Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Francis Charles Patrick Keane (1901–1971)

by Sheila Tilse

This article was published:

Francis Charles Patrick Keane (1901-1971), public servant and magistrate, was born on 26 October 1901 in Sydney, son of native-born parents Francis Patrick Keane, public servant, and his wife Katie Mary Sarah, née Nolan. Educated at St Aloysius' College, Milsons Point, Frank gained his Leaving certificate in 1918 and was awarded a public exhibition. He was appointed a junior clerk in the New South Wales Department of Public Works on 28 January 1919 and was given leave that year to study at the University of Sydney (B.Ec., 1923); after completing his degree, he resumed work with the department, then moved to the petty sessions branch of the Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice.

At St Anne's Anglican Church, Ryde, on 22 January 1927 Keane married 19-year-old Daphne Elizabeth Fanny Whitmore. Following their honeymoon in Canberra, Frank accepted a post with the Federal Capital Commission. Transferring to the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, in 1930 he was appointed clerk of the Federal Capital Territory's new Court of Petty Sessions; from 1931 he was also registrar of companies. He lectured part time in accountancy (1930-32) and public administration (1931) at Canberra University College. In 1933 he was designated the Territory's registrar (titles and courts) and in 1939 his position became clerk of courts and registrar of the courts and titles office. From 1949 he was resident magistrate and coroner in the Australian Capital Territory.

For some twelve years Keane was the sole stipendiary magistrate in the A.C.T., sitting almost daily at the court-house in Northbourne Avenue, or at Jervis Bay during his monthly visits there. Members of the legal profession and the police found him competent and just. He was unfailingly courteous, and particularly considerate to immigrants and children. Slightly built and about 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, he was a quiet, intelligent man, friendly and warm hearted, with a sense of humour and a sound knowledge of the law. Court business increased as the capital grew, but Keane was, perhaps, a trifle bored towards the end of his career: he loved his cigarettes and coffee, and managed to spend long recesses with other court officers in Leo's Café. In the 1960s he helped to draft a new code of criminal law for the A.C.T.

Keane had enjoyed jujitsu and boxing in his youth; in later life he preferred reading, painting (mainly landscapes and seascapes) and holidaying with his family at their beach home at Rosedale, near Batemans Bay, New South Wales. An associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, a member of the Artists Society of Canberra (president 1962-63) and a Rotarian, he had been president (1946-48) of the A.C.T. division of the Australian Red Cross Society and served on its national council. He retired on 25 October 1966 and was officially farewelled at a ceremony in the Court of Petty Sessions. Survived by his wife and son, he died of a coronary occlusion on 25 April 1971 at Braddon and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Canberra Times, 25, 26 Oct 1966, 26 Apr, 3, 11 Aug 1971
  • Artists Society of Canberra papers, 1961-69 (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Sheila Tilse, 'Keane, Francis Charles Patrick (1901–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 July 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 October, 1901
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


25 April, 1971 (aged 69)
Braddon, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.