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Vincent Patrick (Vin) Daly (1915–1996)

by Tom Carey

Vincent Patrick Daly Marist Brother. Born Heyfield, Victoria, March 15, 1915. Died Bendigo, Victoria, August 21, aged 81.

Marist Brother Vin Daly allowed his life to be guided by his religious vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability, and so became many things he never sought to be. Serving the Marist Society across eastern Australia and Papua New Guinea, he was hailed variously as a saint, hero, teacher, entrepreneur, sportsman, coach and mentor, matrimonial counsellor and psychologist.

Divine providence, in which he believed so literally that even his own large family agreed he could not be trusted with a gift, took Brother Egbert (he was widely known by the religious name of his first vows, Egbert Elias, until acceptance of them became optional a quarter century ago) into circumstances that demanded a hero.

In his 64 years service in religion he influenced Australians as disparate as entertainer Bert Newton, the late great Australian cricketer Ray Lindwall and the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, who said Daly was "an outstanding Marist who exemplified the spirit of the order, courage in all things and no compromise with truth or principle". Vincent Patrick Daly was second of six boys and two girls of William and Margaret Daly of Heyfield. Two of the boys — the eldest Francis and the youngest Noel — became priests; two more, Vin and William, became Brothers; and the youngest sister, Margaret, became a nun. Despite intense familiar devotion, as adults they all met together only twice, in 1933 at Mittagong, NSW, when Daly took his first vows and in 1946 at their mother's deathbed at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne.

It is thought that Daly came to be appointed to the then new St Colman's College, Shepparton, from 1952 to 1954 during a conversation between him and the order provincial of the time, Brother Placidus, as they played cricket during the summer break at Assumption College, Kilmore. "We need a man for the new college at Shepparton," Brother Placidus supposedly said at slips. "I'll go," said Daly. If the chat did take place, it was highly unusual. More likely, he was ordered to the post because of his ability.

The school comprised one two-room prefabricated aluminium building and the Brothers' "monastery", the old Rice family home next door to St Brendan's presbytery. Daly coaxed the loan of a large tapestry depicting St Peter's Basilica that he saw in a parishioner's home; it covered a fist-wide floor to ceiling crack in the monastery lounge room wall.

The first principal, Brother Bernard McGann, was critically ill with rheumatic fever and Daly was appointed acting director. To raise funds, he appealed to the parents of the 110 boys in the first enrolment — and anyone else who might help, regardless of religion or race.

His first "rabbit drive", in 40C heat, yielded more than 600 pairs. The truckload was garaged overnight in the Shepparton butter factory; the refrigeration failed and the entire load had to be buried in a pit in the red gum forests lining the banks of the Goulburn River. But the next weekend, "Eggie" and his men tried again.

He also borrowed farmers' trucks for bottle drives in Shepparton and the district. The result puzzled master butcher Fred Moulton, who delivered meat to the St Brendan's presbytery by horse and cart. "I haven't met any of them young brothers of yours yet, lady," he said to the housekeeper. "But, by hell, can they drink!'

Daly was also the force behind the biggest fete the region had ever seen, and other festivities and fund-raisers attended by huge crowds. Not all the events would have withstood legal testing, but most of the police and magistrates were there enjoying the fun, too. Daly literally funded the new college from the proceeds.

He was a brilliant cricketer and handballer, and a fanatical follower of both rugby and Australian Rules. He coached many boys who went on to Victorian Football League-Australian Football League careers, and he could have played for St Brendan's XI in the top Shepparton Cricket Association grade with no fear of belittlement by even its finest players. He chose, instead, to captain a team of his schoolboys in the second grade and coach several under-age teams.

The young Brother Egbert had met teenage Lindwall during his second Marist appointment at Darlinghurst, Sydney, from 1937 to 1939, and was his coach in cricket, rugby league and athletics. They maintained a lifelong friendship — just before Lindwall died recently they were arranging a holiday together in Queensland.

At a time when inter-religious clerical friendship was unusual, Daly and Presbyterian minister Norman Faichney (later to become moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Australia) became close friends and allies in the foundation of permanent, thriving junior football, cricket, tennis, athletics and swimming competitions in the Shepparton district. Egbert's farewell from Shepparton in 1955 was a civic affair involving the entire community. A major regret was that nothing significant could be given to him as a parting gift; not only because of his vow of poverty but because he was notoriously careless in his generosity.

He went on to serve in various other posts, including Hamilton, Darlinghurst, Maitland, Hunter's Hill and Forbes (NSW); Mitchell Park and Mount Gambier (South Australia); East Brunswick, Camberwell, Bulleen, Bendigo, Traralgon, Fitzroy and Kilmore (Victoria); and Goroka (PNG).

In 1983, when the bushfires of Ash Wednesday destroyed large tracts of Victoria, Daly was master of retreats at the Marist Macedon Monastery. He later described the Brothers' situation as "rather ironical" — they fled for their lives before the huge firestorm that engulfed Mount Macedon, then only 30 minutes later accommodated refugees from 60 vehicles seeking a haven on the monastery's front lawn. Later that year, Woman's Day ran a story headed "The Saint of Macedon" with a picture of smiling Brother Vincent before the huge cross that stood on the peak.

After his departure from Macedon and his retirement from teaching, he devoted his final years to the contemplative activities for which he always yearned. For many years he had a series of illnesses he did not always disclose rheumatic fever, hepatitis, malaria, eye cataracts and partial deafness. Kidney tumours were found in 1993.

Daly is survived by his brother Noel, now bishop of Sandhurst at Bendigo, Victoria, and sister Margaret.

Tom Carey is a freelance journalist based in Shepparton.

Original publication

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Citation details

Tom Carey, 'Daly, Vincent Patrick (Vin) (1915–1996)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Brother Egbert Elias

15 March, 1915
Heyfield, Victoria, Australia


21 August, 1996 (aged 81)
Bendigo, Victoria, 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.

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