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Foy, Mark (1830–1884)

by Cecily Close

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Mark Foy (1830-1884), draper, was born at Moystown, King's County, Ireland, son of Marc Foy, French emigré and flour-miller, and his wife Catherine, née Hennessy. He was educated at Banagher and was reputedly intended for the legal profession but because of family problems he was apprenticed to a drapery firm in Dublin. In 1858 he arrived at Melbourne in the Champion of the Seas. He probably worked first for Buckley & Nunn but in 1859 went to the goldfields. He had a butcher's shop at Campbell's Creek till 1861 when he moved into a produce store at Castlemaine. In 1863 he went to Bendigo where his brother Francis had a wholesale produce business. Early in 1867 Mark went into partnership with Robert Bentley, a storekeeper. In December 1868 he followed a new rush to Spring Creek, in McIvor Shire, where by January 1869 there was said to be 'a business for every claim at work'. The raw settlement suffered great discomforts and at a public meeting in Foy's premises on 24 February he moved that Spring Creek be constituted a borough. He was elected to a committee for planning separation of the town from nearby Heathcote. Despite the declining mining population and bitter opposition from Heathcote, the new borough of Graytown was proclaimed on 9 August 1869 and named after Wilson Gray, a family friend. On 13 September Foy became magistrate for the McIvor General Sessions. He also helped to arrange the first borough election and on 4 November was elected a councillor. However, the town's decline continued and he soon dismantled his shop and went to Melbourne. On 11 February 1870 the partnership with Bentley was dissolved 'by mutual consent'.

Foy set up a new drapery shop in Smith Street, Collingwood, where he prospered, occupying three shops by 1875 and six by 1880. At Carrum Swamp he selected 195 acres (79 ha) in November 1871 and later another 129 acres (52 ha). In November 1882 he settled the Smith Street business on his eldest son Francis, withdrew his capital, brought in William Gibson as Francis's partner and left with his wife for Europe. In San Francisco his health worsened and he died on 14 January 1884. Soon afterwards Francis sold out to Gibson and moved to Sydney to establish a new business under his father's name.

Energetic and resourceful, Foy was described as a 'Liberal Conservative' and was later said to have donated money to Sir James McCulloch's party. He was also sympathetic to the early closing movement. He was married twice: first in Ireland about 1848 to Mary Macken (d.21 March 1879) by whom he had six surviving children; and second in Melbourne to Catherine Power (d.1930) by whom he had one son.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Humphreys (ed), Men of the Time in Australia: Victorian Series (Melb, 1882)
  • Mark Foy's Ltd, The Romance of the House of Foy (Syd, 1935)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 27 May 1874
  • Bendigo Advertiser, 2 Sept 1867–18 May 1869
  • McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser, Jan-Dec 1869
  • Collingwood Advertiser and Observer, Sept-Oct 1870.

Citation details

Cecily Close, 'Foy, Mark (1830–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/foy-mark-3565/text5515, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 30 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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