Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Horace Ireland (1877–1938)

by Denis Rowe

This article was published:

Horace Ireland (1877-1938), solicitor and businessman, was born on 11 September 1877 at Newcastle, New South Wales, fifth son of Jesse Ireland, storekeeper, and his native-born wife Elizabeth Sarah, née Wolledge. His father had reached Melbourne in 1855 in the Marco Polo from Gloucestershire, England, and two years later moved to New South Wales. After operating stores at Baulkham Hills and Penrith, he settled at Newcastle in 1867. By the mid-1880s he was established as a grain and produce merchant, and owned a large store and warehouse in Hunter Street and, nearby, a large, ornate, four-storied warehouse. After he died in October 1887 trustees carried on and expanded the business, diversifying into food processing.

Horace was educated at Newcastle Grammar School and, in 1891-95, at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), where he captained the Rugby team and rowed in the second crew. He was articled to the Sydney legal firm W. H. Pigott & J. Stinson, and was admitted as a solicitor on 24 May 1902. By 1904, after an overseas trip, he had set up in practice in Australasia Chambers, Martin Place. He and Thomas Davis, an accountant practising in the same building, organized the incorporation of his father's firm as J. Ireland Ltd in 1905 as a family company. In close collaboration with Davis, he took over from the trustees and conducted the business from Sydney.

At St James's Church, Sydney, Ireland married Minnie Madge Reddell on 12 February 1912, and next year gave up practice as a solicitor and returned to Newcastle as full-time managing director and director of the firm's subsidiary and associated companies. Under his influence the firm expanded into manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing of foodstuffs. He established a cherished relationship with members of the family and the companies' senior officers; nevertheless he fell out with his once-insolvent brother Frank and with Davis. In late 1936 he resigned because of ill health. Next year the firm was reconstituted as J. Ireland Pty Ltd, with W. J. Cleary as managing director. Ireland was a council-member of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce in 1915-28 and president in 1919, and a member of the Newcastle and Newcastle Golf clubs.

Survived by his wife and three daughters, Ireland died of cerebral haemorrhage on 22 April 1938 at home at Church Street and was cremated with Anglican rites. J. Ireland Pty Ltd, one of the 'big three' food wholesalers in northern New South Wales, was wound up in 1964.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 25 Apr 1938
  • Ireland family and business archives (Newcastle Regional Library)
  • 19th Century family register from Christ Church Cathedral (University of Newcastle Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Denis Rowe, 'Ireland, Horace (1877–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 September, 1877
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


22 April, 1938 (aged 60)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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