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Sir Harold Roy Fidge (1904–1981)

by John Lack

This article was published:

Sir Harold Roy Fidge (1904-1981), solicitor, mayor and community leader, was born on 24 December 1904 at Warracknabeal, Victoria, fourth and last child of South Australian-born parents Edward Fidge, farmer, and his wife Beatrice Alice, née Triplett. Roy was educated at Beulah East State and (to matriculation) Geelong High schools. Excelling in athletics and as a scholar, he won scholarships to Geelong College and then Ormond College, University of Mel­bourne (LL B, 1928), where he obtained a half-Blue in athletics (1926). In 1929 he joined a practice in Geelong (from 1954 Price Higgins and Fidge). He soon became solicitor to the Shire of Corio (1932-64), and secretary-treasurer (1932-54) of the Geelong Law Associ­ation. On 3 November 1934 at East Malvern Presbyterian Church he married Mavis Melba Jane Burke (d.1948), a masseuse.

In 1939 Fidge’s election to Geelong City Council began a long career in local government, during which he made outstanding contributions to the community. Having joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve in 1923, he resigned from the council to serve with the RAN (1940-45), performing administrative duties ashore in Australia and Papua and rising to acting paymaster lieutenant commander. Re-elected to the council in 1946, he remained a member until his death, serving six terms as mayor (1954-56, 1964-68) and at some time chairing most committees, as well as the Geelong Promotion Committee, the Transport Advisory Board and the city band. He be­came, as (Sir) Henry Bolte saw him, `Mr Geelong’: a powerful, colourful personality, whose forthright, even blunt, manner underscored his commitment to Geelong’s development.

Fidge advocated the creation of a Greater Geelong by the amalgamation of the city, Geelong West and Newtown, and supported the official Liberal policy of industrial decen­tralisation, but he was frustrated by a lack of progress. His many initiatives included the transformation of the Geelong Free Library into a regional municipal library while his strong support for the local historian Dr Phillip Brown bore fruit when the Geelong Historical Records Centre opened in 1979. As a member (1954-57, 1964-81) of the executive of the Municipal Association of Victoria, he bewailed the low level of interest in community development and local government.

There was scarcely a voluntary organisation in Geelong and district with which Fidge was not associated. An active founding (1932) member of the local Apex Club, he served as secretary-treasurer (1935-40, 1946-47) of the Apex national council and in 1940 was appointed a life governor. In 1931 he had helped to establish the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps in Geelong; in 1953-54 he assisted in creating the Geelong Community Chest; and the following year he organised the observance of Commonwealth Youth Sunday. He chaired many funding and charitable appeals, for causes ranging from flood relief to anti-cancer research, and supported local schools, the Australian Red Cross Society, and the Legacy and Rotary clubs. President of the Geelong Law Society in 1959-61, he retired from his legal practice in 1964.

Fidge received the Victorian Community Services award in 1966, and was knighted in 1967. His long service as a commissioner of the Geelong Harbour Trust (deputy chairman 1956-63; chairman 1963-77) was recognised in the launch of the motor tug Sir Roy Fidge in 1968. He was also a council member (1968-77) of the Association of Port and Marine Authorities of Australia. From 1971 to 1981 he was foundation chairman of the Capital Permanent Building Society. On 6 August 1949, at St Philip’s Church of England, Church Hill, Sydney, he had married Nance Davidson (d.1979), a clerk. Still active in local affairs and a lifelong supporter of the Geelong Football Club, Sir Roy died suddenly on 13 January 1981 at Geelong, his death prompting columns of tributes in the Geelong Advertiser to one of the city’s `favourite sons’. Survived by the son—also a Geelong City councillor (1977-93) and mayor (1987-89)—and daughter of his first marriage, he was buried in Geelong Eastern cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • R. S. Love and V. M. Branson, Apex: The First Twenty-Five Years (1980)
  • G. Forth (ed), The Biographical Dictionary of the Western District of Victoria (1998)
  • Geelong Advertiser, 2 Jan 1967, p 3, 14 Jan 1981, p 1, 15 Jan 1981, p 4
  • Herald (Melbourne), 24 Aug 1968, p 26
  • Australian Municipal Journal, Feb 1981, p 220
  • private information.

Citation details

John Lack, 'Fidge, Sir Harold Roy (1904–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 15 July 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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