Proprieter of the largest privately owned business in the Southern Hemisphere, Albert Hawkins is long remembered as a philanthropist in and benefactor to the Lake Macquarie community, supporting many and various causes and business throughout his life.He built his father's humble, fledgeling transport business into a multi million dollar enterprise, working well into retirement age.The legacy left by Albert Hawkins can still be seen today.
Albert George Hawkins was born September 13 1896 in the Newcastle suburb of Waratah. He was the fourth of eight children born to George and Sarah (Williams) Hawkins. At the turn of the twentieth century, George Hawkins moved to Boolaroo, where he established a carrying service. Starting with horse and dray, it was the first of its kind in Lake Macquarie, transporting goods initially for the newly formed Suplphide Corporation. As the business established it would provide the means to transport goods throughout the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and surrounding districts.
Albert began his work life in his father's business, gaining knowledge and experience at an early age through delivering coal locally in a cart and billy goat, given to him by his father, for one shilling a load. George Hawkins became quite ill in 1910, and at the tender age of 14, Albert left school to run the family business. In his teens he met with many established and vastly experienced, business men. Large deals were often negotiated with these older men and A.G. learned the business world quickly. He recalled that these men treated him fairly and taught him much.
Although leaving school at a young age, Albert put himself through Business College. He had emerged as the member of the family with great business acumen, though his brothers provided much of the physical work as needed. He was known to personally organise schedules for every employee, truck and machinery till quite late in life. He monitored their movements and was always available by phone or two way radio. His personal attention to every client, customer and matter was well known. A.G. worked long days - 12 hours, until he was persuaded, well into his sixties, to cut back on work hours, when his sons took over many of his former duties.
In September 1921, Albert married Iris Jane Tremain (b. June 15 1901) in Wallsend. Three sons were born to the couple - Lance William (b. 1924), Neville George (b. 1927) and John Clarence (b. 1930), and they married three sisters - Delma, Joan and Yvonne Lewis (1946, 1949 and 1952 respectively). The couple were married for almost sixty years, until the death of Iris in 1980. She had suffered a stroke while the couple were away in Perth at a conference for N.S.W. Transport Association, and with the added complication of arthritis, never fully recovered. Albert cared greatly for his wife and tended to her daily needs.
The family were quite musical. Albert was a member of the Boolaroo Brass Band from the age of 16 until he was 32, playing the euphonium. Mrs Hawkins was a skilled piano player and the boys, along with their father were said to possess fine singing voices.
Up until the 1950s, the family lived in Boolaroo, opposite the yard where the trucks were kept.
They then moved to a new property on Fairfax Road, Warners Bay, an acreage with an excellent view of Lake Macquarie, The grounds were full of fruit trees, flowering shrubs, roses, oleanders, jacarandas and beds of flowering annuals. Also sheep, horses and cattle provided much enjoyment for Albert. The house was named "Koowinda", which is believed to mean "four winds" in the local Indigenous language. On occasion, the Hawkins Family would host fundraising events at their property, particularly the Red Cross.
Albert Hawkins interests and involvement in business, sporting and charity organisations was varied and many. The following indicate just how diverse his involvement was:
- 30 years on the Board of the Wallsend Hospital
- lifetime member of Boolaroo Baptist Church
- chairman of Road Transport Pool Board during WWII
- member and Past Master of the Lodge of Lake Macquarie (Freemasons)
- member of the Transport Association
- member of the Lake Macquarie Business and Professional Men's Association
- member of the Lake Macquarie Ambulance Committee
- member of Wallsend Rotary Club
- member of Boolaroo Bowling Club
- member of Lake Macquarie Soccer Club
- trustee, pastron and generous donor to many other business, sporting, youth, educational, religious and charitable organisations.
Through his association with Wallsend Hospital and after a meeting with local ambulance man, Edgars Lideman, A.G. saw a great need for patients needing care post hospital stay, particularly the elderly.These were those who were often sent home to look after themselves or by family when hospitals were not equipped or allowed to keep them for extended periods. Albert offered 45 acres of land in Edgeworth, free of all costs, in 1968 with the first buildings completed in 1972. It was, with the assistance of the Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institution, some assistance from Federal Government subsidies, help from brethren from local districts and the general public, that the Hawkins Masonic Village was developed and built. Albert regularly visited the village, talking and taking an interest in the residents and employees. He and Iris donated the fountain situated at the entrance. There are two memorial plaques to the benefactors laid down at ground level at the foot of the fountain. A portrait of Albert Hawkins hangs on a wall of the Community Hall in the village.
Albert Hawkins has been recognised and remembered in other ways. As part of the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1973 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community. Albert Reserve, on the corner of Main Road and Sixth Street, Boolaroo was named in his honour and was developed by the Lake Macquarie Bussiness and Professional Mens Association in 1968.
Albert George Hawkins passed away peacefully on July 10 1982. He will be remembered for his pioneering of the transport industry throughout Lake Macquarie and beyond as well as his many charitable works throughout his lifetime. Although he owned such a large company, he was known to have live modestly and donate generously.
Watt, Joyce 1985, Albert George Hawkins, B.E.M., a biography and the Hawkins Masonic Village, Joyce Watt, Abermain, N.S.W
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