Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Dayal Singh (1901–1962)

by Annette Potts

This article was published:

Dayal Singh (1901-1962), engineering contractor, was born on 1 July 1901 at Wyrallah, New South Wales, only child of Indian-born parents Diyal Singh, farmer, and his wife Patapa, née Singh (d.1924). Among the first Indian families to settle in the Richmond River district, the Singhs moved to Lismore about 1904. Diyal gradually gave up market gardening for building. He was an experienced carpenter, having worked for Lewis Jones & Co. on the Assam-Bengal Railway. Despite efforts to deny Indian-born British subjects the vote, his name was entered on the Commonwealth electoral roll in 1906 and his wife's in 1909. Young Dayal attended Lismore Public School, then joined his father as a carpenter—building glasshouses, cow bails, cottages and schoolhouses. A motorbike enthusiast, he won the North Coast Motor Cycle Club's 100-mile (161 km) reliability trial at the age of 21. On 21 June 1924, against her father's wishes, he married Ethel Agnes Vidler at St Andrew's Church of England, Lismore.

Diyal Singh moved to Tenterfield in 1931, leaving his son to run Diyal Singh & Son. Dayal expanded the joinery and developed other interests. Exempted from military service because he was a diabetic, he undertook building contracts at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Evans Head during World War II. He had an inventive nature, kept a notebook and pen by his bed to jot down ideas, and designed a hole-digger for transmission poles.

On 1 July 1951 he established Dayal Singh Transmissions Pty Ltd (transmission lines), Dayal Singh Constructions Pty Ltd (civil engineering) and Dayal Singh Pty Ltd (joinery works). He set up Dayal Singh Tyre Service Pty Ltd (tyre-retreading) in 1954 and later acquired a ready-mixed concrete plant. Major public-works contracts completed under his direction included an earth dam at Rocky Creek for Lismore's water supply, the Dungowan Dam for Tamworth, wharves in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and sixty miles (97 km) of road in the Northern Territory. In 1962 Dayal Singh Constructions was engaged in building a lift-span bridge where the Pacific Highway crosses the Richmond River at Wardell, at a cost of more than £360,000.

After attending an open-air meeting conducted by John Ridley, a Baptist evangelist, in October 1929 at Lismore, Singh had become a Christian. For three decades the Baptist Church benefited from his initiative and industry; at different times he served as deacon, treasurer and cemetery trustee. In 1955 he and his wife attended the Baptist World Congress in London, following which they visited the Punjab, India, in an unsuccessful search for family connexions. Five years later the large family house of his youth at 136 Orion Street, Lismore, became a rest home for the aged. He was a member of the Northern Rivers Aero Club, the Rotary Club of Lismore, and the North Coast National Agricultural and Industrial Society.

Singh died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 3 October 1962 at Lismore hospital and was buried with Baptist forms in the local cemetery; his wife, and their son and three daughters survived him. An obituarist described him as 'one of Lismore's great citizens'. A memorial window in the Baptist chapel at Evans Head bears witness to his faith.

Select Bibliography

  • Goodyear News, Feb-Mar 1963
  • Bulletin (Richmond River Historical Society), Dec 1993
  • Northern Star (Lismore), 12, 19 Oct 1929, 5, 6 Oct 1962
  • Northern Daily Leader, 5 Oct 1962
  • Singh papers (Richmond River Historical Society, Lismore)
  • private information.

Citation details

Annette Potts, 'Singh, Dayal (1901–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 July, 1901
Wyrallah, New South Wales, Australia


3 October, 1962 (aged 61)
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.