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Davey, Geoffrey Innes (1906–1975)

by Edmund Campion

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

Geoffrey Innes Davey (1906-1975), civil engineer and priest, was born on 27 November 1906 at Double Bay, Sydney, eldest surviving son of Joseph Innes Davey, a law clerk from England, and his native-born wife Caroline, née Hurley. Geoffrey was educated at Marist Brothers' High School, Darlinghurst, and won an exhibition to the University of Sydney (B.E., 1929). Joining the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, he became assistant construction engineer for the Woronora dam. Two years later Davey began his own business in Queensland where he pioneered the manufacture of concrete roofing tiles. Employed by Australian Iron & Steel Ltd in 1933, he oversaw the installation of its mill at Port Kembla, New South Wales. He worked in turn in Papua as a consulting engineer on hydraulic and mining investigations, and in Tasmania on the construction of a rock pile dam. At St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 6 February 1935 he married an architect Elsa Annette Isabel Hazelton.

That year Davey went into partnership with Gerald Haskins. Their commissions included the Morning Star dam, Tasmania, and sewerage works in New South Wales. They amalgamated with A. Gordon Gutteridge in 1939 and received contracts for Commonwealth munitions factories during and after World War II. Davey was sole principal (1942-49) of the firm and governing partner (1949-64). In 1946 he had unsuccessfully contested the House of Representatives seat of Hume for the Liberal Party—a breach of his school's strong Labor tradition. A founder and president (1956-57) of the Association of Consulting Engineers, Australia, he was a councillor (1962 and 1964-65) of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, which he represented on the National Capital Planning Committee in Canberra. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1966.

Already a knight commander (1960) of the Order of St Gregory the Great, Davey was a 'lieutenant' of the all-weather ecclesiastic Monsignor T. O. Wallace, as well as building adviser to the expanding Catholic school system in Sydney and a director of St Vincent's Hospital, the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and the Catholic Weekly newspaper. On retiring from his firm in 1964, he became executive-director of the Sydney Catholic Schools Building and Finance Commission.

In 1967, three years after Elsa died, Davey began theological studies in Rome at the Pontifical Beda College, a seminary for mature-age students. He was ordained priest on 10 July 1971 by Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy at the Holy Name Priory, Wahroonga, Sydney, a church designed by Davey's wife. At the ceremony he was photographed blessing his six children and seven grandchildren. The new priest was sent as curate to the parish of Strathfield, but he remained close to the inner working of the archdiocese and served for a time as general manager of the Catholic Weekly. Survived by his four sons and two daughters, he died of a coronary occlusion on 12 February 1975 at the Strathfield presbytery and was buried beside his wife in Mona Vale cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Marist Brothers' High School, Darlinghurst, Blue and Blue, 1960, p 10, 1966, p 27
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr 1946, 13 Apr 1960, 11 June 1966, 14 Feb, 27 Mar, 12 Apr, 12 July 1971, 14 Feb 1975
  • National Memorials Committe information sheet (copy held in ADB file).

Citation details

Edmund Campion, 'Davey, Geoffrey Innes (1906–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/davey-geoffrey-innes-9904/text17535, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 November 2018.

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

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