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Horvath, Alfred (1924–2000)

by Attila Urmenyhazi

Alfred Horvath, n.d.

Alfred Horvath, n.d.

photo supplied by family

Alfred Horvath, forester, technical draftsman and roadworks engineer/contractor was born in Moson near the Austrian border in North-East Hungary. After completing his secondary education in Mosonmagyaróvár, he attended the Royal Hungarian József Nádor University in Sopron, graduating in 1950 as a forester/engineer in silviculture. A few months later he married Emma Dollmayer and the couple left Hungary for Austria where they spent seven months as refugees, awaiting re-settlement under the care of the United Nation’s International Refugee Organisation (IRO). 

In November 1951 they landed in Adelaide. Sponsorship by the Australian government being conditional on working at a designated, paid job for two years, Hovarth worked hard in assignments foreign to his qualifications but compatible with his field of engineering competence. He proved himself to be versatile and industrious, working in a government utility office on calculations-based draft design for excavations necessary for the laying of power lines in Gawler, close to the Barossa Valley. He later switched jobs and installed electricity power meters to Adelaide homes. For a short period he was also employed in a furniture factory whilst looking for fulltime, satisfying professional employment. He then worked, sometimes seven days a week, in a surveyor’s office in Adelaide where his exacting work entailed calculations to set out future road networks in accordance with cadastral and survey requirements in town and urban planning. Drawing specific plans and topographic maps, he then supervised the earthworks operations necessary to carry out various projects like golf courses, private dams, elevated roads, etc. 

With a combination of skills, many years of acquired experience, expertise and self-confidence, in 1976 Alfred embarked on a new career as a large scale earthmoving contractor. His first major earthworks subcontract was renewing, to new design standards, the badly eroded 560kms long Adelaide-Alice Springs railway line. His company carried out the fundamental works before the re-laying of tracks could start. In 1978, near Adelaide, he directed the setting up of approach roads to a main public road and the construction of two suspension bridges. These operations, and the project’s success, brought him recognition among his peers and the public works authority. Later on, his successful tenders took him into the remote outback, involving him in road design and construction in the Tanami and Simpson Deserts and the Moomba gasfields. 

Among many professional achievements, Horvath's company is credited with carrying out the extensive drainage works project in Adelaide’s Morphettville race course. At 65 he decided to semi-retire, and work as a consultant for half a day, a few days a week. He was enthralled when, unexpectedly in 2000, he received from his alma mater university in Sopron, their rare award, the "Golden Diploma", in recognition of lifelong industrious and versatile application of his engineering skill. 

The Horvaths had two sons, Alfred and Robert, both of whom are surveyors. In retirement Alfred devoted his free time to support the local Hungarian community in Adelaide. He was an active member of the Hungarian Scouts support group and a volunteer worker in their summer camps. He was also a good organizer of Hungarian socials and balls. A life-member of the Hungarian Club of South Australia, he served tirelessly to bring the community together. He also helped to establish the Roman Catholic Blackfriars School in Prospect, Adelaide. Intrepid and selfless, Alfred Horvath passed away in December 2000, aged 76.

Original publication

Citation details

Attila Urmenyhazi, 'Horvath, Alfred (1924–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/horvath-alfred-14032/text24976, accessed 19 October 2021.

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Alfred Horvath, n.d.

Alfred Horvath, n.d.

photo supplied by family