Two Williams brothers made lasting contributions to Australian racing – one at the far north of Queensland, the other in the south. –. Syd’s contribution was as chairman of the highly successful ‘Cairns Amateurs’ for 40 years from its inception in 1959., During this period it became one of the richest regional racing carnivals in Australia. Ned, further south, was chairman of the Queensland Turf Club in Brisbane for eleven years and serving on the committee for 27 years.
They were born at Yungaburra in the Cairns hinterland, losing their father in 1929 in their early boyhood. Educated at Charters Towers, as young men both served overseas in the Second World War, in the army and air force respectively, before continuing along separate paths.
Syd - Sir Henry Sydney Williams OBE (1920-2003) – was an astute businessman. When still in his twenties he took control of the family’s storekeeping, land agency, motor car and farm machinery business ‘Estate H.S. Williams’, pioneered by his late grandfather. Syd opened additional branches in northern Queensland, extending its operations into mining and industrial equipment. As a founder of Bush Pilots Airways, subsequently Air Queensland, he assiduously promoted travel and tourism to the region. Noted for his enthusiasm, warmth and congeniality, Syd Williams played a crucial role in fostering racing in Far North Queensland, especially through the success of the Amateurs each September, building this Cairns raceday into a three-day carnival. He was knighted in 1983 for services to the community.
His younger brother, Ned (1921-1999) – Sir Edward Stratten Williams KBE – studied law in London, returning to Australia in 1946, working as a Brisbane barrister before being appointed a Queensland Supreme Court judge in 1971. In racing he tasted early success as an owner, in partnership with C.A. (Bill) Edwards, with Gold Titan, a handy city sprinter.
In 1966 Ned Williams was elected to the Queensland Turf Club committee. He chaired the QTC from 1980 to 1991, a challenging period when the club was still the principal ruling body for racing in southern Queensland. He represented Australia at the Asian Racing Conference and the International Racing Conference.In his professional capacity Sir Edward Williams presided over the 1982 Australian royal commission into drugs and chaired the National Crimes Commission created in its aftermath. His sporting interests were broad. In 1980 he was knighted KBE for services to law and the community, upgraded to KCMG to recognise his role as Chairman of the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. He was 1982 Australian of the Year and Commissioner General for Brisbane’s Expo 88.
“Sir Edward had a wonderfully warm and friendly personality. He just loved racing and all the people involved. He treated everyone as an equal and he believed nobody was his master or his lesser.” Bill Sexton
"Syd’s organisational genius, his rapport with people, his flair for public relations, was always behind the amateurs wheel…” Keith Noud