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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hincks, Sir Cecil Stephen (1894–1963)

by Jenny Tilby Stock

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Cecil Stephen Hincks (1894-1963), by unknown photographer

Cecil Stephen Hincks (1894-1963), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11908

Sir Cecil Stephen Hincks (1894-1963), politician, farmer and soldier, was born on 18 February 1894 at Maitland, South Australia, eldest of seven children of native-born parents Henry Stephen Hincks, miller, and his wife Emily Frances Picton, née Parkins. Educated at Port Victoria Public School and the Collegiate School of St Peter (1907-08), Cecil began work in the flour-milling business and was about to try out for Port Adelaide Football Club when World War I commenced. On 19 August 1914 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 10th Battalion. He served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front where he was commissioned in January 1917. Gunshot wounds to his chest and thigh in April led to the amputation of his left leg, a year's convalescence in England and more than one hundred surgical operations over the remainder of his life. At St Mark's parish church, Surbiton, Surrey, on 5 December 1918 he married Gladys Lottie Merritt, the 18-year-old daughter of a caterer; the marriage ended in divorce shortly after he returned to South Australia where his appointment terminated on 13 December 1920.

After being employed at Port Victoria by the Wheat Harvest Board, Hincks set up on his own, managing grain and insurance agencies. In 1928 he bought a farm at Urania. A popular figure, he was a justice of the peace, prominent in sporting, educational and charitable organizations, and a State councillor (1922-46) of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. On 12 March 1935 at the Baptist Church, Alberton, Adelaide, he married Edith May Staples, a 30-year-old clerk. He was elected to the House of Assembly in March 1941 as the Liberal and Country League member for Yorke Peninsula and was to be returned unopposed at every election until his death. He sold the farm and in 1946 moved with his family to Largs Bay. Chairman (1944) of the parliamentary Liberal Party, he was appointed in 1945 to a committee which was charged with inspecting and assessing land for purchase by the Federal government for the resettlement of ex-servicemen.

On 17 April 1946 Hincks was given the portfolios of lands, irrigation and repatriation; he held them until 1 January 1963. Despite his crutches and poor health, he gave himself unstintingly, and received widespread respect and affection. For all that, soldier settlement required a stronger and abler minister, and one more prepared to co-operate with the Department of Agriculture. The demand by soldier settlers for viable blocks soon exceeded the supply and resettlement was painfully slow, even after changes to the scheme in 1948-49. One critic described Hincks as kindly, but weak, 'a gramaphone . . . playing records provided by the Lands Department'. None the less, the minister was always accessible, and keen to assist ex-servicemen and their families. His record term saw the consolidation of the repatriation programme and many related achievements, particularly the Loxton irrigation project.

Hincks was knighted in 1960. Next year he visited the United States of America, Europe and Japan, investigating the bulk-handling of barley and seeking markets for South Australia's salt and iron ore. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died of cancer on New Year's Day 1963 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, Adelaide. Sir Cecil was accorded a state funeral, which was attended by thousands of ex-servicemen, and was cremated with Anglican rites. The Hincks Conservation Park, Eyre Peninsula, commemorates him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Heinrich, Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks (Port Victoria, SA, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 12 June 1963, pp 4, 13, 20 Aug 1947, p 344
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 18 Apr 1946, 19 Mar 1955, 2-3 Jan 1963
  • Maitland Watch, 31 Jan, 7 Feb 1963
  • C. Lucas, The RSL in South Australia 1945-1954 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1963)
  • H. Le Lacheur, War Service Land Settlement in South Australia (M.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1968)
  • R. Jennings, Independent Members of the South Australian Parliament 1927-1970 (M.A. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1982)
  • Liberal Party of South Australia records (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

Jenny Tilby Stock, 'Hincks, Sir Cecil Stephen (1894–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 2 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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