Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir Norman Henry Denham Henty (1903–1978)

by R. J. K. Chapman

This article was published:

Sir Norman Henry Denham Henty (1903-1978), politician and wholesaler, was born on 13 October 1903 at Longford, Tasmania, second of four children and eldest son of Victorian-born parents Thomas Norman Henty, storekeeper, and his wife Sarah Nina Lily Mary, née Wilson. A member of the pioneering Henty family, Thomas had come to Tasmania in 1896. He managed Brown's Store, a grocery at Longford, then moved to Launceston about 1904 where he began a wholesaling business.

Educated at Launceston Church Grammar School, Denham left at the age of 14 to work for his father; he was employed in the office until he became sales representative to the general stores which the firm supplied. In such a small concern there was no opportunity to specialize: he was also shipping and accounts clerk, and delivered invoices and statements by hand as he strolled home after work. Despite the Depression and strong competition, the business flourished, largely due to his efforts and business acumen.

The family made a significant contribution to sporting activities in their provincial community, cricket being a favoured pastime. Denham was a self-taught pianist, much in demand at social functions. He was also an avid bird-watcher who, as minister for customs and excise, was to prohibit (1960) the export of Australian native fauna for commercial purposes. At St Aidan's Anglican Church, Launceston, on 15 March 1930 he married Faith Gordon Spotswood, a schoolmistress; they were to have three sons and a daughter. Faith's strong character and support were to prove invaluable to her husband in his political career.

In the decade after his marriage, Henty reinforced his reputation in the business world for hard work, competence and prudence, and rose to be managing director (1937-50) of T. Norman Henty & Sons Pty Ltd. Because of rheumatic fever, he was unfit for military service in World War II, but served as an enthusiastic member of the Volunteer Air Observers' Corps. He was an alderman (1943-51) and mayor (1948-49) of Launceston City Council and represented the L.C.C. on the council of Launceston Technical College.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Bassett, The Hentys (Lond, 1954)
  • R. A. Ferrall, Notable Tasmanians (Launc, 1980)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 30 Mar, 8 June 1968, 10 May 1978
  • Mercury (Hobart), 8 June 1968, 10, 11 May, 10 June 1978
  • private information.

Citation details

R. J. K. Chapman, 'Henty, Sir Norman Henry Denham (1903–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 16 April 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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