Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Howie, Sir Archibald (1879–1943)

by Peter Spearritt and Katherine Vasey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sir Archibald Howie (1879-1943), building contractor and politician, was born on 12 May 1879 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of Archibald Howie, mason, and his wife Janet, née Ferguson. He and his mother reached Sydney in the Clyde on 23 June 1881, joining his father, who established a building business. Archibald junior was educated at Fort Street Public and Sydney Boys' High schools and at 16 joined his father's business. The company, Howie, Moffat & Co. Ltd by 1918, won many prestigious and lucrative contracts.

At St Philip's Anglican Church, Church Hill, Howie married Emily Clara Manuelle on 14 September 1912. Like many leading businessmen he stayed at his post during the war. On the death of his father in 1923 he became chairman of the company. In the 1920s he was a director of the Port Jackson & Manly Steam Ship Co. (chairman from 1931) and of the Manly Gas Co. Ltd (chairman of the North Shore Gas Co. Ltd from 1937, after the firms' merger) and a director of numerous companies connected with the building industry. In 1927 he was elected president of the Master Builders' Association of New South Wales and next year attacked compulsory arbitration because it was 'inefficient'.

An influential member of the consultative council of the United Australia Party, Howie was elected to the reconstituted Legislative Council in December 1933 and represented Macquarie Ward on the Sydney Municipal Council in 1934-41. He served as lord mayor in 1936 and 1937. Elected as the Citizens Reform Association candidate on a programme of economy, he refused an increase in the mayoral allowance in 1937. As chairman of the State government's Housing Improvements Board in 1936-41, he was charged with the responsibilities of fostering home-ownership and slum demolition and rehabilitation; he achieved a small amount of the latter at Erskineville.

A council-member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, he was president for two terms in 1938-40. Knighted in 1939, he was appointed chairman of the Advisory Panel for Defence Works that year and in 1939-42 served on the Senate of the University of Sydney. He was a council-member of the Highland Society of New South Wales, a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground and a member of the New South Wales Club and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.

From about 1930 Howie had bred stud Jersey cattle and Shetland ponies at his Navua stud, near Richmond, and won championships for his bulls at the Royal Easter Show. He was president of the New South Wales branch and of the federal council (1938-43) of the Australian Jersey Herd Society and was president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales in 1941-43. Clean-shaven, his distinctive bushy eyebrows remained black after his hair had greyed.

On 26 October 1943 Howie died of heart disease at his home at Hunters Hill and was buried in the Presbyterian section of South Head cemetery. He was survived by his wife, son and daughter. His estate was valued for probate at £61,306. The Royal Agricultural Society holds his portrait painted posthumously by H. A. Hanke.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1943, p 748
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1923, 18 Feb 1927, 6 June 1928, 26 Dec 1936, 26 Jan 1937, 27 Oct 1943.

Citation details

Peter Spearritt and Katherine Vasey, 'Howie, Sir Archibald (1879–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/howie-sir-archibald-6750/text11665, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 April 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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