Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frank Rutledge Louat (1901–1963)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

Frank Rutledge Louat (1901-1963), barrister, was born on 30 December 1901 at Merrylands, Sydney, eldest child of James Rutledge Louat, a native-born architect, and his wife Mabel Frances Horton, née Busby, from New Zealand. A great-nephew of (Sir) Arthur Rutledge, Frank was proud of his French descent and pronounced his surname in the French manner. He was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and the University of Sydney (LL.B., 1925; LL.D., 1933). Interested in politics, he was elected to the council of the National Party at the age of 21 and awarded the university's Morven Nolan prize for political science in 1923. On 14 May 1925 he was admitted to the Bar; he established his practice in University Chambers. Well known as a member of the university's debating team in 1925-26, Louat was a leader-writer (1926-28) for the Sydney Morning Herald and joint honorary secretary (1928) of the local branch of the United Association of Great Britain and France. With Selwyn Betts he published a much-used commentary, The Practice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales at Common Law (1928).

At St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 27 June 1931 Louat married a divorcee Marian Julia Mackie, née Ellis-Oates; they were to be divorced in 1937. On 9 July 1938 he married another divorcee Isobel Anne Wearne, née Hamilton, at the Scots Church, Sydney. They lived at Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point. From 1938 Louat frequently wrote for the Daily Telegraph and commented on current affairs for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was an executive-member of the United Australia Party and in 1940 unsuccessfully contested the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro.

For many years the only doctor of laws practising at the New South Wales Bar, Dr Louat projected an image of 'cheerful fussiness' in court: he was a stickler for procedure and involved himself 'with all the relevant details'. He appeared good-tempered and used his rich and mellow voice in the manner of an accomplished actor. Having written his doctoral thesis on 'A survey of the executive power of the Commonwealth', he frequently appeared before the High Court of Australia in constitutional cases. President (1940-46) of the Constitutional Association of New South Wales, he advised the Commonwealth government on the Constitutional Convention in Canberra in 1942 and sat on the National Security Regulations Advisory Committee in 1944. Throughout World War II he was active in defence of civil liberties and free speech, and in May 1946 helped to organize protest meetings against strikes by industrial pressure groups. He was nominated by the Court of International Justice as an observer for the 1950 referendum in the French territories in India. On 16 July 1952 he took silk.

'A man of innumerable interests of an intellectual, artistic and social nature', Louat was a past president and life member of the Dante Alighieri Art and Literary Society, a trustee (from 1959) of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and a member of the Australasian Pioneers' Club and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. He enjoyed sailing, reading, writing and fishing. Louat was honorary vice-president of the French Chamber of Commerce in Australia. In 1958 he was appointed (chevalier) to the Légion d'honneur for furthering Australian-French relations, and habitually wore its discreet red ribbon in his buttonhole. Plump and clean shaven, he was proud of his culinary expertise and was president (1953-54) of the Wine and Food Society of New South Wales. Louat was on holiday in France when he died of heart disease on 26 January 1963 at Dijon. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Gleeson, William Dobell (Syd, 1981)
  • P. Buckridge, The Scandalous Penton (Brisb, 1994)
  • New South Wales Bar Association, Bar Gazette, no 6, June 1963, p 13
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Apr, 22 Dec 1925, 27, 29 Apr 1926, 4 May 1933, 3 June 1938, 18, 20 Sept, 8 Nov 1940, 19 Aug 1941, 28 July 1942, 24 Sept 1943, 7 May 1945, 2 and 3 May 1946, 3 Dec 1947, 14 Jan 1950, 17 July 1952, 15 July 1958, 29 Jan 1963
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Louat, Frank Rutledge (1901–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 December, 1901
Merrylands, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


26 January, 1963 (aged 61)
Dijon, France

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