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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tardent, Henry Alexis (1853–1929)

by M. French

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Henry Alexis Tardent (1853-1929), journalist and horticulturist, was born on 1 March 1853 at Le Sépey, Vaud, Switzerland, son of Louis Marc Samuel Tardent, vintner, and his wife Marie Louise, née Perrod. Educated in local schools until the age of 10, Tardent travelled and studied privately from 1869 in Galicia, the Ukraine and Bessarabia; he learned Polish, German, Russian and Latin, and made a living by tutoring. He matriculated at the university at Odessa and in 1875 became a language teacher. On 30 June 1876 he married a distant relative, Hortense Tardent, in the Reformed Church at Chabag, Bessarabia; she bore him twelve children.

Troubled by delicate health, worried by instability in Russia, and impressed by accounts of Queensland, Tardent arrived with his family in Brisbane on 12 December 1887. For the next decade he established and operated a farm and co-operative winery at Roma. He was naturalized on 5 March 1890. Struggling to support his family, on 19 April 1897 Tardent took employment as first manager of Westbrook State Farm, near Toowoomba. He turned an unpromising site into a fine experimental farm and blamed petty bureaucracy for his transfer to Biggenden State Farm on 1 August 1898. He resigned in April 1901 after the government had objected to his 'community involvement', principally to his public support of farming and labour organizations.

Tardent unsuccessfully contested the seat of Burnett for Labor in March 1902; from 1904 to 1908 he published the Toowoomba Democrat and Downs Agriculturist while operating an insurance business at Toowoomba. Out of work and drawn to Atherton, he became managing editor of the Tableland Examiner (1909-10), agricultural editor of the pro-Labor Daily Standard (1913-29) and a contributor to the Worker (Brisbane). In 1911 he helped to settle Russian migrants at Wallumbilla.

While he was keen in promoting scientific agriculture, Tardent also suggested to Sir Samuel Griffith and Andrew Fisher how Swiss federalism and military conscription might be introduced into Australia. Wherever he lived, he helped to establish societies with musical, literary, scientific or agricultural interests. His prolific publications included Science as Applied to Agriculture (1907), The Life and Poetry of George Essex Evans (1913), The Life and Works of Richard John Randall, Australia's Greatest Artist (1916), In Freedom's Cause: Australia's Contribution to the World War (1923) and Mrs. Ellis Rowan and Her Contributions to Australian Art and Science (1927). A founding member in Brisbane of Les Causeries Françaises in 1922 (Alliance Française from 1926), he promoted Australia extensively in French and Swiss publications overseas. His ambition to end life as a 'sage and philosopher' was rewarded when the French government appointed him officier d' Académie in March 1929.

Tardent 'adored children' and found recreation in 'purposeful, tireless walking, cycling and, above all, gardening and horticulture'. He died at Wynnum West on 5 September 1929 and, a Huguenot, was buried in Bulimba cemetery with Presbyterian forms. His wife, three sons and four daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Tardent, The Swiss-Australian Tardent Family History and Genealogy (Southport, Qld, 1982)
  • Queensland Agricultural Journal, Oct 1929
  • Worker (Brisbane), 8 Mar 1902
  • Queenslander, 28 Mar, 12 Sept 1929
  • Brisbane Courier, 7 Sept 1929.

Additional Resources

Citation details

M. French, 'Tardent, Henry Alexis (1853–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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