Harold William Clisby

The Life of a Restless Engineer


Harold Leopold Clisby (Leopold) was born in Norwood in 1877. When he grew up, he then worked for his Father and realized his approach of manufacture was inadequate and out of date. He proceeded to modernize the plant by introducing an internal combustion engine to power the factory and hence dispose of treadle operated sewing machines.

Leopold then married Ethyl Foster, a daughter of a Lawyer and settled down in 101 George Street, Norwood with a large garden covered in fruit trees. Ethyl gave birth to Gwenleanne Ethyl 1905 and two years later to Hilda Margaret followed by Silver however she died of leukemia shortly after she was born.


In 1910 William passed away.


Not satisfied with his father’s old plant, Leopold purchased a very large factory in Grote Street with 400 sewing machines. The entire building was powered by 3 giant DC electric motors. He then produced great quantities of shirts and panamas to supply large outlet organizations with goods. In 1914, the Great War required huge amounts of material for production, the Grote street factory was ideally suited to handle the quantity and Leopold received large orders. Over a hundred miles of gaberdine cloth was cut and sewn into uniforms. During this period, there were many strikes in Adelaide involving the supply of electricity, so Leopold used his 1908 Darraque automobile and later his 1916 Buick as a means of power to drive the factory.


Ethyl gave birth to Harold William on August the third 1912 in George Street, Norwood, followed by Ronald George the following year.

By the age of seven, Harold was sent to a kindergarten school on the Parade, Norwood. A year later, he was transferred to Osmond Terrace third grade school, and then transferred to a secondary school in the same street. During the age of seven, Leopold bought Harold a small round bar bed ‘Wade’ lathe, similar to his 1910 Drummond to keep him out of his workshop.

As an enthusiastic boy of ten, the first radio station started transmitting in Adelaide, which he became interested in and built a crystal set from plans in magazines. He then made a number of radios to sell to his friends.


After the Great War had ended, Leopold decided to take a trip to Streaky Bay on the steamboat Karrata via Port Lincoln, which provided transportation for the family and their 1916 Buick automobile. The passage was an extremely rough one and Leopold’s wife Ethyl took ill.

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