Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Connell, Cyril John (1899–1974)

by S. A. Rayner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Cyril John Connell (1899-1974), university registrar and Rugby League administrator, was born on 6 June 1899 in Sydney, son of John Maurice Connell, a saddler from Victoria, and his American-born wife Sadie, née Hanley. Educated at Brisbane Central Boys' and Brisbane Grammar schools, in February 1916 Cyril joined the office of the Queensland Public Service Board as a clerk. On 19 May 1917 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and saw action in France with the 26th Battalion; he was discharged in Brisbane on 6 October 1919 and returned to the public service. On 5 January 1927 he married Honora Fitzgerald (d.1936) at St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Rockhampton.

During the 1920s Connell qualified in accountancy and secretaryship; as an external student, he later graduated from the University of Queensland (B.Com., 1936). At the Church of Christ, Albion, Brisbane, on 19 December 1940 he married Coral Enchelmaier, a public servant. In that year he had been appointed secretary and accountant of the Queensland Government Printing Office; he was seconded to civil defence in 1942 and transferred to the Public Service Commissioner's Office in 1944. Having taught commercial subjects in technical colleges at Charters Towers, Rockhampton and Brisbane in 1921-40, he became supervisor of the new Brisbane Technical Correspondence School in 1945. In March 1947 he was made assistant under-secretary of the Department of Public Instruction and in January 1949 became principal of the State Commercial High School where he completed Essentials of Bookkeeping (Sydney, 1954).

Deputy-registrar (from 1954) of the University of Queensland, Connell was appointed registrar in 1957. He began with an octogenarian vice-chancellor J. D. Story and few senior assistants; over the next nine years he managed to find the accommodation, equipment and staff needed for an average annual increase of one thousand students, and to make the practical arrangements essential for new courses and specializations. He was also involved in the establishment (1960) of the University College of Townsville, the preparation of a site for Griffith University and completing the transfer of the University of Queensland from the city to St Lucia. Connell's administrative ability, prodigious work and organizational leadership lay behind these achievements. Modest and reticent, he was respected for his care, judgement and gentle strength. In 1965 he was appointed C.B.E. When he retired in 1969, the university conferred on him an honorary doctorate of philosophy.

An outstanding Rugby League footballer in his youth, the 5 ft 4 ins (163 cm) Connell had been a half-back in the first Queensland team to defeat New South Wales in 1922. He toured with State representative teams to Sydney in 1922-23 and New Zealand in 1925. During twenty years as an officer of the Queensland Rugby League, he was its president (1953-59), selector (1939-52), treasurer (1943-47) and acting-secretary. He was a member (1945-57) and treasurer of the Australian Board of Control, a national selector and co-manager of the 1956 Kangaroo team that toured England and France.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, and by the son and two daughters of his first marriage, Connell died on 25 October 1974 in his home at Chapel Hill, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • P. James, 100 Years of Grammar Rugby (Brisb, 1988)
  • University of Queensland, University News, 7 Nov 1974
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 18 Mar 1958, 26 Oct 1974
  • S. A. Rayner, Cyril John Connell, 1899-1974 (typescript, 1991, copy in ADB file), and for bibliography
  • Connell's staff cards, History Unit, Queensland Department of Education, Brisbane
  • Queensland Rugby League, Annual Report, 1921-23, 1938-59 (Queensland Rugby Football League, Milton, Brisbane)
  • Juvenile Employment Bureau file, 1938-39 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Brisbane Technical correspondence file, 1944-49 (Queensland State Archives)
  • University of Queensland Archives.

Citation details

S. A. Rayner, 'Connell, Cyril John (1899–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/connell-cyril-john-9807/text17337, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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