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Brock, Henry Eric (1884–1963)

by Peter Chapman

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

This is a shared entry with Harold James Brock

Henry Eric Brock (1884-1963), pastoralist, and Harold James Brock (1887-1941), pastoralist and businessman, were sons of Henry James Brock and his wife Georgina, née Mercer, and grandsons of James Brock of Kirk Liston, Scotland, who migrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1833. Eric (as Henry Eric was known) and Harold were born at Campania on 4 January 1884 and 17 April 1887. Their father was the developer and principal owner of the New Golden Gate goldmine at Mathinna and owner of the Lawrenny estate at Ouse. He died in 1898, leaving to his family an estate valued at £229,347. Harold was educated at Officer College, Hobart, and both brothers attended Launceston Church Grammar School and Geelong Church of England Grammar School, Victoria.

After completing his education Eric undertook a two-year world tour with his eldest brother James, a strenuous athlete later reputed to have lost most of his inheritance on a single horse-race. Eric and Harold were also keen turf sportsmen, running their own horses with considerable local success. Eric was on the first Tasmanian Amateur Jockey Club committee and Harold was a Tasmanian Racing Club committee-man.

In 1909 Eric, Harold and James, with their younger brother Claude as resident manager, formed the pastoral company Brock Bros Pty Ltd; it was based on Lawrenny, destined to become one of the most extensive Tasmanian pastoral ventures and the dairy nucleus of a substantial part of the Hobart milk-supply. The main, five-mile-long (8 km) Lawrenny irrigation canal, supplied by turbine pumps, was rapidly completed to water 1500 acres (607 ha). From the 1920s until 1940 when Claude died, Eric concentrated on developing the inland runs north of Ouse, particularly the Lake Echo area. Well-known for his lakeside hospitality, he was a persistent, influential advocate of a regional road system; he stocked the lake with fish and established open bird-sanctuaries both there and at Lawrenny.

Harold, too, spent some years in developing pastoral country in the Bashan lakelands area, but after his marriage to Jeanie Macbeth Tulloch on 4 July 1918 in Scots Church, Melbourne, he moved to Stoke, New Town. He was to return to pastoral activity in 1929 on the Brock Bros' Meadowbank estate, but in this intervening period of general economic recession he made substantial contributions to industrial development in Tasmania. Most important was the formation at Railton of the Goliath Portland Cement Co. which took over the old Tasmanian Cement Co.'s works in August 1928, having contracted to supply the British-based firm Dorman Long & Co. with cement to complete Sydney Harbour Bridge. Both initiator and a director, Harold mortgaged property to back the enterprise. His investment was tinged with idealism: 'We wish it to be an object lesson', he was attributed as saying. 'If we have no faith in our own country it is absurd to think that anybody else will'.

Harold's judgment proved well founded: production grew to 500,000 tons (tonnes) per annum by 1967. Moreover the social benefits accruing to the region would have pleased him. He died of complication of a gastric ulcer at Glenora on 22 June 1941, survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons, leaving an estate valued for probate at £30,104. Described by his obituarist as 'a staunch supporter' of causes 'considered likely to improve the lot of the masses', Brock made substantial contributions to such movements, including the Australian Labor Party, an association which brought him into regular contact with J. A. Lyons, who visited him on occasions at the Meadowbank homestead.

The death of Harold's sons on active service in 1944 and 1945 ended the family association with Lawrenny; there had been no issue from Eric Brock's two marriages, the first of which, to a widow Ivy Mabel O'Connor McGregor, née Grubb, on 16 February 1920 in Hobart, according to the forms of the Presbyterian Church, had ended in divorce in 1929. The estate was sold by Eric to the Commonwealth government in 1946 for soldier settlement. He then donated land for the Ouse Golf Links, and established another natural reserve at his new homestead on the 40 acres (16 ha) he had retained close to Ouse, employing for its upkeep a well-known lake-country shepherd, A. Daley. Eric died at Lawrenny on 14 May 1963, survived by his second wife Clare Jessie, née Haywood, whom he had married on 28 May 1929 at Sandy Bay. His estate was valued for probate at £114,075. The lush pastures of the Lawrenny irrigation scheme remain as a summer memorial in the upper Derwent valley.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • Goliath Portland Cement Co. Ltd, Fiftieth Anniversary, 1923-1973 (Railton, 1973)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 10 Apr 1884, 6, 12 Aug 1898, 3 Jan 1910, 6, 12, 27 July, 1-4 Aug 1928, 23, 24 June 1941, 7 June 1946, 16 May 1963
  • Tasmanian Mail (Hobart), 13 Aug 1898, 10 June 1905, 11 July 1928.

Citation details

Peter Chapman, 'Brock, Henry Eric (1884–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brock-henry-eric-5364/text9073, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 19 December 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 7

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