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Reed, Henry Dennison (Dick) (1898–1990)

by Tim Jetson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Henry Dennison Reed (1898-1990), pastoralist and bushwalker, was born on 3 April 1898 at Logan, near Evandale, Tasmania, second of six children of Henry Reed, an English-born farmer, and his wife Lila Borwick, née Dennison, who was born in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.  'Dick' was a grandson of Henry Reed and a brother of Cynthia Nolan and of John Reed.  The Reed family, regarded in Tasmania as 'landed gentry', lived at Mount Pleasant, near Launceston.  Dick was educated at home by governesses and at Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire, England.  Returning to Tasmania in 1915, he married with Church of England rites Dorothy Luxmore on 12 April 1921 at the Church of the Holy Innocents, Belair, Adelaide.

Reed was associated with several Tasmanian rural properties:  Ivanhoe in the Derwent Valley and Parknook, Logan and Talinga in the north.  From 1920 he leased 6000 acres (2428 ha) in the Vale of Rasselas, in the south-west, where, on the button-grass plains, he grazed sheep in summer.  Despite tension between them, his father helped him financially.  In the late 1920s Dick acquired a property on the western slopes of the Warrumbungle Range in New South Wales, but walked off after four years because of drought and the Depression.  He worked in New South Wales as a stock agent for Elder, Smith & Co. Ltd and for the Graziers’ Co-operative Shearing Co. Ltd, writing two technical bulletins, on worms in sheep (1935) and feeding sheep (1936).  After a brief flying career with Australian National Airways Pty Ltd, he resumed managing his farming interests in Tasmania.  An innovative pastoralist, he was one of the first in Tasmania to apply superphosphate and to introduce subterranean clover.  In 1946-50 he served on the executive committee of the Tasmanian Farmers, Stockowners and Orchardists Association.  Divorced in 1958, on 1 October that year at Devonport he married Lesley Campbell Starling, née Davis, a divorcee.

A keen bushwalker, in 1919 Reed had hiked from Mole Creek to Fitzgerald (Maydena), via Liena, the Upper Mersey, Lake St Clair and the Gordon Valley.  His knowledge of the Central Plateau and eastern fringes of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and the Gordon Valley in the south-west, was to become legendary.  He built a series of bush huts, at Derwent Bridge and at Naomi, Meston and Junction lakes, and every year walked from Cressy to Derwent Bridge.  Tall and lean, he was inured to hardship; he survived an amphibious plane crash at Lake Naomi in 1975 and lost fingers in a circular-saw accident.  He was still visiting the high country when in his eighties, sharing his expertise, drawing 'mud maps' and teaching walkers about bush lore and responsibilities.  His assertion that 'if you don’t come alive at 1500 feet then you’ll never come alive' encapsulated his outlook.  Reeds Peak and Reeds Creek in the Gordon Valley were named after him.

A widower, Reed died on 11 January 1990 at Launceston and was cremated.  Two daughters and two sons of his first marriage survived him; one daughter had predeceased him.  A Launceston Examiner correspondent remembered him as the 'grand old "gentleman of the mountains"'.

Select Bibliography

  • R. and K. Gowlland, Trampled Wilderness, 1975
  • T. Jetson, The Roof of Tasmania, 1989
  • Tasmanian Tramp, no 8, 1948, p 45
  • Examiner (Launceston), 18 March 1975, p 1
  • Examiner (Launceston), 16 March 1990, p 4
  • Examiner (Launceston), 18 March 1990, p 6
  • Mercury (Hobart), 17 November 1985, p 32
  • T. Jetson, Almost a Walker's Paradise (PhD thesis, University of Tasmania, 2005)
  • private information
  • personal knowledge

Citation details

Tim Jetson, 'Reed, Henry Dennison (Dick) (1898–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reed-henry-dennison-dick-14393/text25466, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 25 June 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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