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Frank Lionel Fitzpatrick (1895–1972)

by David H. Hume

This article was published:

Frank Lionel Fitzpatrick (1895-1972), businessman, was born on 8 August 1895 at Purnim, Victoria, third of eight children of native-born parents Peter John Charles Fitzpatrick, schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Louisa, née Callister. Brian was his younger brother. Educated at Cudgee and Winchlesea state schools, and at Ballarat High School, in 1912 Frank joined the finance branch of the Department of Defence as a clerk. On 30 August 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was the middleweight boxing champion in his camp and on board the troop-ship, Ballarat, in which he sailed to Egypt in December. While serving with the 6th Machine-Gun Company near Passchendaele, Belgium, Fitzpatrick was wounded on 8 November 1917. In the attack at Framerville, France, on 9 August 1918, he braved concentrated fire to recover a gun and bring it into action; he was awarded the Military Medal. He rose to sergeant and was discharged in Australia on 21 June 1919.

Returning to the Department of Defence, Fitzpatrick qualified as an accountant in 1921. He resigned next year to work in the office of a new concrete-product company of which he was appointed manager in 1924. At the Presbyterian Church, Malvern, on 12 January 1926 he married Violet Esme May (d.1961), a stenographer. From 1929 to 1960 he was general manager of Rocla Pipes Ltd. In 1932 he promoted the introduction of rubber ring joints for high-pressure concrete pipes, an innovation adopted throughout the world. During World War II he guided Rocla in the development of post-tensioned concrete pipes; the technology was exported to North America, Europe and India in the late 1940s and 1950s. Appointed a director in 1949, Fitzpatrick was chairman (from 1964) of the company which in 1960 was renamed Rocla Industries Ltd. He had seen the enterprise grow from shareholders' funds of £50,000 in 1930 to $13 million when he retired from the board in 1970.

With wide interests, Fitzpatrick served many societies and institutions. He was a councillor (1942-63) of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and a member (1949-60) of the Melbourne Rotary Club. President (1951-52), councillor and honorary fellow (1964) of the Australian Institute of Management, he was awarded its (Sir) John Storey medal in 1966. Fitzpatrick was appointed a councillor (1957) of the Institute of Public Affairs and a fellow (1960) of the Australian Society of Accountants. A council-member of the Victorian Society for Crippled Children and Adults, he was foundation president (1960) of the Sheltered Workshops Advisory Council of Victoria. In 1961-72 he was a councillor of Women's College at the University of Melbourne.

A director from 1955 of Moulded Products (A'sia) Ltd (from 1967 Nylex Corporation Ltd) and its chairman in 1958-71, Fitzpatrick was also a board-member of Coates & Co. Ltd, Gas Supply Co. Ltd, Kingsley Industries Pty Ltd and John Webster Industries Pty Ltd. Throughout his working life he earned the respect of his colleagues and employees. A humble and compassionate man who treasured integrity and honesty, he enjoyed public speaking and imparting his homespun philosophies. Some of his maxims were: 'Speak of ''we", not ''I"'; 'Faithfully keep all promises, even little ones'; 'In all situations just quietly do your best'; 'Never allow fears or worry to overwhelm you'; 'Do not postpone or evade action'; and 'In business decisions remember that diversification is getting into something you know nothing about'.

Fitzpatrick was intensely interested in management, particularly in relationships with employees. He regarded careful and close communication with all workers as basic, and urged that authority be delegated and strict attention be given to efficiency. He also introduced annual assessment of senior executives, advocated that they speak more than one language and insisted that they travelled abroad on economy fares. In addition to lecturing on management practices, he wrote articles for technical colleges, training institutions and professional bodies. Regarded as a leader in management technique, he worked as a business consultant after his retirement from Rocla. Apart from his native English, Fitzpatrick spoke French and German, and knew some Italian and Spanish. His hobbies included walking, gardening and cooking. In 1971 he was appointed C.B.E. and named Melbourne Rotary's man of the year. Survived by his son, he died on 3 March 1972 at his Mitcham home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • IPA Review, Jan-Mar 1972
  • Herald (Melbourne), 6 Mar 1950, 10 Apr 1963, 3 Oct 1970, 3 Mar 1972
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 10 June 1971
  • private information.

Citation details

David H. Hume, 'Fitzpatrick, Frank Lionel (1895–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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