Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Basil Arthur Helmore (1897–1973)

by Warren Derkenne

This article was published:

Basil Arthur Helmore (1897-1973), solicitor and businessman, was born on 28 February 1897 at Newcastle, New South Wales, eldest surviving child of Ernest Arthur James Helmore, a company secretary from London, and his Queensland-born wife Gertrude, née Allbon. Basil attended Cooks Hill Superior Public and Newcastle High schools. In 1913 he topped the State in French and Latin at the Leaving certificate, and that year won a prize for an essay on the first entry into Sydney Harbour of the Australian Fleet on 4 October.

Helmore was articled to William Sparke of the legal firm, Sparke & Millard, in 1914, and passed the Solicitors' Admission Board examinations. His articles having been suspended, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 5 September 1916. He trained as a gunner and sailed for England in the Benalla in November. After further training at Larkhill, Wiltshire, he served with the 4th Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front from August 1917. His diaries and letters to his father revealed affection, a passionate nature that was well controlled, and a love of the French language. On 18 October 1918 he was posted for duty with the A.I.F. Education Scheme. He was to maintain an enduring correspondence with the friends he had made, including 'Jacqueline', an attractive member of the French family with whom he had been billeted. He returned to Sydney in June 1919 and was discharged on 14 July.

Back at Newcastle, Helmore completed his articles and was admitted to practice on 19 November 1920. Following the retirement of Millard, he became a partner (1922) in Sparke & Helmore (from 1950 Sparke, Helmore & Withycombe). On 4 November 1922 he married Jessie Wilhelmina Cannington at St Saviour's Anglican Church, Carey Bay, Lake Macquarie. In addition to running a busy practice, Helmore edited four legal textbooks on both real and personal property. Full of drive and energy, he took correspondence courses with the University of London (LL.B., 1933; Ph.D., 1955) and wrote a doctoral thesis on legal proceedings between governments. He was a director (from 1942) of J. & A. Brown & Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd, chairman (from 1948) of City Newcastle Gas & Coke Co. Ltd, president (1957-58) of the Newcastle Law Society and a council-member (1953-60) of the Incorporated Law Institute of New South Wales.

In 1937 Helmore stood unsuccessfully for the Senate as a United Australia Party candidate; in 1948 he was defeated by J. D. Kenny in a by-election for the Legislative Council. Helmore's community activities ranged from diocesan affairs to the Boy Scouts' Association, Freemasonry, Rotary and Legacy. In the late 1940s he joined the Lord Mayor's Committee for the Establishment of an Autonomous University of Newcastle. He was elected to the council of Newcastle University College in 1960 and, on its independence in 1965, to that of the University of Newcastle; he was deputy-chairman (1965-66) and warden of convocation (1967); he chaired the university's by-laws committee and donated prizes to the department of French. In 1971 he was appointed O.B.E.

Throughout his life Helmore was regarded as a brilliant and humorous public speaker, especially after dinner. In contrast to the manner he exhibited in his professional, educational and diocesan involvements, he loved the risqué, and his Rabelaisian stories and doubles entendres were accompanied by his unusually high giggle. A member of the Newcastle, United Service (Newcastle) and University (Sydney) clubs, he enjoyed playing bowls. He was 5 ft 7½ ins (171 cm) tall and slim in build, with pleasant features and a demeanour dominated by his smile and infectious laughter. Always ambitious, he was capable of clashing with others and suffered reversals acutely, yet at the end of his life, as at the beginning of his adulthood, he valued friendship highly. Helmore died on 4 November 1973 at his Newcastle home and was cremated; his wife, daughter and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 4 May 1910, 10 Mar 1950, 5, 6 Nov 1973
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 20 July 1912
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Jan 1914, 12 June 1971
  • Dungog Chronicle, 13 Apr 1943
  • Maitland Mercury, 15 Apr 1943
  • Helmore papers (Australian War Memorial)
  • University of Newcastle Archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Warren Derkenne, 'Helmore, Basil Arthur (1897–1973)', 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 February, 1897
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


4 November, 1973 (aged 76)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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