James Huddart

James Huddart

James Huddart (1847–27 February 1901) shipowner, a founder of Huddart Parker Limited.

Huddart was born at Whitehaven, Cumberland, in 1847, the son of William Huddart, a shipbuilder. He was educated at St. Bees School, came to Australia in 1860, and was taken into the coal and shipowning business of his uncle, Captain Peter Huddart, at Geelong. Some years later Captain Huddart retired to England and his nephew took over the business.

In 1874 James Huddart was the owner of the "Medea", a wooden barque of 423 tons, and next year the "Queen Emma" of 314 tons was also registered in his name. On 1 August 1876 he joined forces with T.J. Parker, J. Traill, and Captain T. Webb, and the firm of Huddart Parker and Company was founded, each of the partners having an equal interest. In 1878 the head office was moved to Melbourne, shortly afterwards several steamships were added to the fleet, and the business expanded rapidly. Huddart became general manager in 1886, and showed himself to be an enterprising and far-seeing administrator. In 1888 the business was turned into a limited company with a capital of £300,000 each of the original partners taking up one-fourth of the shares. At the beginning of the 1890s their steamers were running to the principal ports of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and in 1893 they were also trading with ports in New Zealand.

Huddart had long been interested in a proposal first made by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1885, that an imperial "All-Red" route should be established between Australia and Great Britain via Canada. The suggestion touched Huddart's imagination, and in 1893 he formed the Canadian-Australian Royal Mail Line, with a contract to carry mails between Sydney and Vancouver. He then tried to arrange for a similar line from England to Canada. The Canadian government agreed to pay a large subsidy, and endeavours were made to persuade the British government to supply a yearly sum of half the amount to be paid by Canada. It was however insisted that tenders must be called, and after the tenders came in the question continued to be delayed. Worn out by worry and anxiety Huddart contracted influenza, and died at Eastbourne after a few days illness on 27 February 1901. His American line had always been carried on separately from the business of Huddart Parker and Company, and he lost much of his private fortune in conducting it. His interest in Huddart Parker and Company was disposed of in 1897. He married Lois Ingham of Ballarat, who survived him with two sons and a daughter. A third son was killed in the South African war.

Huddart was a man of remarkable personality, soaring ambition, and great driving power. He may, as "The Times" notice suggests, "have played for higher stakes than his means allowed" but he was no mere speculator; he was imbued with aspirations for the consolidation of the British Empire, and though he may have been in advance of his time he was nevertheless a great pioneer in colonial progress.

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