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Dalton, Norman Francis (1924–2013)

by Alan Gregory

Norman Dalton

Norman Dalton

photo supplied by family

Norman Francis Dalton was born in Ballarat as the only son of five children; his father was a miner who served with the AIF at Gallipoli and France.

Norman joined the State Electricity Commission as an apprentice fitter at the Ballarat power station in 1940 and remained with the SEC until his retirement in 1982. He completed part-time studies at the School of Mines in Ballarat, earning diplomas in both electrical and mechanical engineering before shifting to Melbourne in 1947 to take up a cadet engineer role. He worked in the larger Newport power station, fired by solid fuels. He completed a bachelor of engineering (mechanical) at the University of Melbourne on a SEC scholarship, then in 1949 worked as an engineer at head office.

In 1956, he was awarded an overseas scholarship by the SEC to study brown coal and power station design and construction in Britain and Germany.

His career with the SEC was notable and significant. He played a leading role in the contracting, construction and commissioning of most of the thermal power-generating plants in Victoria, doing so with great efficiency, cost control and working harmoniously with contractors. He held many senior positions, retiring as chief engineer of power for Victoria. On one occasion, when the capping on a Hazelwood chimney was under dispute, he climbed to the top of the stack for a personal inspection – on a temporary ladder.

Instrumental in formulating new ideas for Victorian power projects, he combined a strong intellect, an ability to make valuable contacts and a creative mind to bring these to fruition.

Following his ''official'' retirement, he worked for 20 years with Lurgi Australia, where his contribution was also significant, especially in the introduction of steam-fluidised bed-drying technology for brown coal.

He was active in his professional associations, including as a fellow of the Australian Institute of Energy and serving on the national council.

Norm was also an active member of the Barbarians since 1976, and an office-bearer for 20 years. The Barbarians (Victoria) is a brown coal industry ''fraternity'' established in the 1960s by those associated with the brown coal industry in Victoria who had close ties with their counterparts in Germany. The group takes its name from Saint Barbara, the patron saint of the German brown coal industry, and more generally of miners, gunners and those who work with fire and explosives.

Personal happiness came when Norm met, in St Luke's choir of Fitzroy, a young lady described as a ''striking strawberry blonde'' – one Norma Twyford, a former WRAN. The marriage in 1949 of a Twyford and Dalton (albeit not Royal) was described by some as the historic joining of two great names in sanitary porcelain. The Norm and Norma combination was a truly wonderful one – and family was very important to both of them. While in Germany, Norm used to tell inquiring young people that in Australia, when you took a wife she not only took your family name but also her husband's abbreviated first name, adding ''A'' at the end. In 2012, he and Norma celebrated 63 years together, but Norma died five weeks later.

Despite his considerable professional achievements, Norm had other strong interests. Possessing a magnificent voice, he was the leading tenor in the choir of St Paul's Cathedral for more than 20 years, during the period Lance Hardy was organist and choirmaster. Norm was much sought-after to sing in other choirs and groups, including Gilbert and Sullivan productions, the Victorian Welsh Choir, and choirs at Somers Camp and various churches, including his own parish, St Augustine's in Mont Albert North, where a packed church celebrated his life. He was also a keen member of the Friends of Anglican Music.

Norman made a special contribution in a long association with the youth organisation Lord Somers Camp and Power House – the combination of great fun and a sense of serving others was irresistible to him. He held many roles from 1963 onwards with the camp: technical staff, group leader, executive officer, aqua club, drama club, constructor of sets, restorer of the mission organ and, inevitably, choir leader. He kept attending camp until 2012. Happily for Norm, many members of his family were also to participate in Somers Camp and Power House. He embraced the spirit of Somers in its quest for serving others without thought of recognition.

His work was, nonetheless, recognised in many ways. In 2002, he was awarded the Sir Willis Connolly Memorial Medal by the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, jointly with the Barbarians.

Lord Somers Camp awarded him the prestigious Camp Chief's Award, and he achieved national recognition when in 2009 he was awarded an AM – a member of the Order of Australia.

Norm was active and independent into his late 80s, but declined following the death of Norma in 2012, with the onset of dementia and other degenerative conditions.

Norman Dalton is survived by his five children – Warwick, Roger, Adrienne, Robyn and Tamar - two sisters and 14 grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2013

Citation details

Alan Gregory, 'Dalton, Norman Francis (1924–2013)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dalton-norman-francis-27595/text34983, accessed 13 December 2017.

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