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Samuel Hordern (1909–1960)

by Caroline Simpson

This article was published:

Samuel Hordern (1909-1960), stockbroker and grazier, was born on 16 May 1909 at Strathfield, Sydney, only son and third child of native-born parents (Sir) Samuel Hordern, merchant, and his wife Charlotte Isabella Annie, daughter of Sir John See. From 1912 the family lived at Babworth House, Darling Point. Educated at Cranbrook School (1919-27), in 1929 Sam proceeded to Jesus College, Cambridge (B.A., 1931; M.A., 1939), to study law and economic history. He was active in the college's boat club at the time of its fame, rowing in the winning 1st boat in 1930-31. Back home, Hordern joined the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1934 and the brokers, Buzacott & McKeown (Hordern Utz & Bode after a merger in 1938). On 12 April 1934 at St John's Anglican Church, Toorak, Melbourne, he married June, daughter of Richard Percy Clive Baillieu and grand-daughter of W. L. Baillieu. They moved into a house designed for them by Leslie Wilkinson at Bellevue Hill, Sydney.

After serving for a year as a provisional lieutenant in the 2nd Armoured Car Regiment, Militia, Hordern was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 15 June 1940 and posted to the 7th Divisional Cavalry Regiment. He sailed for the Middle East in December and commanded the regiment's No.13 Troop in Cyprus in 1941. His democratic manner made him popular with his men who affectionately called him 'Sambo'. An unfailing sense of humour and a knowledge of humanity added force to his leadership.

Returning to Australia in March 1942, Hordern embarked for Papua in September. He and his soldiers fought as infantry on the Sanananda Track in December 1942 and January 1943. Posted home again, he was promoted major in August and that month joined the 1st Australian Army Tank Battalion (later the 1st Armoured Regiment) at Milne Bay, Papua, as commander of 'C' Squadron. In operations in precipitous jungle on New Guinea's Huon Peninsula in November-December he reconnoitred enemy positions on foot and kept his tanks up with the leading infantry; his efforts minimized casualties among Australian troops. He was mentioned in dispatches and appointed O.B.E. (1945). Having taken part in the capture of Balikpapan, Borneo, in July 1945, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 6 December.

In Sydney, Hordern retired from Hordern Utz & Bode and from the Stock Exchange in 1948 to pursue pastoral interests. At Retford Park, Bowral, he bred stud cattle—as his forebears had done—Shorthorn, Devon, Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Jersey and Santa Gertrudis. His other livestock included Welsh ponies, Suffolk Punch and Quarter horses, Ryeland and Southdown sheep, pigs, Labradors, whippets and Pekingese dogs, and pheasants and canaries. Prominent in cattle circles, he was associated with Yulgilbar Pastoral Co. Ltd and in many pastoral companies with interests in developing outback Australia. He was keen to establish Quarter horses in Australia—as well as Santa Gertrudis cattle from King Ranch, Texas, United States of America—through King Ranch (Australia) Pty Ltd and he chaired the Santa Gertrudis (Australia) Breeders Association. Following his death, Retford Park was bought by the King Ranch (Australia) company.

In keeping with family tradition, Hordern was an enthusiastic councillor (1935-50), vice-president (1950-54) and president (1954-60) of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales. When Sydney's Royal Easter Show resumed in 1947, he was acting-chairman for two years of the dog sections. At fiery meetings he persuaded numerous dog clubs to come together under an R.A.S.N.S.W. kennel control club. As the show's ringmaster (1949-54) he was a popular figure, dressed in jodhpurs, hacking jacket and trilby, and mounted on his horse, Christmas. In the early 1950s he instigated moves to form the Equestrian Federation of Australia to represent all independent horse breeds, bodies and disciplines within the scope of the agricultural societies. Foundation president (from 1952) of its federal council, he sought affiliation with the Australian Olympic Federation and the Fédération Equestre Internationale; he set up an equestrian centre at Retford Park and actively sought sponsorship for Australia's first Olympic equestrian team which competed in Stockholm in 1956.

Understanding the mentality of committee-men, Hordern was never dictatorial, but a listener who tried to persuade them to overcome parochial fears and develop a national outlook. He could, however, be notoriously late for meetings, and those who complained brought out the larrikin in him. In 1957, at the Royal Agricultural Society of England's meeting at Norwich, he took the lead in establishing the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth—under the presidency of the Duke of Edinburgh—for the exchange of knowledge and experience. He was made a life member of the Royal Agricultural Society.

Hordern was a director of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Perpetual Trustee Co. Ltd, Tooth & Co. Ltd and Courtaulds (Australia) Ltd, a committee-member of the Australian Jockey Club and a councillor of Cranbrook School. He belonged to the Union, Australian, New South Wales and Royal Sydney Golf clubs, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, the Melbourne Club and, in Britain, Leander Boat Club and The Hawks Club, Cambridge. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1958.

Six ft 5 ins (196 cm) tall and handsome, Hordern was a notable organizer and an eloquent speaker with an outstanding personality. Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died on 25 July 1960 in Liverpool hospital from injuries received in a motorcar accident and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £690,680. The Samuel Hordern memorial trophy for jumping events was presented to the Bowral Horse Show in 1961 by N. F. Small, driver of the taxi in which Hordern and his wife were passengers at the time of the accident. A posthumous portrait of Hordern by (Sir) William Dargie is held by the R.A.S.N.S.W.

Select Bibliography

  • Cranbrookian, 42, no 1, 1960
  • Country Life, 2 July 1955
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 18 Mar 1956
  • Sun (Sydney), 25-26 July 1960
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 25, 29 July, 16 Dec 1960
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Aug 1935, 29 Nov 1947, 30 June 1954, 12 June 1958, 26, 27 July, 17 Dec 1960
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29 July 1960
  • Bulletin, 3 Aug 1960
  • private information.

Citation details

Caroline Simpson, 'Hordern, Samuel (1909–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 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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