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Walsh, Herbert Fitzgerald (1905–1972)

by Rowan Smith

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

Herbert Fitzgerald Walsh (1905-1972), solicitor and company director, was born on 16 September 1905 at Brighton Beach, Melbourne, sixth child of Tasmanian-born parents John Aloysius Walsh, hotelkeeper, and his wife Caroline Pauline, née Kelly. Educated in Tasmania at Launceston Church Grammar School, 'Gerry' became a bank officer and moved to Melbourne. He rose to branch manager and studied at the University of Melbourne (LL.B., 1934). On 3 January 1935 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Upper Macedon, he married with Anglican rites Brenda Alice Gordon Guest (d.1968). Her family were well-known biscuit manufacturers.

Articled in 1935 to E. J. Hamilton of the Melbourne law firm of Malleson, Stewart, Stawell & Nankivell, Walsh was admitted to practice as a barrister and solicitor on 2 March 1936. The firm made him a partner in 1937. In the late 1930s he began a long association with (Sir) Ivan Holyman, head of Australian National Airways Pty Ltd, the country's major internal carrier. After serving from August 1940 as a gunner in the Royal Australian Artillery, Citizen Military Forces, Walsh was discharged in February 1941 because of a toxic goitre, from which he had recovered by 1942.

In addition to his legal work, he assisted Holyman to run A.N.A. As general manager, Walsh organized aircraft which provided logistic support to Australian troops in the South-West Pacific Area during and after World War II. In 1945 J. B. Chifley's Australian Labor Party government attempted to nationalize the airlines. Walsh remained a partner in Malleson, Stewart & Co. and guided A.N.A. in its successful challenge to the legislation in the High Court of Australia. As a result, litigants in other High Court cases instructed the practice to act for them. Walsh became pre-eminent in the law of the air and in constitutional law.

One of the founders of the Liberal Party of Australia, he spoke on radio during the 1949 Federal election campaign in support of his friend (Sir) Robert Menzies. Walsh resumed full-time legal work in 1952, becoming senior partner of his firm in 1963. Involved with more than fifty companies, he was chairman of a substantial number, including Red Tulip Pty Ltd, Hooker (Chemical) Australia Pty Ltd and Silverton Transport & General Industries Ltd, and a director of many more, among them Moulded Products (Australasia) Ltd. He was a friend of Lang Hancock whom he helped to set up trade and mining connections in Japan.

Walsh retired from his partnership and was appointed a consultant to Mallesons on 1 July 1970. Described as 'a very clever, good-looking man' who wore a rose in his buttonhole, he was 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall, 'energetic, friendly, at ease in any company . . . a beach-lover, a golfer, and eminently likeable'. With his flamboyant personality, he was 'almost a buccaneering type'. He was a member of the Melbourne, Australian, Broken Hill and (in Canberra) Commonwealth clubs; and the Royal Sydney, Royal Melbourne, Peninsula Country, and Frankston golf clubs. Survived by his son and two daughters, he died of cancer on 18 March 1972 at Mornington and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Campbell, Mallesons (Melb, 1989)
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Mar 1972
  • private information.

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Citation details

Rowan Smith, 'Walsh, Herbert Fitzgerald (1905–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walsh-herbert-fitzgerald-11953/text21383, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 16 October 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 16

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