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Claude Alfred Haigh (1904–1980)

by Roger André

This article was published:

Claude Alfred Haigh (1904-1980), confectioner and bloodhorse-breeder, was born on 19 January 1904 at Mile End, Adelaide, one of three children of South Australian-born Alfred Ernest Haigh, confectioner, and his wife Eliza Ann, née Harvey. The family moved to Mount Gambier. In 1915 Alfred purchased from Carl Stratmann the business in Adelaide which he named Haigh's Chocolates. Claude was educated at Unley High School (1915-19) and trained in book-keeping. Accounting skills formed the basis of his contribution to Haigh's operations after he was admitted as a partner in 1921. On 8 October 1927 at Pirie Street Methodist Church, Adelaide, he married Gerta Vera Klingner, a schoolteacher; they lived at St Georges and were to have four children.

At his Wootoona Terrace home, Haigh cultivated an impressive bulb-garden. He won prizes at the Royal Adelaide Show, culminating in the Mahomet Allum cup for daffodils in 1935. Following Alfred's death in 1933, Claude had assumed the managing directorships of Haigh's Pty Ltd and A. E. Haigh Ltd, and transferred the registered offices from the Haigh Building in Rundle Street to the Parkside factory where the chocolates were made. Something of a reluctant confectioner, he steered the family business through the Depression and the difficult years of World War II when the supply of sugar was rationed. In 1950 he purchased a freehold interest in the Beehive building; the site, on the corner of Rundle and King William streets, was an Adelaide landmark, and housed the firm's most prominent shop. On the return in 1951 of Claude's son John from a placement with the Swiss house of Lindt & Sprüngli, Haigh's expanded rapidly due to the importation of German processing plant, the negotiation of cinema concessions and the expansion of retail outlets. With a measure of relief, Claude Haigh surrendered the managing directorship to John in 1959, thereafter giving his unfettered attention to his greatest love, the breeding and racing of thoroughbreds.

Claude had also inherited from his father a modest stable of racing mares on a mixed farm at Mallala. Against prevailing opinion, which favoured the northern flats, in 1934 he selected Balhannah in the Adelaide Hills as the place to establish Balcrest. The stud became home to renowned imported stallions and brood-mares, the most successful of which were the 'taproot' mare, Charivari, the stallion, Shakuni, and Coronation Boy, thrice the leading Australian sire. Haigh frequently visited Britain to select sires. He was president (1960-71) of the South Australian division of the Bloodhorse Breeders' Association of Australia and vice-president (1961-71) of the national body. His involvement in the racing industry led him to be chairman (1969-73) of the Adelaide Racing Club and its genial representative on the Totalisator Agency Board.

Stocky in build, with plump features, Haigh had a quick stride, a bustling energy, and a quiet and modest disposition. In 1975 he suffered a stroke at Morden, an imposing residence set among extensive gardens at Stirling which he had acquired in 1946. He moved to North Adelaide in 1978. Survived by his wife, son and two of his three daughters, he died on 28 November 1980 in Royal Adelaide Hospital and was buried in Mitcham general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Haigh's Ltd, Haigh's 50 Years 1915-1965 (Adel, 1965)
  • M. Robert, History of Morden (Adel, 1993)
  • Unley High School Magazine (Adelaide), 1 July, 2 Sept 1919
  • Australian Bloodhorse Review (Richmond, NSW), Oct 1992
  • News (Adelaide), 8 May 1962, 2 Dec 1980
  • Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australian Archives (Wayville, Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Roger André, 'Haigh, Claude Alfred (1904–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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