This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
Sir Byrne Hart (1895-1989), soldier, accountant and company director, was born on 6 October 1895 in Brisbane, second of identical twins and youngest of three surviving sons of Queensland-born parents Frederick MacDonnell Hart, accountant, and his wife Isabella, née Byrne. The twins attended Bowen Bridge Road State and Brisbane Grammar schools before becoming boarders at The Southport School. In 1913 Byrne was apprenticed to an architect. He was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 July 1915 and by April 1917 was serving on the Western Front with the 49th Battalion. Following an attack at Messines, Belgium, on 7 June, he was one of only two officers left standing. For rallying the men, consolidating the line and holding out during three days of intensive bombardment, he was awarded the Military Cross. He was promoted to lieutenant and in September was severely wounded at Zonnebeke. His twin, Morris, had also joined the AIF and was killed in action in October. Byrne was invalided to Brisbane, where his AIF appointment terminated on 16 October 1918.
On 20 March 1922 at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Toowoomba, Hart married Margaret Hannah Cramond; they had three sons. He had decided to take up accountancy and to fill his brother’s place in their father’s firm, F. M. Hart & Co. Becoming a partner, he was a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia from 1933. He also helped to manage Her Majesty’s Theatre, long held by the Byrne family, and an adjoining hotel in Queen Street, Brisbane.
Called up for full-time duty in September 1941 as a temporary major with the 61st Battalion, Militia, he was bitterly disappointed to be given a supporting role at Northern Command headquarters as deputy assistant quartermaster general. One of his roles was to arrange for the reception of the first American troops to arrive in Brisbane. In October 1942 he joined the AIF and from January 1943 commanded the 2nd Australian Water Transport Group, based on Thursday Island. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in November and transferred to the Reserve of Officers in August 1944. His son Morris was accidentally killed in December 1945 while serving with the AIF.
Back in Brisbane, Hart became senior partner in F. M. Hart & Co. Over many years a director of some nineteen companies, mostly Queensland based, he was chairman of several, including Hornibrook Highway Ltd (1948-76); National Bank of Australasia Ltd, Queensland board of advice (1966-70); Mactaggarts Primary Producers’ Co-operative Association Ltd (1954-74); Amagraze Ltd (1960-73); Utah Mining Australia Ltd (1970-76); and Castlemaine Perkins Ltd (1973-77). He had a grazing property at Kandanga, Central Queensland.
Hart was president of the Brisbane Gun (1939) and of the Queensland (1954-56) clubs, and a member of the Union Club (Sydney). As a trustee of the United Service Club for some thirty-four years he assisted war widows and Legacy. He was a Freemason. Honorary treasurer (1949-66) and chairman (1966-74) of the Queensland Turf Club, he was a modestly successful horse-breeder and owner. He was appointed CBE in 1968 and knighted in 1974.
Sir Byrne was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm), of slight build, with short dark hair when young, bespectacled blue eyes, and fair to olive complexion. Despite the wounds he had received in World War I, he was fit enough to enjoy horse-riding into his late seventies. His interests included fishing and sailing; he was a member of the Royal Queensland Yacht Club. Survived by his wife and two younger sons, he died on 19 March 1989 at his Ascot home and was cremated with Anglican rites. Since 1990 the Sir Byrne Hart Stakes has been a major event in the Queensland racing calendar. A portrait of him by Sir William Dargie is held by the QTC.
Mark McGinness, 'Hart, Sir Byrne (1895–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hart-sir-byrne-12597/text22689, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 April 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007