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Hanger, Sir Mostyn (1908–1980)

by M. W. D. White

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

Sir Mostyn Hanger (1908-1980), judge, was born on 3 January 1908 at Rockhampton, Queensland, second of five children of native-born parents Thomas Hanger, schoolteacher, and his wife Myfanwy Granville-Jones. Eunice Hanger was his younger sister. Educated at Gympie High School, where his father was headmaster, Mostyn was captain and dux in 1925 and won an open scholarship to the University of Queensland (B.A., 1929; LL.M., 1941). He spent two years as a clerk in the registry of the Supreme Court and another in the office of the registrar of joint stock companies.

Admitted to the Bar on 21 November 1930, Hanger did not begin practice until early 1932. During the Depression, activity in the legal profession declined and he had to wait some fourteen weeks for his initial brief. In his first year he earned only thirty guineas, whereas the rent on his chambers (which he shared with Walter Harrison) was £50. At St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, on 8 April 1936 Hanger married Greta Lumley Robertson. Having completed his masterate, in 1941 he lectured at the university in company law.

On 25 May 1942 Hanger enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force; he was then 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall and weighed 10 st. 9 lb. (68 kg). In the following month he was commissioned in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch. Promoted acting flight lieutenant in April 1943, he was subsequently adjutant of No.12 Squadron, based at Merauke, Netherlands New Guinea. His appointment terminated on 2 May 1945. Practice moved briskly after the war. Assisted by the preference given by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor to returned servicemen, Hanger's work grew rapidly and widely within the civil jurisdiction. He took silk in 1950 and successfully appeared as counsel for the plaintiff in a celebrated case in which the architect J. F. Hennessy sued Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig for non-payment of fees for designing the Cathedral of the Holy Name. On 23 July 1953 Hanger was appointed judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

On 5 October 1965, while president (1962-71) of the Industrial Court of Queensland, he ruled against the re-employment of forty-five men by Mount Isa Mines Ltd. The decision prompted an unsuccessful call for his removal by (Sir) John Egerton on the grounds that Hanger's wife held shares in the company. In a controversial judgement in August 1966 Hanger declared invalid the power of the State Industrial Commission to set awards that included a 'compulsory unionism' clause. Appointed senior puisne judge in April 1970, he became chief justice of the Supreme Court on 12 May 1971. Hanger was appointed K.B.E. in 1973. As deputy-governor, he served as administrator of Queensland for short periods in 1972 and 1977. He retired in July 1977.

Survived by his wife, daughter and three sons, Sir Mostyn died on 11 August 1980 at St Lucia; he was accorded a state funeral and was cremated with the forms of the Uniting Church.

Select Bibliography

  • B. H. McPherson, Supreme Court of Queensland (Syd, 1989)
  • Australian Law Journal, 27, 1952-53, p 248, 45, 1970-71, p 384, 54, Dec 1980, p 758
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 15 July 1977, 12 Aug 1980
  • M. Hanger, Memoirs (privately held)
  • transcript of proceedings of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Queensland, 18 July 1977, 12 Aug 1980, and of the District Court, Cairns, 12 Aug 1980
  • private information.

Citation details

M. W. D. White, 'Hanger, Sir Mostyn (1908–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hanger-sir-mostyn-10408/text18445, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 October 2018.

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

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