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Connelly, Sir Francis Raymond (1895–1949)

by David Dunstan

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

Sir Francis Raymond Connelly (1895-1949), businessman and lord mayor, was born on 1 September 1895 in East Melbourne, fourth child of John Connelly, butcher, and his wife, Susan, née Rooney, both Victorian born. Educated at twelve schools, including Christian Brothers' School, North Melbourne, and Xavier College, Kew, Raymond gained experience as a jackeroo in Queensland before joining the family business, the Moreland Grain & Free Stores Pty Ltd, at Brunswick.

Over six feet (183 cm) tall and weighing 16½ stone (105 kg), with a warm and outgoing personality, he was a resourceful businessman and a natural leader. During World War I Federal and State governments introduced the Australian Wheat Pooling Scheme which continued until the 1920-21 crop was marketed. A keen observer of international trends, Connelly made the first of many trips abroad in 1922 to study the bulk handling of grain and wheat. He also established La Trobe Motors Pty Ltd which introduced hire-cars to the city. On 17 November 1927 at St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne, he married Lurline Marie (d.1944), a daughter of Sir David Hennessy.

Returned by the electors of Smith Ward as a non-Labor representative to the Melbourne City Council in 1934, Connelly became chairman of the abattoirs and markets committee. That year he sponsored and organized for the Melbourne centenary celebrations a musical pageant, Hiawatha, which was staged at the Exhibition Building. He served three terms as lord mayor (1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48). A widower, he nominated his sister-in-law Valerie, wife of (Sir) Bernard Heinze, to be lady mayoress. Connelly was a progressive reformer who supported a Greater Melbourne planning authority. Seeking a 'brighter' metropolis, he urged the relaxation of laws on liquor and Sunday entertainment. He advocated longer shopping hours, the opening of an international airport and the training of hotel staffs to encourage tourists. An ardent Empire loyalist and charity-worker, he was prominent in the Food for Britain campaign, and in the development of the Lord Mayor's Camp at Portsea which in summer provided accommodation as well as free dental and health care for poor children from the country.

In 1948 Connelly was knighted. On 29 April that year at St Mary's Catholic Church, West Melbourne, he married 27-year-old Patricia Anne Holschier. They travelled to London where Connelly began the campaign which was to secure the Olympic Games for Melbourne (in 1956). While in London he staged at his own expense a banquet for three hundred people. With Sir Frank Beaurepaire, he subsequently toured Europe, interviewing delegates. One of Connelly's last official acts was to light a replica of the Olympic torch on 29 April 1949, following the announcement that Melbourne had been awarded the Games.

Throughout his political career Connelly had aspired to a seat in State or Federal parliament. He thrice stood unsuccessfully for the Victorian Legislative Assembly: for Grant as a Nationalist candidate in 1927, and for Toorak as an Independent United Australia Party candidate (1941) and as an Independent (1943). At the time of his death he was seeking Liberal preselection for the Senate. A keen sportsman, he belonged to the Peninsula and Metropolitan golf clubs, the Victoria Racing Club and the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Survived by his wife, Sir Raymond died of coronary vascular disease on 4 May 1949 in Mount St Evin's Hospital, Fitzroy. He had no children. Two thousand people attended a requiem Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral celebrated by Archbishop Mannix; a mile-long cortège followed the hearse to Brighton cemetery in what was reputedly the biggest funeral procession since that of Sir John Monash. Connelly's estate was sworn for probate at £41,750. A bust by Arthur Fleischmann is at the Mercy Hospital where a wing built by public subscription is named after Connelly; the gates at the Lord Mayor's Camp, Portsea, were built as another memorial.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Lomas, The Will to Win (Melb, 1960)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 25 Nov 1940, 27 Aug, 6 Oct 1945, 5 Oct 1946
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Feb, 8 Dec 1945, 5, 7 May 1949
  • Australasian Post, 9 May 1946
  • Age (Melbourne), 11 June 1946, 6 July 1948, 5 May, 15 Oct 1949
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 5, 7 May 1949
  • private information.

Citation details

David Dunstan, 'Connelly, Sir Francis Raymond (1895–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/connelly-sir-francis-raymond-9809/text17341, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 30 July 2014.

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

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