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Kenneth Thomas Hardy (1900–1970)

by Rosemary Burden

This article was published:

Kenneth Thomas Hardy (1900-1970), wine merchant, was born on 23 May 1900 at Mile End, Adelaide, third of five children of South Australian-born parents Robert Burrough Hardy, vigneron, and his wife Esther Lavinia, née Simpson. Thomas Hardy was his grandfather. Educated (1913-17) at the Collegiate School of St Peter, by the age of 21 Kenneth was managing a branch of Thomas Hardy & Sons Ltd, wine merchants, at Circular Quay, Sydney. On 16 September 1926 he married Kathleen Eleanor Gordon at St James's Anglican Church, King Street. He was later made a director of R. H. Gordon & Co. Ltd, house furnishers. While flying to Canberra with Hugo Gramp and other vignerons, Kenneth's cousin Thomas Mayfield Hardy was killed in October 1938 when the airliner, Kyeema, crashed into Mount Dandenong, Victoria. As the adult Hardy male in direct descent, Kenneth returned home to run the firm.

Although he was untrained in winemaking, he found himself chairman and managing director of a struggling company. World War II brought manpower restrictions, lack of imported replacement machinery and an embargo on wine exports to Britain. Sales in Asia and India vanished in 1941 with the Japanese advance. The wine industry slumped to a fifty-year low, but Kenneth held Hardy's together by calm and dogged faith. Fascinated by the family company's history, he loved the McLaren Vale vineyards and was well liked by his employees.

Hardy was president (1941-48) of the Winemakers' Association of South Australia and succeeded Desmond Du Rieu as chairman (1944) of the Federal Viticultural Council. A member (from 1946) and chairman (1949-58) of the Australian Wine Board, he was also chairman of directors of the Adelaide Bottle Co. Pty Ltd. In 1949 he travelled to Britain where he sought tariff reductions, and to France and Germany where he investigated the production of moselles and burgundies, and examined distribution systems. Next year he was appointed president of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures Inc. Having helped to establish (1955) the Australian Wine Research Institute at Urrbrae, of which J. C. M. Fornachon was founding director, Hardy sat on the institute's inaugural council and its oenological research committee. In 1959 he again travelled abroad. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1960.

A thickset man, modest and reticent, Hardy overcame the disabilities of a harelip and cleft palate. He enjoyed entertaining visitors, both local and from overseas, among whom were Field-Marshal (Viscount) Slim and the pianist Winifred Atwell. His prescription for guests who suffered hangovers on Sunday mornings was a brandy heart-starter. He liked fishing and golf, and belonged to the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron and the Adelaide Club (from 1949).

After retiring as managing director in 1965, Hardy remained chairman of the board, which in 1968 funded a collection of books on wine and viticulture at the State Library of South Australia. He died of myocardial infarction on 13 November 1970 at Gilberton and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, daughter and son Robert, production manager and a director of the company. Kenneth's nephew Thomas Walter Hardy was managing director (from 1967) and chairman (from 1970).

Select Bibliography

  • R. Burden, A Family Tradition in Fine Winemaking (Adel, 1978)
  • Australian Wine Board, Annual Report, 1954-55
  • Australian Wine Research Institute, Annual Report, 1957-58
  • Hotel Gazette of South Australia, Feb 1960, May 1965
  • Winestate, Mar 1981
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Nov, 12 Dec 1949, 5 Dec 1959, 14 Nov 1970
  • Bulletin, 24 Feb 1981
  • private information.

Citation details

Rosemary Burden, 'Hardy, Kenneth Thomas (1900–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 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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