Nally, William Francis (1890–1961), civil servant, was born 12 July 1890 in Templemore, Co. Tipperary. His father was court clerk at Templemore; his mother was Mary Nally (née McNamee) from near Tralee, Co. Kerry. He had two brothers, Nicholas and Frank, and three sisters, Louise, Margaret, and May. Educated locally, he joined the civil service in Dublin as a post office trainee in 1905, becoming a clerk and telegraphist in 1907. In 1920 he was transferred to north Wales as a supplementary clerk in the engineering department, where he remained for two years. Nally returned to Dublin in 1922 when the post office in Ireland came within the authority of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs on the transfer of political power to the provisional government. He was promoted in 1923 as an inspector in the secretary's office at the General Post Office (GPO), effectively in the role of a higher executive officer. He also held the post of general secretary of the Irish Post Office Workers’ Union (IPOWU) till succeeded in 1924 by William Norton (qv).
In February 1928 Nally transferred to the Land Commission as establishment officer and was promoted chief clerk and establishment officer (June 1931). He went to the Department of Finance as a principal officer in October 1932. His relatively swift progress under the Cumann na nGaedheal government continued under the Fianna Fáil administration. When in 1934 he gave evidence at the commission of inquiry into the civil service (1932–5), chaired by Joseph Brennan (qv) to examine the structure and identity of the post-colonial bureacracy, Nally's own rise to prominence provided a valuable profile of background and experience in the British service prior to independence. Furthermore, he included in his evidence the trenchant opinion that university graduation ought not to be seen as essential in the appointment of civil servants. He claimed to have known and turned away graduates who demanded recognition of their qualifications in seeking promotion but lacked essential skills as administrators.
Appointed a civil service commissioner in 1934, and in 1937 assistant secretary at the Department of Lands, he spent the Emergency years of the second world war as regional commissioner for Co Limerick, Co. Clare, and Co. Tipperary. In 1943 he lost his brother Frank, wireless operator on a ship torpedoed off the coast of South Africa. His other brother, Nicholas, notable as the world's youngest priest (ordained 1911, aged 22), a gifted scholar, and an organiser of the 1928 eucharistic congress in Sydney, died later in Australia. On 6 April 1949 William Nally was appointed secretary of the Department of Lands, a position he retained till his retirement in 1956. In his leisure time he took an interest in various sports, including cricket, soccer, Gaelic games, and horse racing. At golf, he was a distinguished player as a member (and captain in the mid 1940s) of the Woodbrook golf club. He died 18 April 1961 at the Burlington nursing home, Burlington Road, Dublin 4, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.
He married (1 September 1926) Mary Bridget (d. 23 December 1959), daughter of Edward Gilmartin, of The Mount, Ballymacarratt, Belfast and originally of Carrowrile, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, and Martha Gilmartin (née McAlea) of Ballinahinch, Co. Down. His wife, a fellow civil servant, had won first place in her entrance examinations. They had four sons – notably Dermot (a renowned civil servant whose appointments included civil service commissioner, government secretary, and president of the Institute of Public Administration) and Fergal (a doctor, dentist, and artist), both of international distinction – and two daughters. William Nally lived at various south Dublin addresses during his career, including Rathgar, Foxrock, Templeogue and finally 62 Merrion Drive, Ranelagh.