1925-44, of the Rotary Club of Sydney from 1922, and first president of the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children from 1930. Active as an Imperial publicist, he gave many addresses to school children, the Boys' Brigade, and to the Police Boys' clubs, of which he was a founder. He was a member of the Round Table group, vice-president of the Millions Club from 1917, president of the English-Speaking Union in 1922-44, a founder of the Australian-American Association and was involved with the Sane Democracy League.

Braddon remained interested in sport: he was president of the New South Wales Rugby Union in 1916-25; he took up tennis and golf, was a member of the Australian and Royal Sydney golf clubs, and late in life was a regular ringsider at Sydney Stadium fights and White City tennis. In 1930 he published Essays and Addresses, Historical, Economic, Social, whose subjects included the Olympic Games, Shakespeare and the French 'assignat' issues of 1790-97, and also Making of a Constitution. He was a member of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and in 1933 contributed his 'Reminiscences' to its Journal.

Braddon was handsome, with short, very dark hair as a young man, and a neatly clipped moustache which he kept all his life, and had a keen sense of humour. He was a member of the Australian, Union and Warrigal clubs in Sydney and of the Melbourne Club, and visited England and New Zealand several times. He always chaired the Sydney dinners of the old Alleynians and was president of the English Public Schools Association in Sydney in 1931-42. In 1940 he and his wife gave £1000 to the war effort. She died in 1942, and at the Registry Office, Jersey Road, Paddington, on 31 August 1944 he married a divorcee Violet Mary Inglis, née Wheelihan.

Braddon died on 8 September 1955 at his home Rohini, Edgecliff Road, Woollahra, and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by a son and daughter of his first marriage and by his second wife; his estate was valued for probate at £26,216, and his will was challenged in the Supreme Court. His portrait, painted by W. A. Bowring on his retirement from Dalgety's, is held by the University of Sydney.

Braddon's firm belief that 'we should take pride in doing the simplest work as artists rather than as drudges' was perhaps the secret of his success, although he ascribed it to never despising one's job, courtesy and working with one's 'mind on the task, not on enrichment'. He contributed much as a financial expert, as a teacher and publicist, and not least as a humanist.

Select Bibliography

  • Trade and Commerce Journal, 28 Aug 1918
  • Commerce (Sydney), Dec 1929
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July, 19 Nov 1919, 16 Oct 1920, 12 Apr 1921, 21 Dec 1922, 3 Jan 1929, 4 July 1930, 24 May 1939, 28 Apr 1943, 8 Sept 1955, 11 May, 11 Dec 1956
  • Braddon material (privately held)
  • Dalgety & Co. papers (Australian National University Archives)
  • reports and minutes (Sydney Chamber of Commerce Archives)
  • Board of Trade, Minutes CP 703/3, and Trade Commissioners, personal file for H. Y. Braddon CP 360/11, 19/446 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Senate, Faculty, and Finance Committee minutes (University of Sydney Archives)
  • CO 418/176
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. McCredie, 'Braddon, Sir Henry Yule (1863–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/braddon-sir-henry-yule-143/text9009, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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