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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kellway, Cedric Vernon (1892–1963)

by Jenny Newell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Cedric Vernon Kellway (1892-1963), diplomat, was born on 2 July 1892 at Condah, Victoria, son of native-born parents Robert Kellway, stationmaster, and his wife Ellen, née Desmond. Educated in Melbourne by the Christian Brothers, Ced joined the Commonwealth Public Service on 17 December 1908 and worked as a clerk in the Treasury, save for 1910-12 when he was with the Department of External Affairs. On 31 July 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned and posted to the 37th Battalion, he served (from November 1916) on the Western Front where he was wounded in action in June 1917 and gassed in September 1918.

At St Mary's Catholic Church, Hawthorn, Melbourne, on 28 April 1920 Kellway married Eileen Mary Hannan; she moved with him to Canberra when his department was transferred there in 1927. He was promoted to budget officer in 1933. Two years later he became senior clerk and accountant (later assistant Australian trade commissioner) in the office of the commissioner-general for Australia, New York. In November 1939 he was financial adviser on the Australian delegation to the conference in Ottawa which led to the establishment of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Next month he returned to Australia to take up the duties of finance member of the Air Board. In 1942 he was sent back to New York as deputy director-general of Australian war supplies procurement.

On 1 September 1945 H. V. Evatt announced Kellway's appointment as Australian consul-general, New York. Using his negotiating skills and experience in managing co-operative ventures between Australia and America, Kellway endeavoured to extend trade links between the two countries and to encourage American investment in projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme. He also helped distressed Australian citizens, spending a deal of his time on the 'sorry and difficult' task of assisting unhappy war brides. In 1946-47 he was Australian alternate delegate, and in 1949 delegate, to the United Nations General Assembly.

When Australia and Italy agreed to exchange diplomatic representatives in late 1949, Kellway was sent to Rome as minister. One of his major duties was to accelerate emigration from war-ravaged Italy to Australia. He was a careful and penetrating observer of political and diplomatic developments, and adept at analysing events. Forming connexions that allowed him to cut through red tape, he facilitated meetings between Italian officials and visiting Australian dignitaries. His excellent relations with the Vatican enabled him to organize Papal audiences for his countrymen. In 1954 he was appointed minister to Brazil. After that country's political upheavals in 1954-55, he established a rapport with President Juscelino Kubitschek.

Kellway had gentle features, was quick-witted and possessed a dry sense of humour. While he regretted causing friends and colleagues any inconvenience, he stood firm on matters of justice and international relations. In 1957 he retired to Dublin and subsequently moved to Bath, England, where he died of cancer on 14 June 1963. His wife, daughter and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. McCarthy, A Last Call to Empire (Canb, 1988)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 20 Aug, 11 Sept 1935, 30 Dec 1939, 19 Nov 1948, 19 Oct 1949
  • New York Times, 2 Nov 1939, 14 Sept 1949
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Feb 1954
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Nov 1955, 13 Sept 1957
  • Canberra Times, 17 June 1963
  • series A1, item 1912/16212, series A1067, item A46/2/11/2 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jenny Newell, 'Kellway, Cedric Vernon (1892–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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