Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wadley, Sir Douglas (1904–1984)

by Mark McGinness

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Sir Douglas Wadley (1904–1984), solicitor and company director, was born on 9 November 1904 in Brisbane, sixth of seven children of Welsh-born John Wadley, storekeeper and Congregational lay preacher, and his Irish-born wife Honora, née Murphy. Doug was educated in the high school attached to Brisbane Central Technical College. Articled to P. J. O’Shea, he was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 24 August 1926. On 19 June 1928 at St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane, he married Vera Joyce Bodman, a music teacher. Both bride and groom had converted to Catholicism shortly before.

Early in the 1930s Wadley became a partner in the growing firm O’Shea, O'Shea, Corser & Wadley, later O'Shea, Corser & Wadley. Based in Queen Street, Brisbane, the firm built up a large commercial law practice. On 17 April 1942 Wadley enlisted in the Volunteer Defence Corps. He served in Brisbane, mostly with the 1st Battalion, until December 1944, when he was placed on reserve; he was discharged on 21 October 1945.

Wadley was a board member (1939-47) and chairman (1948-61) of Queensland Brewery Ltd, until the company was taken over by Carlton and United Breweries Ltd. He was a director of the retail drapers McWhirters Ltd (1948-57), Moreton Central Sugar Mill Co. Ltd (1961-78), Federal Mutual Insurance Co. of Australia Ltd (Sun Alliance Ltd) (1967-77), and founding chairman (1958-80) of Queensland Television Ltd (Channel 9). In 1960 he was appointed to the statutory committee of the Queensland Law Society and was its chairman in 1977-80. A prominent lay Catholic, he was a foundation member (1969-84) of the Archdiocesan Development Fund advisory board and a member of the business advisory board of the Catholic Leader.

Interested in breeding, judging and racing both horses and pigeons, Wadley played a leading role in the organisation of competitions. He was a part-owner of Refulgent, one of the best three-year-old racehorses of its generation. The long-serving solicitor for the Queensland Turf Club, of which he had been a member since 1933, he joined the QTC committee in 1949, and served as chairman (1974-80). He was also patron and legal adviser to the Queensland Homing Society. In 1938 he was elected to the council of the Royal National Agricultural & Industrial Association of Queensland and, as president (1961-80), successfully worked to improve the annual Brisbane agricultural show. He had some success as an owner and breeder of Jersey cattle and enjoyed showing cattle and dogs. A founding member (1962) of the Totalisator Administration Board of Queensland, he was its deputy-chairman (1975-80).

Wadley was knighted in 1969. He was 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall and of heavy stocky build; from the age of 3 his blue eyes were framed by spectacles. Courtly and conservative in his attitudes, he was admired as a firm and effective chairman. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease in his later years; he died on 16 March 1984 at Indooroopilly and was buried in Nudgee cemetery. His wife and their two sons and two daughters survived him. Archbishop Francis Rush, a good friend, presided over his funeral at the Church of the Holy Family, Indooroopilly, where Wadley had been an active member for forty-five years. The canine pavilion at the Brisbane showgrounds was named in his honour and the Sir Douglas Wadley Handicap is a major event in the Queensland horse racing calendar.

Select Bibliography

  • Proctor, Apr 1984, p 9
  • Qld Law Society Journal, June 1984, p 101
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 Jan 1969, p 1, 12 Apr 1980, p 3, 18 Mar 1984, p 2
  • Catholic Leader, 25 Mar 1984, p 5
  • Westside News (Zone A), 18 Apr 1984, p 9
  • B884, item Q200410 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mark McGinness, 'Wadley, Sir Douglas (1904–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wadley-sir-douglas-15888/text27089, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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