Michael Daly, who died aged 77 in Pietermaritzburg last week, was an attorney, city councillor, director of companies and president of The Natal Society.
Born in Barberton in 1931, the son of a state veterinarian, he came to Pietermaritzburg as a schoolboy when his father was transferred to Allerton. He went to school at Michaelhouse, and then completed a BA at the University of Natal, followed by an Ll.B.
In 1956 he was admitted as an attorney, conveyancer and notary public of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Natal Provincial Division, and was later also admitted as a solicitor in the High Court of Swaziland.
Daly practised as an attorney for many years in Pietermaritzburg, retiring in 1985 to become the assistant general manager and legal adviser of the Central Timber Co-op. He later became general manager of the Central Timber Fire Protection Co-op Ltd, which became Safire, and retired in 1999.
He was active in public life as a city councillor between 1961 and 1968 until obliged to resign due to the pressures of his legal work. In 1975, the administrator of Natal appointed him a member of the Town Planning Appeals Board, of which he served as chairman from 1977 to 1985.
He was a director of various companies, chairman of the Pietermaritzburg Philharmonic Society from 1961 to 1980, and president, from 1986 to 1998, of The Natal Society, which then ran the PMB public library on behalf of the city council.
When the Msunduzi Municipality assumed control of the library, he was instrumental in separating the accounts and holdings of the society from those of the library and establishing the Natal Society Foundation Trust, of which he was a trustee and chairman from its inception in 1998 until his death. The special collections of The Natal Society, comprising the libraries of William O’Brien and Alan Hattersley, were transferred to the Alan Paton Centre at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Former director of the Natal Society Library, Shona Wallis, spoke warmly of Daly’s “ability to turn a meeting into a lively and amusing event, his command of the English language and his quirky sense of humour”.
Former secretary of the society, Pat McKenzie, recalled him as “an attorney of total integrity, who was very principled, which some may have mistaken for stubbornness; and a respecter of tradition, with a sense of history”.
Daly is survived by his wife Marlene, four children of a previous marriage and eight grandchildren.
As a boy, he was taken by his father to St George’s Garrison Church. In his later years its worship and welfare became the great passion of his life and as chapel warden, he was responsible for significant improvements to its fabric. His funeral service takes place there at 10 am on Thursday.