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Vale, William Mountford Kinsey (1833–1895)

by Joy E. Parnaby

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

This is a shared entry with Richard Tayler Vale

William Mountford Kinsey Vale (1833-1895), by unknown engraver, 1880

William Mountford Kinsey Vale (1833-1895), by unknown engraver, 1880

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN09/10/80/189

William Mountford Kinsey Vale (1833-1895), and Richard Tayler Vale (1836-1916), politicians and booksellers, were born on 10 August 1833 and 30 August 1836 in London, sons of John Vale, bookseller, and his wife Elizabeth, née Tayler (Taylor). Richard was educated at Cowper Street school and worked for two years with a wholesale stationer. In March 1853 they arrived with their parents and sisters in Melbourne in the Blackheath. The family settled at Castlemaine where the brothers set up in partnership as booksellers and newsagents in 1854. Richard soon went to Beechworth and William moved to Ballarat.

In 1859 at Hackney, London, William married Rachel Lennox. They returned to Victoria and, as a liberal with a keen interest in protection, Vale represented Ballarat West in the Legislative Assembly from November 1864 to August 1865 and from September 1865 to April 1869. He was vice-president of the Board of Land and Works and commissioner of public works from July 1866 to May 1868 and commissioner of trade and customs from July 1868 to May 1869, when he resigned on principle in an attempt to prevent the return of Charles Edwin Jones. Unsuccessful in the May by-election, in October he won Collingwood which he represented until March 1874 when he did not stand for re-election. In 1870 he was a member of the royal commission on the civil service, and from November 1871 to June 1872 he was commissioner of trade and customs in the Duffy ministry; but his fighting spirit did not allay the fear and distrust stirred up by the Irish Catholic leadership and the policy of the ministry. About 1872 he sold his business in Ballarat to his brother and moved to Melbourne.

In 1874 Vale went to England where he was a member of the Board of Advice to the agent-general. He qualified as a barrister in 1878, returned to Melbourne and next year was admitted to the Victorian Supreme Court. He set up in Temple Court, sharing a room with Alfred Deakin who described him as 'renowned for his democratic proclivities, his strict adherence to total abstinence and its platform, and for his ever bitter tongue'. Vale was prominent in the fight between manufacturers, miners and selectors and the landed and mercantile groups which climaxed at the end of the 1870s; but by the time he had returned to the assembly much of the heat had gone and he was too late to persuade Berry to accept his extreme ideas. In May 1880 he won Fitzroy and from August until July 1881 he was attorney-general and minister of justice in the Berry ministry, effecting what the Age described as 'very necessary' reforms in the Titles Office. He was reputedly a land speculator, and in 1883 the Collingwood Observer attributed his defeat at Emerald Hill to his attendance at a land sale on election day. He was defeated in 1889 as a candidate for Collingwood.

In the 1860s Vale had been interested in the early-closing movement: he felt it was a mockery to have mechanics' institutes and the public library only for the leisured few. He was a trustee of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery in 1872-95 and was a foundation member of the board of the Young Men's Christian Association. As an active Congregationalist he believed that 'the state has nothing to do with religion', but as a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars he was keen to use the state in the temperance cause. In November 1880 at an international temperance conference in Melbourne he moved the resolution which founded the Victorian Alliance.

Vale early advocated protection as the basis of social progress. The tariff was to assist the growth of industry, but the workers must be given technical training. In 1869-70 he was a member of the commission 'upon the promotion of technological and industrial instruction … among the working classes of Victoria'. In the late 1880s he was a founder of the Working Men's College. An enthusiastic treasurer of the 1880-81 Melbourne Exhibition he was chairman of its manufacturers' committee. He was a commissioner of the Centennial International Exhibition in 1887 but had to resign because of ill health. After a visit to England in 1888 he lived quietly until his death from Bright's disease at Collingwood on 23 October 1895. Buried in St Kilda cemetery, he was survived by five of his six daughters and three of his five sons; his daughter Grace graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne and practised in Ballarat in 1896-1915. Deakin described Vale as handsome, 'well-featured, with fine eyes and a ringing mellow voice, abounding in energy, voluble, fairly well-read and a strict Puritan in life and ideals, strong in domestic affections … His faults were an egotism which made him envious and suspicious, a biliousness which made him intolerant and vindictive and a vocabulary which made him a master of personal abuse'.

Richard Tayler Vale visited England in 1860-62 and after his return was a bookseller and newsagent in Smythesdale until 1869. On 7 October 1865 at Newtown near Scarsdale, he married Gertrude Campbell according to the rites of the Wesleyan Church. In 1869 he moved to Ballarat; some three years later he bought his brother's business which he carried on until about 1900. A 'radical of the old school', drawn to political activity but unable to enter parliament before payment of members, he advocated protection. A Congregationalist and a temperance worker, in 1871 with Henry Bell he organized the Ballarat Liberal Association and in 1875 the first National Reform League. He represented Ballarat West in 1886-89 and in 1892-1902 and was minister without office under (Sir) George Turner from September 1894 to August 1896, when he resigned from the government on issues arising from his membership of the sub-committee of cabinet inquiring into possible retrenchments. He was a vehement advocate of White Australia.

Strongly interested in mining, Vale held shares in most of the Sebastopol mines. He was on the council and for some years was vice-president of the Ballarat School of Mines. He took a course in assay and metallurgy, and from May 1911 was librarian for the Geological Survey, Department of Mines and Forests, in Melbourne. He did much for Ballarat and was keen for it to be the centre of a network of railway extensions. He was at one time deputy-master of the Loyal Orange Lodge, and in 1911 won a plebiscite conducted by the Ballarat Courier to determine the 'grand old man of Ballarat'. On 18 June 1916 he died of bronchitis and heart failure at Ballarat North; survived by three of his five sons and four of his five daughters, he was buried in the Ballarat new cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Deakin, The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881, J. A. La Nauze and R. M. Crawford eds (Melb, 1957)
  • Age (Melbourne), Argus (Melbourne), Ballarat Courier, 24 Oct 1895, 19 June 1916
  • Ballarat Star, 24 Oct 1895, 19 June 1916
  • Observer (Collingwood), 31 Oct 1895
  • Table Talk, 31 May 1895
  • A. M. Mitchell, Temperance and the Liquor Question in Later Nineteenth Century Victoria (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1966).

Citation details

Joy E. Parnaby, 'Vale, William Mountford Kinsey (1833–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vale-william-mountford-kinsey-4770/text7931, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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