Mr David Lyon McLarty

David Lyon McLarty

David Lyon McLarty (1889-1962), engineer and dockyard director, was born on 22 September 1889 at Penang, Straits Settlements (Malaysia), son of Farquhar Matheson McLarty, mechanical engineer, and his wife Wilhelmina, née Lyon. Educated at the Collegiate School, Greenock, and at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, Lyon was apprenticed to Scott & Sons, shipbuilders and repairers. He transferred to the firm's drawing office, joined John Brown & Co Ltd, shipbuilders of Clydebank, and became Assistant Works Manager with Barclay, Curie & Co Ltd, shipbuilders. On 2 April 1921 at St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, he married with Episcopalian rites Meta Dusha Tucker, an office manageress; they were to have no children, but gave ready affection to those of friends. From 1922 McLarty was based in China as Assistant General Manager of the Shanghai Dock & Engineering Co Ltd. Reaching Sydney in 1925, he joined the staff of Cockatoo Island Dockyard. He managed the engineering firm of Morison & Bearby Ltd at Newcastle in 1927-37 and Robison Bros & Co Pty Ltd in Melbourne in 1937-39, and was a Director (1939-40) of Malleys Ltd in Sydney.

Due to the exigencies of World War II, the McKell Government decided in 1941 to build a State dockyard at Newcastle, using much of the plant and buildings from the Walsh Island Dockyard and Engineering Works which had ceased operations eight years earlier. McLarty was appointed Director. The dockyard at Carrington launched its first vessel in July 1943. By 1945 it employed 1329 people and had built two vessels for the RAN and twenty-two for the United States; it had also repaired six hundred ships and completed other engineering projects. At the end of 1957 the vessels built numbered forty-seven and the site had grown to 30 acres (12ha), well equipped with workshops, berths and a floating dock. Total turnover was £22.5 million.

Appointed OBE in 1954, in the following year McLarty urged his staff to appreciate their workplace and what they produced: 'especially does this apply to the creation of a ship [beyond] which there is no more interesting and comprehensive product of man'. He retired in 1957, declaring that he had been fortunate in his life and colleagues. Former staff and neighbours recalled his outgoing personality, leadership, considerate nature, and his modest residence amid the Newcastle establishment on The Hill overlooking the harbour. Tall and genial, he enjoyed playing golf and bowls, and belonged to the Newcastle Club, the Royal Automobile Club of Australia and the Rotary Club of Newcastle.

McLarty also practised as a part-time consulting engineer and was founding Chairman of the Newcastle Industrial Promotion Panel. He was President (1947-48) of the Newcastle division, Institution of Engineers, Australia, and a Member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, the North-East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, England (1946-62), and the New South Wales Electricity Commission (1950-57). A Council-Member (1957-62) of the University of New South Wales, he was Foundation Chairman (1962) of the council of Newcastle University College.

Five days after his wife's death, McLarty died on 30 November 1962 at Royal Newcastle Hospital and was cremated. He had left an indelible mark on the industry and city.

LE Fredman