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Benjamin Darley (1811–1864)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

Benjamin Darley (1811-1864), captain and merchant, was born in February 1811 in Dublin, son of Benjamin Darley, master mariner, and his wife Mary Catherine, née Deey. He went to sea and by 21 had his own command in the West Indian trade. He arrived at Sydney in February 1840 as captain of the Eweretta, 356 tons, owned by Ellice & Co. of London. By 1847 he had made seven voyages with merchandise from London and wool from Sydney. After 1844, under contract to Robert Towns, he made his return voyages through the Fiji and Samoan islands for sandalwood. On 6 February 1847 at Trinity Church, Sydney, Darley married Katharine, daughter of D'Arcy Wentworth and Ann Lawes. With his bride he sailed in the Eweretta, arrived in London in July, sold his share in the ship and returned to Sydney on 26 December. In the next four years he ran a sheep station at Wellington Valley, but in the gold rush sold the station. With Towns as partner he bought the patent slip at Balmain, later moving it to Darling Harbour. They also acquired several ships in the eastern trade, including the Phoenix, Onyx and Vernon. About 1860 Darley's affairs seem to have floundered, and in May Towns wrote that Darley 'will never lose and I question if he will ever gain by adventure'.

Darley helped to found the Sydney Exchange in 1852 and was a director for life. In 1854 he joined the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, was auditor in 1856, director in 1857 and committee member for life. After 1857 he was a director of the Australian Gaslight Co. and the Waratah Coal Co. Towns and Darley were also agents for the Derwent and Tamar Fire, Life and Marine Insurance Co. In June 1854 he became a non-official member of the Steam Navigation Board, and of the Pilot Board from July 1857 until March 1862 when he was dismissed with Henry Thomas Fox and Charles Smith. He was also rear-commodore of the Sydney Yacht Club. He died on 22 June 1864, leaving an estate of £16,000, and was buried in St Jude's cemetery, Randwick. He was survived by a son and four daughters. In November 1867 his widow married William Thomas Bassett, stock and station agent, and after long effort disposed profitably of estates inherited from her father. She died in London on 14 November 1898; her probate was valued at £73,000, mostly derived from her father's estate.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Forbes, History of Sydney (Sydney, 1926)
  • D. Shineberg, They Came for Sandalwood (Melbourne, 1967)
  • Select Committee on the Pilot Board Evidence, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1862, vol 2, 1086
  • W. J. Lyons, ‘Prominent Business Figures of Sydney in the 1850's’, Bulletin of the Business Archives Council of Australia, May 1957, pp 1-11
  • Robert Towns papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Wentworth papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Darley papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Darley, Benjamin (1811–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


February, 1811
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


22 June, 1864 (aged 53)
New South Wales, Australia

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