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Hodgetts, Henry Warburton (Harry) (1882–1949)

by R. M. Gibbs

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

Henry Warburton (Harry) Hodgetts (1882-1949), sharebroker, was born on 11 June 1882 at Petersburg, South Australia, son of Henry Warburton Hodgetts, telegraph operator, and his wife Emily Mary Armit, née Lees, a postmistress. The family moved to Adelaide where young Harry was educated at the Old College School, Norwood; its principal A. R. D. Leonard paid his fees to attend the Collegiate School of St Peter in 1898. In October that year Hodgetts gained a post-office cadetship. He worked in both the State and Federal departments until 1910 when he became secretary of the Stock Exchange of Adelaide. At St Aidan's Anglican Church, Marden, on 16 October 1912 he married Mary Edith Gordon Gwynne, grand-daughter of E. C. Gwynne. Hodgetts arranged collections for patriotic causes and trained with the Stock Exchange's rifle club during World War I. Having bought a seat on the exchange in 1917, four years later he established H. W. Hodgetts & Co and flourished. In 1923 he joined the Adelaide Club.

Following a slump in the early years of the Depression, his business improved in Adelaide's share-trading revival after Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931; transactions of over £2 million passed through his books in 1934. That year, while a member of the Australian cricket board of control, Hodgetts contracted to employ the New South Wales batsman (Sir) Donald Bradman, who agreed to make himself available for the Kensington, South Australian and Australian teams. Chairman of the South Australian Lacrosse Association and active on many sporting, educational, religious and charitable bodies, Hodgetts was socially prominent and considered to be solidly respectable.

Losses from a Broken Hill agent's business failure and from speculation in wheat futures hit Hodgetts heavily. By 1941 additional losses, including those from underwriting the float of Hotel Darwin Ltd, compounded his problems. He borrowed clients' scrip to secure advances and pawned his Adelaide Club debentures, but interest payments and bankers' demands were pressing. From 1942 Federal wartime controls over stock exchange transactions (against which he had lobbied as a committee-member of the exchange) denied him opportunities to trade out of his difficulties.

On 2 June 1945 Hodgetts advised the exchange that he could not meet his commitments; an examination showed his estate deficiency to be £82,854. The collapse shocked Adelaide: the two hundred and thirty-eight unsecured creditors included the solicitor Guy Fisher (£34,567), the test cricketer Arthur Richardson who lost his life savings, the retired governor-general Lord Gowrie, Bradman and other well-known people. Hodgetts, once a dapper dresser but now shabbier, with 'iron-grey hair and tired features', pleaded guilty in September to false pretences and fraudulent conversion. Even the funds of the Royal Institution for the Blind, of which he was honorary treasurer, had been misappropriated. The judge found that a 'disastrous combination of embarrassing difficulties' had led him to succumb to temptation. On being sentenced to five years imprisonment, Hodgetts wept.

The State government expedited legislation requiring sharebrokers to establish trust funds, keep proper books and produce audited accounts. Hodgetts's downfall prompted questions about the way in which Bradman immediately set up business on his own account, although he had a seat on the Stock Exchange and was not Hodgetts's partner. After serving most of his sentence, Hodgetts died of cancer on 4 October 1949 in the Magill wards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital; his funeral service was conducted by Rev. A. G. Hay and A. N. Thomas, a former bishop of Adelaide. He was buried in St George's cemetery, Magill. His wife, two daughters and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. M. Gibbs, Bulls, Bears and Wildcats (Adel, 1988)
  • J. R. Davis, Principles and Pragmatism (Adel, 1991)
  • News (Adelaide), 4, 9 June, 7, 11, 12, 14 July, 8, 17 Aug, 7, 10 Sept 1945
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 5 June, 9 July, 8, 11 Sept 1945
  • Truth (Adelaide), 9 June, 21 July, 11 Aug 1945
  • Register (Adelaide), 1 Sept 1916
  • Stock Exchange of Adelaide, committee minute books and newsclippings book (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

R. M. Gibbs, 'Hodgetts, Henry Warburton (Harry) (1882–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hodgetts-henry-warburton-harry-10514/text18659, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 October 2018.

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

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