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William Ievers (1818–1901)

by Sylvia Morrissey

This article was published:

William Ievers (1818-1901), estate agent, was born on 22 December 1818 at Limerick, Ireland, son of George Hawkins Ievers of Mount Ievers, County Clare, and his wife Margaret, née O'Shaughnessy. The Ievers were a prominent Anglican county family and claimed descent from a sixteenth-century English peer. Ievers early became a Roman Catholic, following his mother's religion; he may also have been influenced by the Oxford movement. Although his family wanted him to be a doctor he joined the navy at 15. He saw action in Constantinople, the Greek archipelago and in 1836-37 the wars of the Spanish succession. He married Mary Harrison of Limerick on 26 July 1838. In that year he transferred to the mercantile marine and as a master sailed to the Spanish Main, Chile, Peru, Canada and the South Seas. Sometime before 1848 he retired from the sea and settled in Dublin as a merchant.

Ievers decided to migrate and with his wife and six children sailed in the Rienzi as purser, arriving in Melbourne on 22 April 1855. The family lived first at Madeline (Swanston) Street. Ievers first worked as a storeman and packer for a softgoods firm, and in 1859 started his own real estate business. His agency was in Cardigan Street, Carlton, and from there moved to its present site in Lygon Street in 1886. A second office, opened in Collins Street in 1885, became a focal point for auctions in Melbourne. The Ievers firm was one of the largest in Melbourne and flourished in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1862 Ievers began his association with the Melbourne Corporation and was rate collector and valuer for twenty-five years. In 1875 he had joined the executive of the Victorian Protection League. He was vice president of the National Reform and Protection League which was the basis of Liberal organization for the 1877 election. He contested North Melbourne and Carlton in the Legislative Assembly without success and in 1880 was again vice-president of the Reform League.

In 1890 the Ievers family moved to their newly-built home, Mount Ievers, in Royal Parade. The firm came unscathed through the depression of the early 1890s as Ievers had relied on commissions rather than speculations during the land boom. However, his investments did include interests in the Colonial Permanent Building Society, of which he was a founder and director. He supported many charities and as early as 1861 had helped to form the benefit system of the St Patrick's Society. His children were educated at St George's School, Carlton, and he contributed to building the Church of the Sacred Heart (St George's). He was a justice of the peace from the late 1880s and in 1895 was elected city councillor for Smith ward in place of his eldest son who died that year. Irish affairs still interested him; he had visited Ireland in 1890 with William junior and the Freedom of the City of Limerick was bestowed on them. His impressions of the trip were recorded in Fifty Years After; or, Old Scenes Revisited A.D. 1890 (Melbourne, 1894). He subscribed to Devlin and Dillon's fund for the Home Rule cause.

His wife Mary died in 1898 and Ievers on 14 January 1901. Archbishop Thomas Carr, who had often visited Mount Ievers, presided at the funeral. Ievers's liberal and tolerant views had enabled him to exercise a moderating influence in Church affairs and the young men who attended his seminars on economics and politics were also impressed by his liberalism. He left an estate of about £100,000. His son George erected a memorial statue to him over a drinking fountain in Argyle Place, Carlton. Terrace houses built by Ievers still survive and near-by streets bear his name.

The eldest son, William, was born on 17 November 1839. After experience in a grocery business and a warehouse, he joined his father's firm as a partner in 1880. The first in the family to win an election, he entered the City Council for Carlton South in 1881 and held the seat until 1895. He shared his father's political views, and after two defeats was elected in 1892 to the Legislative Assembly for Carlton, on a protectionist platform. He supported the Shiels ministry, female franchise and, through the National League of Victoria, the Irish Home Rule movement. When the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was formed in 1890 he became a commissioner. His interests included amateur acting; he was an original member of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society and also joined the Garrick Club. In 1878 he was a committee member of the Melbourne Athenaeum and its president in 1880. With his brothers and friends he founded the Beefsteak Club in 1886; its objects were to promote good fellowship and conversation upon things 'philosophic, literary, music, artistic and social' and was patterned on the old club in London. William supported many charities and was a justice of the peace. He presided over the royal commission on banking for only a few sessions before he had a rowing accident and died suddenly on 19 February 1895. After a Mass at St George's, Carlton, he was buried at Melbourne general cemetery, his funeral procession including members of the Carlton Football Club of which he had been a vice-president. He was unmarried.

The second son, George Hawkins, was born on 24 August 1845. He too joined the family firm and on his father's death in 1901 filled the vacant seat on the Melbourne City Council. A justice of the peace, he was on the committee for the Talbot Epileptic Colony, contributed to the Homoeopathic Hospital and served on the boards of the Immigrants' Homes and the Women's Hospital. He set up the William and Mary Ievers Trust which still contributes to charity. He died on 15 July 1921, survived by his wife Marianne, née Webb. They had no children. His statue is at the corner of Gatehouse Street and the Avenue, Parkville.

The third son, Robert Lancelot, was born in 1854 at Dublin. He shared the family interest in charities and was a member of the board of the Homoeopathic Hospital for nineteen years from 1891, and on the committee of management of the Austin Hospital in 1892-1903. Unmarried, he died on 29 October 1910.

Select Bibliography

  • J. F. Deegan, Chronicles of the Melbourne Beefsteak Club (Melb, 1890)
  • A. Henry, Memoirs of Alice Henry (Melb, 1944)
  • Table Talk, 14 Feb 1890, 5 May 1893
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 23 Feb 1895, 19 Jan 1901
  • Carlton Gazette, 23 Feb 1895
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 23 Feb 1895
  • Illustrated Australian News, 1 Mar 1895
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 Jan 1901
  • Herald (Melbourne), 15 Jan 1901
  • J. E. Parnaby, The Economic and Political Development of Victoria, 1877-1881 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1951)
  • G. R. Bartlett, Political Organization and Society in Victoria 1864-1883 (Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1964)
  • R. E. Kennedy, The Charity Organization Movement in Melbourne, 1887-97 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1967).

Citation details

Sylvia Morrissey, 'Ievers, William (1818–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 28 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]


22 December, 1818
Limerick, Limerick, Ireland


14 January, 1901 (aged 82)

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