Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Perdriau, Henry (1845–1935)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

This is a shared entry with Stephen Edward Perdriau

Henry Perdriau, n.d.

Henry Perdriau, n.d.

from Sydney Mail, 20 November 1935, p 15

Henry Perdriau (1845-1935), rubber merchant and manufacturer, and Stephen Edward Perdriau (1858-1931), surveyor, were born on 6 December 1845 and 4 March 1858 at Balmain, Sydney, eldest and seventh sons of Henry Carter Perdriau (1817-1892), mariner and steamboat proprietor, and his Irish wife Ann Eliza, née Simpson. Of Huguenot descent, their father was born on 5 November 1817 in England, fourth son of Commander Stephen Perdriau, R.N. (1768-1820), and migrated to Sydney in 1837, where he married on 20 February 1845. He was a pioneer of steam-ferry transport on Sydney Harbour, trading as the Balmain Steam Ferry Co. Ltd, and mayor of Balmain in 1868, 1872 and 1875. He died at North Sydney on 21 January 1892, survived by his wife and seven sons.

Educated locally, at 10 Henry witnessed the trials of his father's 60-foot (18.3 m), 60-passenger steam ferry Alma, the first built at Balmain. He joined his father's firm and when some of the extensive ferry business was sold after his father's retirement in 1880, took over the remainder with his brother Harold. They traded as Perdriau Bros until selling out in June 1882.

Meanwhile Henry had become involved in importing and cutting up bulk rubber for railway-carriage buffers. When a cable error resulted in arrival of an excess order, he set up a rubber depot at Balmain and a store on the corner of Erskine and Clarence streets. He began manufacturing in 1885 and as demand increased opened a warehouse in George Street and an extensive plant at Drummoyne, managed for many years by his brother George. By 1888 Perdriau & Co. had agencies for many large English, German and American rubber firms and a large intercolonial trade for rubber goods for mechanical, agricultural, surgical, mining and general purposes. Increasing demand and protection after Federation resulted in the formation of the Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd on 16 April 1904 with an authorized capital of £150,000 and Henry as chairman. In 1928-35, after the company amalgamated with the Dunlop Rubber Co. of Australasia Ltd, he was a director of Dunlop-Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd.

Perdriau took a keen interest in sport, church affairs and social welfare; he was a keen bowler from 1876 with long associations with the Balmain Bowling and Rowing clubs and later the Warringah Bowling Club. He was a Freemason and an elder and benefactor of the Presbyterian Church, Drummoyne. At Ulladulla on 6 January 1872 he married Emilie Sophia Martin who bore him two sons and a daughter and died in 1876. He married her sister Lydia Ann at St Saviour's Cathedral, Goulburn, on 29 October 1884; they had two sons and six daughters. Survived by his wife, all his children and twenty-two grandchildren, Perdriau died at his Mosman home on 17 November 1935 and was cremated. His eldest son Edgar Martin (1873-1945) was managing director of Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd in 1904-29 and continued as assistant manager until the firm became Dunlop Rubber (Australia) Ltd in 1941. He bred Ryland sheep at Yarragundry and was a director of the Insurance Office of Australia Ltd.

Henry's brother Stephen was educated at Fort Street Model and Sydney Grammar schools. He became a cadet in the survey department in 1875, licensed surveyor in 1879 and joined the survey branch of the Department of Lands on 2 January 1880. After assisting on the trigonometrical survey at the base-line camp at Richmond, he worked in the North Sydney district until appointed supervising surveyor at head office where he carried out many important government surveys (including Centennial Park) in Sydney and the metropolitan area.

In 1890 Perdriau served on the board appointed to inquire into floods at Bourke and advised on the distribution of relief money. He was attached as special officer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for the 1897 inquiry into the extension of the railway into the city of Sydney. In 1901 he was appointed chief surveyor and land valuer to the new Sydney Harbour Trust; he estimated the cost of the resumption of the private wharves at Darling Harbour at £3.25 million: the actual cost to the government was £3.5 million.

The acknowledged expert and referee for all disputed water-frontage assessments in Port Jackson, Perdriau retired in 1923. He died at his Killara home on 20 October 1931 and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery. His wife Grace Marion (d.1938), née King, whom he had married at Newtown with Congregational rites on 1 March 1886, a son and two daughters survived him; a son Ross Carter was killed in action in France in 1916.

Stephen's elder son Raymond (1886-1951) worked for Dalgety & Co. Ltd before taking up a selection on the Tweed River in 1906; he carried on dairying and, later, banana-growing. He served in France with the Australian Imperial Force in 1916-17. A supporter of the Northern New State Movement he represented Byron as a Progressive in the Legislative Assembly in 1920-25 and was minister for business undertakings in (Sir) George Fuller's seven-hour ministry on 20 December 1920.

Of Henry Carter Perdriau's other sons, Harold (1851-1915) qualified as a marine engineer; George Alexander (1856-1931) was general manager of the Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd until 1915 and a director of the Insurance Office of Australia Ltd; Walter Simpson (1860-1931), a well-known cyclist, tennis player and amateur actor, traded with his brother Ernest Charles (1864-1919), architect, as Perdriau Bros, rubber merchants of Sydney and Melbourne, until 1904, when Ernest carried on as the Melbourne Rubber Depot. Harold's younger son Ralph Joseph (1880-1975) served in the South African War, was admitted to the Bar in 1919 and was chairman of the Workers' Compensation Commission of New South Wales in 1926-51.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • R. J. Perdriau, Elusive Freedoms (priv print, Mass, USA, 1966)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1897, 4
  • Government Gazette (New South Wales), 1904, 1, p 1877
  • Leichhardt Historical Journal, no 15, 1986, p 53
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Mar 1920, 21 Mar 1923, 2 Jan, 22 Oct, 21 Dec 1931, 18 Nov 1935.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Perdriau, Henry (1845–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/perdriau-henry-8019/text13977, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Henry Perdriau, n.d.

Henry Perdriau, n.d.

from Sydney Mail, 20 November 1935, p 15