Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Bain (?–1823)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

James Bain (flourished 1789-1794), chaplain, joined the New South Wales Corps on 5 June 1789. Before leaving Portsmouth, England, he discussed with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel its proposal to extend assistance to the colony by offering £10 a year compensation to schoolmasters, thus encouraging reformation of morals through the instruction of the young. Bain won the support of the archbishop of Canterbury for this project, acting as a spokesman for Major Francis Grose of the corps; Grose was then given the power to appoint schoolmasters but does not seem to have been able to do so. 

Bain sailed in H.M.S. Gorgon and arrived in New South Wales on 21 September 1791. After his arrival he did duty for a short time at Parramatta and during Richard Johnson's absence he performed divine service at Sydney as well. In January 1792 Governor Arthur Phillip sent Bain to Norfolk Island, where he acted as a magistrate with Dr William Balmain. Philip Gidley King praised both for their success in discouraging crime. When Grose arrived, he did not insist that Bain return to duty with the corps. Bain remained at Norfolk Island for some time, and in November 1793 accompanied King to New Zealand to return the two Maoris who had been teaching the settlers to manufacture flax. In February 1794 Grose recalled Bain to Sydney. In October he received a grant of 100 acres (40 ha) in the Field of Mars where the Dundas Council Chambers now stand; this land later passed into the hands of John Macarthur.

On 17 December 1794 Bain sailed for England in the Daedalus for reasons of health. He wished either to go out of the army or exchange to another regiment, but it seems evident that he resigned, for although he appears on Army Lists until 1797 as chaplain of the New South Wales Corps, he did not join another regiment.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 2, 3
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 1
  • J. Jervis, The Story of Dundas (Syd, 1939)
  • manuscript catalogue under J. Bain (State Library of New South Wales)
  • letters to Society for the Propagation of the Gospel from Bain and Johnson on education in New South Wales, 1789-1799 (microfilm, State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Bain, James (?–1823)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 September, 1823
Easter Liviland, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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