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Francis Stanley (Frank) Daley (1891–1983)

by Brian Lloyd

This article was published:

Francis Stanley (Frank) Daley (1891-1983), mechanical engineer, was born on 1 November 1891 at Bendigo, Victoria, third son of Victorian-born parents Charles Daley, schoolteacher, and his wife Caroline Rose, née Bromfield. Charles Daley and Edward Daley were Frank’s brothers. Having attended Stawell State School and Geelong College, he was apprenticed in fitting and machining at the Vulcan Foundry of Humble & Sons, Geelong. He studied at the Gordon Technical College and then at the University of Melbourne (B.Mech.E., 1918), where he won Bage and Dixson scholarships and became a member of the Students’ Representative Council. After graduating, he travelled to England and worked in armament production at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and in the factories of Armstrong Whitworth & Co. Ltd and Vickers Ltd. Back in Melbourne, he was an assistant-manager at the Commonwealth government’s Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong. In 1920 he joined the Institution of Engineers, Australia, as a foundation associate-member.

On 21 May 1927 at All Souls’ Church, Sandringham, Daley married with Anglican rites Eleanor Gladys Tweddle, a masseuse; they had a daughter before divorcing in 1949. In 1931 he had joined General Motors-Holden’s Ltd as senior staff engineer, responsible for modernising the company’s plant at Woodville, South Australia, to prepare for the manufacture of steel bodies for motor vehicles. The company began fitting Australian-produced all-steel bodies to GM chassis in 1937. Next year Daley’s paper `Beyond the Yield Point’ described original research into the pressing of sheet steel (Journal of the Institution of Engineers Australia, October 1942). He also lectured part time in industrial organisation at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. His work with GMH involved travel throughout Australia and abroad.From the mid-1930s leading industrialists, including (Sir) Laurence Hartnett , managing director of GMH, fostered aeroplane manufacturing in Australia. Daley became involved in 1938 as a member of a committee investigating aircraft for defence. After World War II began, the Commonwealth government appointed (June 1940) Hartnett director of ordnance production and he immediately engaged Daley as his second-in-charge (controller). Hartnett later affirmed that there was no man `better qualified [than Daley] for the job’, as he was `a top production engineer’. Daley eventually succeeded Hartnett as director. He also chaired the Department of Postwar Reconstruction’s optical industry advisory panel.

After the war, Daley transferred to GMH’s plant at Fishermens Bend, Victoria, and worked with Hartnett during the initial development of the Holden car. His role remained that of a production engineer, and included executive support until Hartnett left GMH at the end of 1946. On 30 April 1949 at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Caulfield, Daley married Annie Adalene Verna Walsh, née Gray, a widow. About 1951 he became general technical manager of Kelvinator Australia Ltd in Adelaide. In 1956 he entered practice as a consulting engineer in Melbourne. A member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, he published `The Holden Saga’ in the Victorian Historical Magazine (February 1967). He was a hard-working and studious man whose recreations included motoring, writing and handicrafts. Daley died on 20 July 1983 at Forest Hill, Melbourne, and was cremated. His wife and the daughter of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (1958)
  • L. Hartnett, Big Wheels and Little Wheels (1981)
  • N. Darwin, 100 Years of GM in Australia (2002)
  • Smith’s Weekly, 16 Dec 1939, p 7
  • private information.

Citation details

Brian Lloyd, 'Daley, Francis Stanley (Frank) (1891–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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