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Ling, Harold Eustace Hill (1907–1966)

by Bernard O'Neil

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

Harold Eustace Hill Ling (1907-1966), manufacturer, was born on 27 September 1907 at Petersham, Sydney, fourth of five sons of native-born parents Harry Hill Ling, auditor, and his first wife Alma, née Cafe. Educated at Mosman Superior Public School and, in Melbourne, to Intermediate certificate level, Harold worked in Adelaide from 1924 as a clerk, salesman and bookkeeper for Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. Ltd. At St Paul's Anglican Church, Adelaide, on 2 November 1929 he married Eileen Winifred Hill. Called up for full-time service in the Militia on 18 May 1942, Ling transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and joined the Central Australia Transport Column as a clerk. He was promoted sergeant in October 1943 and discharged on 7 February 1946.

About this time Lance Leonard Hill, Ling's brother-in-law and neighbour at Glenunga, Adelaide, built an outdoor rotary clothes-hoist for his wife. As friendly requests turned to orders for similar hoists, and as advertising increased demand, the backyard activity became better organized. Ling joined Hill to manage the accounts and marketing. Gilbert Toyne's wind-up hoist, patented in South Australia in 1925, had been manufactured and distributed by L. L. Lambert. When Toyne's patent lapsed in 1946, Hill and Ling secured their own patents. That year they formed a partnership, rented a small factory at Fullarton and expanded production. Lack of materials threatened the viability of the enterprise. Faced with postwar restrictions and shortages, and the reluctance of British Tube Mills Ltd to sell them iron and steel, they bought salvage items and later imported pipe from France.

On 15 January 1948 Hills Hoists Ltd was formed with Hill its chairman, Ling a director, and only £12,226 in assets. They raised additional money from their families and some of the workers, thereby establishing a team tradition. Staff received the first shares. On 17 March Ling was appointed managing director. One month later the Fullarton property was purchased. Within a year of operating, the company returned a dividend of £1262. Ling treated the firm as a large family, with a mixture of paternalism, benevolence and mateship. He championed the cause of the underdog, gave and expected loyalty, and shared profits with his staff through a bonus system. In June 1949 the company established a non-contributory superannuation scheme and £750 was invested for the first seventy employees. By 1954 Hills began issuing shares to all workers with more than three years service.

Improvisation, adaptation and tenacity were fundamental to the sustained growth and success of Hills Hoists. The firm boosted the popularity of rotary clothes-lines by introducing a lever-action model which was one-third cheaper than existing types. From 1950 Hills acquired subsidiaries in the fields of galvanizing, tube-manufacture and storage. By 1954 the company had branches throughout Australia; by 1959 there were outlets in New Zealand and Britain. Hills consolidated its activities at Edwardstown, and widened its range of manufactures to include laundry-prams, folding chairs, ironing-tables, and playground equipment such as swings and basketball-poles. Steel tubing was sold to other manufacturers. Having undertaken research and development before the introduction of television in 1956, Hills anticipated the demand for aluminium tubes for antennas. A television rental and repair service followed.

When Hill retired from the board in 1956, Ling became chairman of directors. The company had a turnover of £2 million in 1957 and employed 600 staff. Publicly listed as Hills Industries Ltd in 1958, the firm was less paternalistic under the scrutiny of the Stock Exchange of Adelaide, although Ling maintained regular Friday-night gatherings around a keg of beer. Due to ill health, he resigned as managing director in 1965, but remained chairman of the board. In less than twenty years his drive, initiative, vision and enthusiasm had built a multi-million-dollar business with 1400 employees. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, Ling died of cirrhosis of the liver on 12 December 1966 at his Urrbrae home and was buried with Catholic rites in Centennial Park cemetery. His son Bob succeeded him as managing director. Ling's estate was sworn for probate at $71,416.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Harris, What a Line! (Adel, 1996)
  • Hills Herald, 4, no 10, July 1978
  • News (Adelaide), 4 Oct 1961
  • Australian, 8 Aug 1965
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 13 Dec 1966
  • private information.

Citation details

Bernard O'Neil, 'Ling, Harold Eustace Hill (1907–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ling-harold-eustace-hill-10835/text19225, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 October 2018.

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

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