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Reid, Andrew Thyne (1901–1964)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Andrew Thyne Reid (1901-1964), engineer, businessman and benefactor, was born on 20 December 1901 at Randwick, Sydney, eldest of three sons of Scottish-born parents Andrew Reid, general importer, and his wife Margaret, née Thyne. Made a partner in James Hardie & Co. in 1896, Andrew senior became sole proprietor in 1912 and built the firm into a large industrial enterprise. In 1920 it was registered as a public company. Among other building products, the firm manufactured Fibrolite cement sheets.

After attending Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), Thyne lived at St Andrew's College, University of Sydney (B.E., 1924), studied mechanical and electrical engineering, and won a Blue for rowing. He first worked for a small engineering firm at Sheffield, England. At the Presbyterian Church, Downing Street, Cambridge, on New Year's Eve 1926 he married Katharine Mabel, daughter of Professor J. T. Wilson. Back home, he joined James Hardie & Co. Ltd in 1927 as an engineer. From 1930 he was one of its directors.

Thyne and Katharine, who had no children, lived at Carlingford. Later, he also acquired a flat in the Astor, Macquarie Street. They visited Britain in 1932 where he learned to fly. In the following year he acquired an 'autogyro' (now held by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) in which they flew to remote and virtually inaccessible places. He belonged to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London, the Royal Sydney Golf and Australian clubs, and the Ski Club of Australia. When his father died in January 1939, Thyne was appointed chairman of James Hardie.

On 19 December that year Reid enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Next month he was commissioned lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps. Arriving in the Middle East in December 1940, he was promoted major in March 1941 and took command of the 2nd/1st Field Workshop. He told his officers that 'it is part of my nature never to be satisfied. Anything I have done I have always felt could have been done better. So don't be discouraged if I should . . . appear to expect too much from you'. His service included two months at Tobruk, Libya. In September 1942 he returned to Australia as a lieutenant colonel and was attached to the Directorate of Mechanical Maintenance, Army Headquarters, Melbourne.

Transferring to the Reserve of Officers on 5 July 1945, Reid returned to James Hardie as supervising engineer. He and his brother (Sir) John ran the Hardie companies from Sydney and Melbourne respectively. Thyne chaired Hardie Rubber Co. Ltd (from 1948), James Hardie Asbestos Ltd (1953-64) and Hardie Holdings Ltd (1954-64), and was a director of H. C. Sleigh Ltd (following its takeover of Hardie Rubber Co. Ltd in January 1960). He remained at heart a practical 'hands-on' engineer.

After the war Reid had bought a de Havilland Dragon aeroplane and then a de Havilland Drover. Katharine often navigated for him when they visited the outback; they mostly camped beside the aircraft at night. In the mid-1950s he headed a syndicate to develop the snowfields at Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains. Wearing his prized and 'battered old digger's hat', he repeatedly flew his partners to Cooma to find a suitable site for an alpine village. From 1958 to 1961 he chaired Kosciusko Thredbo Ltd.

Believing 'that only a fool dies a rich man', Reid gave some £1.5 million in the early 1950s to establish a charitable trust in Melbourne. He later set up a similar trust in Sydney. A close friend of Sir Ian Clunies Ross, he was 'passionately' interested in the University of Sydney and a liberal contributor to its faculty of veterinary science. He also donated money to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to help finance a radio-telescope at Parkes. Among many other benefactions—large and small—he provided £17 500 to buy premises for the University Boat Club. A councillor (from 1937) of St Andrew's College, Reid had given the college £262 794 in cash or commitments by 1962. Although most of the money was for building, he endowed a special fund that made possible a senior common-room and supported such activities as Professor J. R. Stewart's excavations in Cyprus. He also helped many individual people 'in trouble, in difficulty, or in need': Rev. Alan Dougan believed that none knew 'the full story of all that he did'.

A man of humility and reticence, Reid was impatient with ceremony and protocol, and shunned publicity. In 1964 he declined to be appointed C.M.G. He lived life to the full, relished fine wine, appreciated good food and cooking, and had a close relationship with the gastronome Sue Du Val. Survived by his wife, he died suddenly of coronary thrombosis on or about 7 December 1964 at the Astor and was cremated. Ray Crooke's portrait (1978) of Reid is held by St Andrew's College. After his death the trusts were renamed the Andrew Thyne Reid Charitable and Thyne Reid Education trusts.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Carroll (ed), 'A Very Good Business' (Syd, 1987)
  • R. I. Jack, The Andrew's Book (Syd, 1989)
  • University of Sydney Union, Union Recorder, 1 Apr 1965, p 64
  • Ski Australia, 6, Apr-May 1965, p 26
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 1 Jan 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Dec 1964
  • Australian, 6 June 2000
  • honours, A463, item 1962/6286 (National Archives of Australia)
  • A. T. Reid, notebook and papers (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Reid, Andrew Thyne (1901–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reid-andrew-thyne-11501/text20515, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 28 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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