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A captain of the industry

By Friday 16 June 2023June 26th, 2023No Comments

You would make all the guests at a dinner party want to get up and do the dishes if you knew every detail about every wine you’ve ever tasted, but had no other interests in your life.

Rocky O’Callaghan had a wooden boat.

d’Arry went fishing.

Wolf went pistol shooting.

Tim Smith plays drums for The Valley Cats and finds freedom in the saddle of a Triumph on the open road.

Bec and Lucy Willson go crabbing.

Coming from wine royalty, Sir James Hardy was never going to be a kick boxer.

He did the proper thing: he went sailing.

I don’t want to say James was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; a few knives and forks, maybe.

That doesn’t make it any easier sometimes.

He was only five years old when his father, Tom Hardy, was killed in the Kyeema plane crash on Mount Dandenong on 25 October 1938, along with Hugo Gramp and Sidney Hill-Smith.

They were on their way to Canberra to talk about wine excise.

James joined Thomas Hardy & Sons in 1953 – its 100th year – as a shipping clerk.

He soon moved to Sydney and became Hardys boss of NSW; less about the promotion, surely, and more about a harbour in the backyard.

Hardys slipped from family to corporate.

A part of James Hardy would have died.

Akin to ‘losing’ Yalumba; unthinkable.

After being passed around like the beetroot dip, Hardys is now part of Accolade, owned by the US private equity giant the Carlyle Group.

James never stopped loving the brand.

“Sir James remained a devoted brand ambassador for Hardys right up until this year,” Accolade says in a statement.

My enduring memory of James is seeing him in magazine ads in a Barnacle Bill hat and a navy jacket with chrome buttons.

I’ve never heard a bad word about him.

Never heard him complain about his tragic start in life.

James was a community leader; a philanthropist.

It says a lot that some tributes have come from friends and acquaintances three or four decades younger than him.

Regaining family ownership of Seppeltsfield seemed impossible, once.

Metala, too.

They’re both ‘back’.

Wine corporations do some good stuff, but the stormy seas they inevitably encounter is hardly conducive to mental health.

Is it all sustainable?

I can see a time, way off on the horizon, when Hardys comes home, too, in premium boutique form.

You’re allowed to dream.

Ox Hardy and Bec Hardy and others keep the home fires burning.

James was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1981.

Three years later he said in An Adventurous Life, “If having a knighthood and a coat of arms is supposed to change your attitude towards life, then I failed. I always was and always will be the same Jim Hardy.”

Hardys has won 9,000 awards and Jim even helped to win the Auld Mug from Dennis Conner to go with the cutlery.

At 90 years of age, Sir James Hardy OBE – “Gentleman Jim” – has sailed off into the sunset, leaving a long trail of good deeds in his wake.

Part of his wonderful legacy is remaining unaffected by fame and fortune.

A man of integrity.

Silver spoon or not, you can’t buy that.

Photo: Sir James Hardy (Ross Anthony Willis).

• This article was first published in our weekly ebulletin The Week That Was.

Sir James Hardy a true wine icon.

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