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Foll, Hattil Spencer (Harry) (1890–1977)

by Elaine Brown

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Hattil Spencer Foll (1890-1977), by T. Humphrey & Co., 1920s

Hattil Spencer Foll (1890-1977), by T. Humphrey & Co., 1920s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23386717

Hattil Spencer (Harry) Foll (1890-1977), politician, was born on 30 May 1890 at West Brixton, London, second child of John Hattil Foll, journeyman butcher, and his wife Kate Elizabeth, née Lamb. Educated at Clapham Collegiate and Holy Trinity schools, Clapham, in 1909 Harry (who disliked the name Hattil) and a friend Guy Middleton emigrated to Queensland where they obtained work on Darr River Downs station, near Longreach. One year later they found jobs as bookkeepers with the coach-builder G. F. Dauth at Beenleigh. Foll wrote for the local newspaper and enjoyed singing, playing the piano and acting in amateur theatricals.

In 1911 he became a clerk in the office of the Queensland commissioner for railways. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1914, Foll sailed to Egypt with the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade and on 25 April 1915 landed at Gallipoli. On 19 May he was wounded in the head and leg, but rejoined his unit in July. Leaving the peninsula in August, he returned to Australia and was discharged medically unfit on 15 February 1916. He had married Evelyn Bush Mousley on 1 December 1915 at All Saints Anglican Church, Brisbane; they were to have a son who died in infancy and four daughters.

Briefly private secretary to the State politician John Adamson, secretary for railways, Foll held office in the Returned Soldiers' and Patriots' National Political League. In May 1917 he was elected to the Senate as a Nationalist candidate. His parliamentary committee-work reflected his interest in military, financial and administrative matters. He served as government whip in 1926-29 and 1932-37, and Opposition whip in 1929-31. From the 1920s he lived in Sydney.

Promoted to cabinet, Foll relinquished his directorships of Mt Isa Mines Ltd and New Guinea Goldfields Ltd. He was minister-in-charge of war service homes (1937-38), held the portfolios of repatriation (1937-39), health (1938-39) and interior (1939-41), and was a member of the War Cabinet (1939-41). As minister for information in 1940-41, he established the Australian News and Information Bureau, New York, and also effected savings in government advertising. In World War II he was a captain in the Volunteer Defence Corps. He was prominent in the parliamentary attacks on General Sir Thomas Blamey in 1944-45. Having lost the endorsement of the Queensland People's (Liberal) Party for the 1946 general elections, he left the Senate in June 1947.

Next year he bought Eathorpe, a sheep-grazing property near Armidale, where he lived until 1957 when he retired to Port Macquarie. Foll was short and stocky, with blue eyes and wavy, dark brown hair. A sociable man and an astute observer of people and events, he was fond of travel and liked 'grassroots' politics. He held moderate views, had an analytical mind and a keen sense of humour, and was a confident public speaker. To the end of his life he remained mentally and physically active, enjoying tennis, golf, bowls and especially swimming. Survived by his wife and daughters, he died on 7 July 1977 at Port Macquarie; following a state funeral, he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • J. Hilvert, Blue Pencil Warriors (Brisb, 1984)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth, Senate), 16 Aug 1977, p 3
  • Port Macquarie News, 11 July 1977
  • private information.

Citation details

Elaine Brown, 'Foll, Hattil Spencer (Harry) (1890–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/foll-hattil-spencer-harry-10213/text18051, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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