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Whiddon, Horace William (1879–1955)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

This is a shared entry with:

WHIDDON FAMILY: Samuel Thomas  (1848-1905), importer, boot manufacturer and politician, Frank (1877-1947) and Horace William (1879-1955), wool merchants, scourers and combers, were father and sons. Samuel was born on 26 June 1848 at Hoxton New Town, London, son of Samuel Cephus Whiddon, plasterer, and his wife Sarah, née Fossey. Aged 5, he arrived in Sydney with his parents and, after schooling, became a messenger-boy with Thomas Williams, boot importer and manufacturer. Having spent fourteen years learning the trade, he took over the firm, T. Williams & Co., which he moved to larger premises in Pitt Street by 1895. At the Congregational Church, Surry Hills, he had married Sydney-born Kate Gertrude Fogarty on 25 August 1869.

Appointed a justice of the peace in 1885, Whiddon was electoral returning officer and member of the School Board for South Sydney. He was a director of the Sydney Permanent Freehold Land and Building Society, a founder and president of the Pitt Street Congregational Literary and Social Union, and a member of the Free Trade, Land and Reform League. In 1894-1904 he represented Sydney-Cook in the Legislative Assembly as a free trader and liberal supporter of (Sir) George Reid. Politically active in social matters until failing sight intervened, he favoured the eight-hour day, early closing, old-age and invalid pensions, and women's franchise and parliamentary candidature. Survived by four sons and three daughters, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 20 September 1905 at his Glebe home and was buried in Randwick cemetery.

His second and third sons, Frank and Horace, were born on 25 March 1877 and on 21 February 1879 in Sydney. Educated at Fort Street Model School, in 1895 they were apprenticed to wool-scourers. In January 1900 they formed Whiddon Bros, a wool-scouring business at Botany and in 1906 acquired Messrs Johnson's and Vicars's works on the water reserve there. On 5 June 1906, at the Pitt Street Congregational Church, Frank married Alice Maude Curnow (d.1919), granddaughter of William Curnow. Horace married her sister Lillian Weiss Curnow at the Congregational Church, Newtown, on 25 July 1907.

Whiddon Bros Ltd became a public company in January 1910 with authorized capital of £50,000 in £1000 shares; Frank was chairman and managing director; Arthur, the eldest brother, was secretary. In 1911 wool combing was added to scouring and fell-mongering activities. By 1938 the firm had acquired the adjacent Bridgewater Wool Scouring Co.; it had also entered into an arrangement with Buzacott & Co. Ltd for establishing on their site the Lan-O-Leen Co. to produce sheep dip, agricultural sprays and the sheep food, Vita-Pro-Teen. By this time Frank and Horace had gained control of the assets of the firm which was reconstituted as Whiddon Pty Ltd.

Frank was a prominent and dedicated Freemason. Initiated into Lodge Neutral Bay No. 267, he became worshipful master in 1916; past junior grand warden in 1938 and deputy grand master in 1943, he was installed as grand master of United Grand Lodge of New South Wales on 13 August 1945 in Sydney Town Hall. Whiddon was a member of the council of advice of the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Co. and a director of Rogers Meat Co. Ltd. He belonged to Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and was a founding member of (Royal) Prince Edward Yacht Club. A member of the Australian Jockey Club, he also enjoyed motoring and golf. In June 1944 he succeeded Sir Henry Braddon as president of the English-Speaking Union.

Of medium build, white-haired, brisk and punctilious, Frank Whiddon died on 1 September 1947 at his home in Wolseley Road, Point Piper, and was cremated with Masonic rites. He was survived by his wife Blodwen, née Jones, whom he had married on 4 September 1923 at the Presbyterian Church, Epping, by their daughter, and by the son and two daughters of his first marriage. Probate of his estate was sworn at £48,990. He is commemorated by Lodge Frank Whiddon No. 739 and by the Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes.

On Frank's death, Horace became chairman of directors of the family firm. Secretary of the Wool Employers' Federation, he was a member (1941) of the State Wool Committee and in January 1943 was appointed chairman of the advisory committee of the wool and basil industry under the director-general of manpower. He was a councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales and a keen horticulturist; he chaired the society's horticulture and building and works committees, sat on the horse committee and was honorary assistant ringmaster; he became a vice-president in 1946. President of trustees of (Royal) National Park (1934-49) and a director of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, he was a life member of the New South Wales Rugby Union and a member of the New South Wales and National clubs.

Portly, florid, pipe-smoking and good natured, Horace was prominent in the United Australia Party and chairman of its electoral conference in Croydon, the seat (1927-40) of his friend (Sir) Bertram Stevens. In September 1934 Whiddon was elected to the Legislative Council of New South Wales where he was inactive (never making a speech) until his second term expired in April 1955. Survived by his wife and son, he died at his Enfield home on 11 May 1955 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Jervis and L. R. Flack, A Jubilee History, 1888-1938, of the Municipality of Botany (Syd, 1938)
  • N.S.W. Freemason, 9, no 3, Oct 1976
  • Pastoral Review, 16 June 1955
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 14 June 1894
  • Town and Country Journal, 27 Sept 1905
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11, 18 July 1894, 21 Sept 1905, 26 May 1932, 9 Sept 1933, 29 Mar, 3 Aug, 28 Sept 1934, 17 July 1936, 4 Dec 1937, 2 June, 23 Sept 1938, 19 Apr 1941, 27 Jan 1943, 30 June 1944, 14 Aug 1945, 20 May 1946, 9 Jan, 2 Sept 1947, 12 May 1955
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Whiddon, Horace William (1879–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/whiddon-horace-william-9286/text15977, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 October 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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