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Leslie, Hugh Alan (1900–1974)

by David Black

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Hugh Alan Leslie (1900-1974), newspaper editor and politician, was born on 17 April 1900 at Durban, Natal, South Africa, son of Charles Howard Roberts Leslie, a Scottish-born surgeon, and Helen Gibson. Hugh's parents died when he was very young and he was raised in an institution. Educated in South Africa at King Williams Town and at Grahamstown College, he raised his age and served in the South African armed forces in 1916-19. He worked as a railway clerk and journalist before emigrating to Victoria in 1923 and moving to Western Australia about four years later. By 1928 he was secretary of the Wyalkatchem branch of the Country Party. At St Saviour's Anglican Church, Wyalkatchem, on 26 December 1931 he married 21-year-old Isabel Margaret Dawson; they were to have seven children. He became editor of the North-Eastern Wheatbelt Tribune in 1931 and later its proprietor.

Selling Wheatbelt Press Ltd in 1939, Leslie took up the chairmanship of the Wyalkatchem District Patriotic Committee and the presidency of the local branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 June 1940 and was stationed in the Middle East with the 2nd/28th Battalion. An injury at Tobruk, Libya, in May 1941 led to his return to Australia and the amputation of his right leg. Discharged from the army on 7 March 1943, he won the Legislative Assembly seat of Mount Marshall for the Country Party on 20 November. He officiated as party whip and parliamentary party secretary, and was a member of the select committee that inquired into wool handling at appraisement centres in 1945. On 30 October 1949 he resigned from State parliament and on 10 December won the seat of Moore in the House of Representatives.

In 1952-58 Leslie was a member of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. His main opposition at the hustings came from the Liberal Party. He lost his seat to H. V. Halbert in 1958, but regained it—on preferences—in 1961. He stood down in 1963 because of his wife's ill health. In the aftermath of the 1964 Senate elections, Leslie was suspended from the County Party for five months for authorizing unofficial how-to-vote cards which were said to resemble Liberal Party pamphlets.

Outside parliament, Leslie belonged to the Rats of Tobruk and to the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. A co-founder, president and long-standing member of the State branch of the Spastic Welfare Association, he was also president of the British Commonwealth paraplegic games council. He chaired the committee of the first Commonwealth and Empire Paraplegic Games, held in Perth in 1962. Despite his disability, he gave 'boundless energy' to fishing, shooting and golf. Late in life he was active in the Gingin community while living at Lancelin. In 1967 he was appointed O.B.E.

Leslie was a 'peppery-tongued' but cheerful man with a quick sense of humour. He had worked hard in his electorate and as campaign manager for other Country Party politicians, including E. B. Johnston. Survived by his wife, five daughters and one of his two sons, Leslie died on 2 September 1974 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, and was cremated with the forms of the Churches of Christ.

Select Bibliography

  • J. C. Rice, Wyalkatchem (Wyalkatchem, WA, 1993)
  • West Australian, 22 Oct 1963, 11 May 1965, 10 June 1967, 4 Sept 1974
  • private information.

Citation details

David Black, 'Leslie, Hugh Alan (1900–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leslie-hugh-alan-10815/text19185, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 22 August 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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