Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Braine, Henry Edward (1884–1957)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Henry Edward Braine (1884-1957), company manager and wheat industry administrator, was born on 3 January 1884 at Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Essex, England, only son of Harry Brain, bricklayer and builder, and his wife Martha, née Huddlestone. Henry was educated at a school in Buckhurst Hill. Employed as a clerk by a silk indent agent, in 1909 he travelled to Japan on the trans-Siberian railway. Two years later he arrived in Western Australia and leased an orchard at Yornup, south of Bridgetown. He married his sweetheart Rosaline Florence Webster on 5 January 1914 at the register office, West Ham, London, giving his surname as Braine.

Returning to Bridgetown, he joined Westralian Farmers Ltd's fruit department and was briefly in the potato section at Bunbury before being transferred to the wheat division in Perth. By 1918 the firm was sole agent for the Australian Wheat Board. Braine energetically addressed problems of receival, storage and shipment. As a company officer uninvolved in political wrangling, he expedited the transition from the State Wheat Board to a voluntary wheat pool, which retained Westralian Farmers as its agent. Promoted wheat inspector in 1925, Braine succeeded John Thomson as the company's wheat manager and secretary to the Co-operative Wheat Pool of Western Australia. An acknowledged authority and able organizer, from 1934 he was managing director of Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd, overseeing most of the construction of the silos which ended the need to bag grain for transport. He retired in 1951 to become manager of the trustees of the wheat (later grain) pool. On overseas trips (England 1929; China and Japan 1939), he had generated interest in Western Australian wheat. In 1950 he published three monographs on the sale of wheat under the fair average quality system.

During World War II Braine had served in the Volunteer Defence Corps. From 1942 until 1953 he was also a volunteer ambulance officer for the St John Ambulance Perth Water Supply Division. Tall, athletic and ascetic, Braine spent weekends on his farm at Chittering breeding sheep and cattle and experimenting with agricultural techniques. He maintained a close association with the Western Australian Institute of Agriculture, whose postwar soil fertility research programme he persuaded the wheat pool to sponsor. He also successfully lobbied the State government to legislate for a research subvention for wheat-farmers.

Braine could not abide small talk or chatty social gatherings, although he proved a genial host to Dame Sybil Thorndike and Sir Lewis Casson at a bush-barbecue in 1955. Passionate about the theatre, opera and ballet, he gained support for the Adult Education Board's community arts programmes and the Western Australian Ballet Company. He was dubbed 'a fairy godfather' for negotiating a partnership between the Westralian Wheat Buildings Pty Ltd and entrepreneurs Eric Edgley and Clem Dawe, resulting in the post-war revitalization of His Majesty's Theatre, Perth, as a theatrical venue.

In 1954 Braine was a foundation member of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. He also belonged to the British Overseas Settlers' Association. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, Braine died on 15 March 1957 at Royal Perth Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn at £34,546. Rosaline Braine had served in the women's auxiliary services during World War II and was active in the Perth Repertory Club and as a charity worker.

Select Bibliography

  • F. R. Mercer, On Farmers’ Service (Perth, 1955)
  • Co-operative Bulk Handling (Perth, 1965)
  • G. H. Burvill (ed), Agriculture in Western Australia 1829-1979 (Perth, 1979)
  • W. K. P. Smith, A Bunch of Pirates (Perth, 1984)
  • G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1994)
  • R. Goldfinch, Legends of the Grain Game (Perth, 2003)
  • Wesfarmers News, 21 Mar 1957
  • Department of Agriculture (Western Australia), Bulletin, Mar 1984
  • West Australian, 5 Jan 1933, p 50, 16 Mar 1957, p 2, 11 May 1957, p 7, 16 July 1968, p 7
  • Sunday Mail (Adelaide), 26 June 1954, p 9
  • Countryman (Perth), 21 Mar 1957, p 3
  • Wesfarmers records (State Library of Western Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Braine, Henry Edward (1884–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/braine-henry-edward-12814/text23129, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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