Harold Mair OAM: 1919-2011

Harold Mair
Harold Mair

HAROLD Mair OAM, a former state Labor member for Albury, died at the Mercy hospital yesterday.

He had been admitted to hospital with a virus last month.

Mr Mair, 92, was a popular and able politician, although he never held ministerial office.

But his position as a backbencher during the Wran and Unsworth governments from 1978 to 1988 allowed him to cajole ministers into delivering many projects for the Albury electorate.

He was credited with bringing a major employer, the newsprint mill at Ettamogah, to the region.

Other achievements included water and sewerage projects for rural towns, a new courthouse for Albury and upgrades for hospitals and schools across the electorate.

Mr Mair was the epitome of a community politician, “a man of the people”, and had learned much about politics as an Albury alderman and mayor.

He was born in Albury in 1919, his father was a railwayman who came from Scotland and his mother a third-generation Australian-Irish woman.

Mr Mair’s boast was that a great-grandfather had settled in the Upper Indigo Valley in 1840.

When the Harold Mair Bridge spanning the freeway and railway in Albury was opened in 2007, he was proud to say his father had worked in the shunting yards below.

Mr Mair attended St Joseph’s Parish School and Christian Brothers College and devoured books at the railway institute library, although mystery and westerns were preferred over politics.

Mr Mair qualified as a printer but after World War II broke out he joined the army.

In 1942, he married Josie Anderson and left the army for the RAAF, serving eight years in war and peace.

Mr Mair quit the RAAF in 1950 and became an accountant with a laundry company, G.W. Fulford.

He and Josie raised four daughters, Robyn, Rosemary, Carmel and Janet and a son, Trevor, who died last year.

Later, Mr Mair owned the laundry with Tom Yea until 1974, a year or two after Josie had died.

He joined the Albury hospital board in 1966 and the city council in 1968.

Labor’s choice of Harold Mair, then 58, to contest the 1978 state election came as a surprise to many who thought him non-political.

But the next 10 years showed he could be a powerful advocate.

In 1988, Mr Mair was persuaded the party would have a better chance of holding Albury if he put off his intended retirement but he lost to Liberal Ian Glachan.

In retirement, he earned accolades such as an Order of Australia medal and an honorary doctorate from Charles Sturt University, but at 88, achieved one more ambition when he gained an arts degree by his own efforts.

The Albury Labor Party also inaugurated the annual Harold Mair dinner at which party luminaries such as Kristina Keneally and Senator John Faulkner have spoken.