Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ivor William Evans (1887–1960)

by John Ritchie

This article was published:

Ivor William Evans (1887-1960), flag designer and canvas goods manufacturer, was born on 24 July 1887 at Carlton, Melbourne, third son of Evan Evans (d.1927), a tentmaker from Wales, and his Tasmanian-born wife Sally Clara, née Russell. While attending Princes Hill State School, at the age of 13 Ivor entered a competition announced by the prime minister's office on 29 April 1901 to design a Federal flag. Each entrant was required to submit, under a nom de plume, two coloured sketches—'one for the merchant service, and one for naval or official use'—by 31 May. According to one reckoning, 32,823 entries were received. At 2.30 on the afternoon of 3 September a flag made to the winning design was unfurled above the dome of the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, and flapped breezily in a strong sou'-westerly.

The prize of £200 was shared by five people who had independently submitted almost identical designs: Annie Dorrington, L. J. Hawkins, E. J. Nuttall, William Stevens and Evans. Their winning entries gave place of honour (top left of the hoist) to the Union Jack; beneath it a large white star was featured, with six points (one for each State in the Commonwealth); in the fly the Southern Cross appeared (almost vertical, composed of five smaller white stars in stylized form). Evans regarded the three symbols as representing—respectively—loyalty to the British Empire, the component parts that had united under Federation, and Australia's geographical relationship to the rest of the world. King Edward VII approved the design which was gazetted on 20 February 1903 and specified a blue ground for the ensign and a red for the merchant flag.

Proceeding on a scholarship to Box Hill Grammar School in 1902, Evans was employed by the Commercial Bank of Australia from April 1904 and rose to be manager of its branch at Chillingollah. On 13 January 1913 he joined his father's firm (founded 1877, Evan Evans Pty Ltd from 1920) which manufactured canvas goods. Located at 680 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, it employed a staff of nine. Ivor was admitted to partnership in 1914. By the end of World War I the firm had made 354,581 items for the armed services. In 1924 it acquired land at 632 Bourke Street on which to build a new factory, and in 1938 opened a bulk store at 212 Pelham Street, Carlton. Employees numbered 109 in 1952. Evan Evans held agencies for three British firms, and had outlets for its own goods in Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

On 27 January 1917 at St Michael's Anglican Church, North Carlton, Ivor had married 21-year-old Stella Coles Arthur. He was managing director (1922-56) of the company and guided it through the Depression when he rarely placed his workers on short time. In January 1944 the Commonwealth Department of Supply appointed him honorary controller of canvas goods. During World War II his firm produced flags, tents, haversacks, waterbags, troughs, baths, aprons, chairs, beds, sleeping-bags, hammocks, tarpaulins and stretchers for the Allies. As head of one of Australia's largest manufacturers of its kind, Evans felt entitled to exploit his role as a designer of the nation's flag to promote his company's business. Believing that his fellow citizens 'were not one bit flag conscious', he continued to publish new editions of his booklet, The History of the Australian Flag (1918). In 1952 Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies was asked in the House of Representatives to correct any false impression that the booklet may have made as to Evans being the sole designer of the country's flag.

From his youth, Evans loved sport and the outdoors. In later life he belonged to the Commercial Travellers' Association, and the Kingston Heath Golf and Melbourne Cricket clubs. He barracked for the Carlton Football Club, drove an Austin Cambridge motorcar and was an early devotee of television. Five ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, with a strong brow and a sparkle in his eyes, he was direct and gruff in manner, but fair minded, warm hearted and generous by nature. His family was his chief source of happiness and relaxation. Evans died on Anzac Day 1960 at his Beaumaris home and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at £64,761. His wife survived him, as did two of their sons; the other son Thomas Guy had been killed in action off Timor with the Royal Australian Air Force in 1945.

Select Bibliography

  • Evan Evans Pty Ltd, 75 Years of Service and Progress (Melb, 1952)
  • F. Cayley, Beneath the Southern Cross (Syd, 1980)
  • Review of Reviews for Australasia, 20 Sept 1901
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Jan 1944
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Apr 1960
  • Herald (Melbourne), 27 Apr 1960
  • CRS A1 1904/4897, A461 B336/1/1, A462 828/1/7 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Ritchie, 'Evans, Ivor William (1887–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 July, 1887
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


25 April, 1960 (aged 72)
Beaumaris, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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