Ney was born in London, England, on May 12, 1918. He was a pilot during the Second World War, serving both in the RAF and the RCAF. He came to Nanaimo in 1946, and began work in real estate with the Nanaimo Realty Company. In 1959, that company purchased Protection Island for $130,000 and subdivided it into 344 lots.
In 1963 he founded the Great National Land and Investment Corporation as a public company. The company immediately purchased Nanaimo Realty Ltd. By 1965, Great National was catering to every niche in the local market: residential, commercial, industrial, revenue, and waterfront.
Ney was first elected mayor on December 9, 1967. He said at that time, one of his first priorities would be to proceed with “Operation Blacktop,” a paving program he planned for city’s streets. For the next seventeen years he never looked back, until November 1984 when Graeme Roberts defeated him. Two years later, he was back in the mayor’s chair and remained mayor until defeated by Joy Leach in 1990.
After his election as mayor, he began promoting the city, and when it needed increased publicity he provided it in abundance. Although the idea for the great bathtub race came from Glen Galloway, it was Ney who championed it and took it as his own, promoting it far and wide. Nanaimo residents remember the not unusual sight of “Black Frank: dressed up in his pirate costume, riding six-foot-high waves and a heavy chop in the bow of his boat, encouraging other tubers to give it their all. He was the first chairman and admiral of the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society, established in 1968 to continue the bathtub race as an annual event.
With all the duties he had on his plate as mayor, it was not enough and he threw his hat into provincial politics, running for the Social Credit Party. He defeated MLA Dave Stupich in the 1969 election, and remained as mayor and MLA until defeated by Stupich in 1972.
The year before, on November 23, 1971, he hosted Governor General Roland Michener. This was the first official visit by a governor general in forty years. However, Ney considered one of the most memorable visits from a dignitary was in 1983 when he hosted Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during a visit to Nanaimo. He was made Freeman of the City in 1984.
Ney died on November 24, 1992, following a long battle with a cancerous brain tumour. He was seventy-four years old and survived by eleven children and his wife Joyce MacMillan.
Image courtesy of Nanaimo Community Archives
Biography courtesy of Jan Peterson “A Place in Time – Nanaimo Chronicles”