Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David Mortimer Davies (1840–1894)

by Kerreen M. Reiger

This article was published:

David Mortimer Davies (1840?-1894), politician, was born in Blaina, Monmouthshire, England, son of Thomas Davies, miner, and his wife Annie, née Lewis. He was educated for the church at Brecon Independent College, Monmouthshire, but doubts about his religious calling led him to forsake the ministry for farming and mining. He arrived in Adelaide in 1866 and served the Welsh congregation at Wallaroo. Next year he moved to Victoria and settled at Ross Creek in the Buninyong district. There he ministered to the Welsh Congregationalists in the mining communities around Sebastopol, Smythesdale and Scarsdale. When his liberal views became unacceptable to his deacons, he resigned and was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly for Grenville in 1877. His election was challenged on the ground that he was a minister of religion, but the objection failed and he represented Grenville until 1894. A strong liberal and protectionist, he acted as whip in the Berry government and sat on many royal commissions. As a staunch member of the earlier National Liberal League and a persistent advocate of Liberal policies, he resented Alfred Deakin's coalition with the Conservatives under Gillies in 1886. In letters to Deakin he emphasized his long and costly loyalty and pressed his claim for recompense as minister of mines. When Deakin rejected this plea, Davies relented and accepted appointment as minister without portfolio in October 1887. In June 1889 he became commissioner of public works and vice-president of the Board of Land and Works in the coalition government and was minister of mines from June to November 1890.

Davies was also prominent in local government. He served on the Buninyong Borough Council for many years, was elected mayor three times and was a justice of the peace for the Southern Bailiwick. Well known especially in the Ballarat district as an amateur astronomer, he delivered the inaugural lecture at the opening of the Ballarat observatory. His many other interests ranged from entomology to mineralogical and geological collections, the spectrum, telephone and phonograph. In the Welsh community he was particularly prominent; he emphasized the contribution of the Welsh to British greatness rather than narrow Welsh patriotism. After 1890 poor health reduced his public activities and in 1893 he suffered such severe loss in the bank crisis that he had to part with his beloved home at Buninyong. After protracted illness he died aged 54 in Errard Street South, Ballarat, on 18 June 1894 and was buried in the Ballarat old cemetery with many Buninyong councillors as pall-bearers. The Legislative Assembly adjourned for the day as a mark of respect to a member who, without taking a leading role in debates, had given long and faithful service in the House. He was survived by his wife Sarah, née Phillips, and by five sons and one daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melbourne, 1888)
  • J. Hughes, Australia Revisited (London, 1891)
  • Age (Melbourne), 19-21 June 1894
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 June 1894
  • Ballarat Courier, 19, 20 June 1894
  • S. M. Ingham, Some Aspects of Victorian Liberalism (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1950)
  • Deakin letters, 1540/6866-71 (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Kerreen M. Reiger, 'Davies, David Mortimer (1840–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 25 May 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]


Blaina, Monmouthshire, Wales


18 June, 1894 (aged ~ 54)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

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