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Sir Frederick George Waley (1860–1933)

by Andrew Moore

This article was published:

Sir Frederick George Waley (1860-1933), colliery manager and businessman, was born on 27 May 1860 near Cavendish Square, London, son of Simon Waley Waley, stockbroker, and his wife Anna Hendelah, née Salomons. Educated at University College School, Frederick served with the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Volunteers in 1877-79. He married 17-year-old Evelyne Jane Crossan (d.1886) on 20 September 1881 at Marylebone parish church; they were to have one daughter.

Arriving in Queensland with his wife in 1883, Waley worked for Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd before moving to Sydney in 1885 as its first secretary. He established the coal business Mitchell & (Woolcott) Waley in 1886 which was absorbed in 1893 by his Sydney-based Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd (founded 1888); thereafter he was general manager and chairman. On 22 February 1887 he married with Anglican rites Edith Maude Woolcott, daughter of a solicitor, at Yarra Flats, Lilydale, Victoria.

A justice of the peace from 1887, Woolcott-Waley was an alderman on North Sydney Municipal Council (1894-96) and campaigned for a deepwater harbour at Port Kembla in 1897. He served with the Volunteer Naval Artillery from 1890, retiring with the rank of lieutenant in 1900. He had divorced his wife in 1898 and on 15 September 1900 married Ethel Kate O'Connor at Christ Church, North Sydney. In 1905 the Waleys moved to Mowbray Park, an 800-acre (324 ha) property at Picton where Frederick proved an efficient manager and established a school for the children of his workers and for those of neighbouring farmers.

During World War I Waley was appointed captain in the Royal Australian Naval Brigade and acted as Commonwealth representative on the Naval Coal Board, officer-in-charge of the Naval Transport Coaling Battalion and president of the Northern and Southern Coal Purchase Board. During the 1917 general strike he enrolled non-union labourers to coal hospital ships and troop transports.

Chairman of the Southern Colliery Proprietors' Association (1920-31), Bundi Tin Dredging Co. in the Federated Malay States, Voxophone Co. (from 1923) and Red Funnel Fisheries Ltd (1927-31), Waley was also a director of W. E. Smith Ltd and Anderson's Industries Ltd (hatters and furriers). He was an executive-member of the New South Wales division of the Australian Red Cross Society, the Big Brother Movement and the Navy League, and a life governor and trustee of the Women's Hospital. His wife gave Mowbray Park with 180 acres (73 ha) of the surrounding land to the Commonwealth government in 1919 as a home for shell-shocked soldiers. Waley was appointed C.B.E. in 1920 and knighted in 1923; having served as honorary vice-consul for Norway since 1908, he was invested knight of the Order of Saint Olaf in 1921.

At times of industrial dispute Waley was a formidable combatant who consistently opposed the demands of the Miners' Federation. At an economic conference in February 1922, he extolled the merits of capitalism while denouncing 'nonsensical talk of revolution and violence'. In October he objected to the extended use of electric lighting in mines, even though traditional oil lighting had resulted in a high incidence of nystagmus among miners. Articulate and deeply conservative, he told the Commonwealth royal commissions on national insurance (August 1925) and on child endowment (November 1927) that any 'recompense for unemployed miners' should not remove 'the incentive to work', and that workers should 'maintain their own children'.

A member of Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron who affected a jaunty nautical appearance and habitually used his naval title, In 1923 he donated the Waley Cup for an annual race. He was interested in polar exploration and helped to equip Captain Scott's Discovery. Clean-shaven, with classically moulded features, he belonged to the Junior Carlton and Bath clubs in London, and at home to the Warrigal, Imperial Service and Royal Sydney Golf clubs; he was also patron of the Woonoona Bowling Club. Sir Frederick died on 29 November 1933 at his Elizabeth Bay home and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, their twin daughters, and by two sons and a daughter of his second marriage. His estate was sworn for probate at £47,285. Waley's portrait by John Longstaff hangs in Mowbray Park, now again in private hands.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian National Review, 18 Jan 1923, p 18
  • Triad (Sydney), 1 Jan 1925, p 28
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20, 23 Jan 1917, 7 May 1921, 28 Feb, 7 Oct 1922, 1 Jan 1923, 3 Feb, 25 Aug 1925, 18 Nov 1927, 10 Jan, 30 June 1930, 30 Nov 1933
  • Illawarra Mercury, 1 Dec 1933
  • B. Burgmann, The Industrialization of Wollongong with Special Reference to Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd (Ph.D. thesis, Macquarie University, 1986)
  • private information.

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Citation details

Andrew Moore, 'Waley, Sir Frederick George (1860–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 8 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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