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Healy, George (1905–1982)

by K. Capell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

George Healy (1905-1982), fireman and public servant, was born on 1 July 1905 at Mangalore, Victoria, third of eight children of Victorian-born parents John Healy, railway porter, and his wife Charlotte, née Walmsley. Leaving school at 14, George was employed in various clerical positions before joining the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade in June 1927. On 19 June 1928 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Kew, he married Mary Berenice Bond. Advancing through the ranks to station officer, he was a member of the Institute of Fire Engineers and of the United Firefighters’ Union of Australia. In August 1942 he became deputy chief officer of the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigades and on 17 July 1946 was appointed chief officer. He was an inaugural member (1948) of the Queensland Rural Fires Board, serving as chairman in 1964-82.

Highly regarded as a fire-fighter, Healy insisted that firemen undertook rigorous training, especially in the use of breathing apparatus. This paid dividends many times, particularly at fires inside ships on the Brisbane River. He made a point of knowing the names of all the men under his command and personally supported them on the fire-ground; he would not send his men where he himself was not prepared to go. Injured in a fuel-depot fire in 1969, he subsequently received a commendation from the governor Sir Alan Mansfield. He liked publicity and encouraged the press to cover fires and to issue regular warnings on fire risk.

Interested in politics and history, Healy was a long-time member of the Australian Labor Party. He published A.L.P.: The Story of the Labor Party (1955); his name was spelt Healey on the title page. In 1960 he supported the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board and the Australian Workers’ Union, which had represented Queensland firemen since 1917, when firemen were struggling to form a local branch of the United Firefighters’ Union. Their application was rejected in a decision upheld by the Industrial Court. Healy’s life membership of the UFU in Victoria was subsequently revoked, partly because he resigned from the ALP and joined the Democratic Labor Party. In 1967 he graduated BA from the University of Queensland. He retired in 1970 after a record twenty-four years as chief officer.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Healy had been president of the Queensland Australian National Football League. He was a member from 1948 of the Queensland Health Education Council, serving as chairman in 1955. President of the Returned Services League of Australia’s Anzac House appeal, he was also inaugural chairman (1971-75) of the Salvation Army’s Red Shield appeal in Brisbane. He was a member of the Brisbane North Rotary Club. As chairman of the Queensland Rostrum Council of Freemen, Brisbane, he was admired for his ability to summarise accurately, without taking notes, the arguments of debating teams. He was appointed OBE in 1976. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died on 23 March 1982 at Auchenflower and was cremated. His son, Anthony, was a judge of the District Court of Queensland in 1987-2005.

Select Bibliography

  • K. D. Calthorpe and K. Capell, Brisbane Ablaze (2000) and for sources
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 10 June 1950, p 5, 22 Apr 1958, p 7, 29 Jan 1963, p 5, 24 Mar 1982, p 3
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 29 Aug 1960, p 13, 24 July 1965, p 1
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 16 Feb 1969, p 1
  • private information.

Citation details

K. Capell, 'Healy, George (1905–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/healy-george-12612/text22719, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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