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Ralph Herbert Laver (1874–1962)

by Ann G. Smith

This article was published:

Ralph Herbert Laver is a minor entry in this article

Charles William Laver (1863-1937), medical practitioner, and Frank Jonas Laver (1869-1919), cricketer, were the third and fifth of the seven surviving sons of Jonas Laver, farmer from Somerset, England, and his wife Mary Ann, née Fry, a connexion of Elizabeth Fry the prison reformer. Jonas arrived in Melbourne on the Maitland in 1846, married there in 1854 and settled with his wife at Chinamans Creek, near Castlemaine, where Charles was born on 26 June 1863. Frank was born on 7 December 1869 at Castlemaine. Charles and Frank, with their brothers William, Alfred, Arthur, Ralph and Rudolph, made up an unusually talented family.

Charles worked as a drover and took up land in North-West Western Australia in the 1880s, forming friendships with (Sir) John and Alexander Forrest, before attending the University of Melbourne in 1887-91. He continued his medical studies overseas, graduating L.C.R.P. and L.R.C.S. (Edinburgh), L.M. (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and L.F.P.S. (Glasgow) in 1894. Returning to Melbourne, he quickly forsook his Collins Street practice for a prospector's life in Western Australia; but after his marriage to Edith Beatrice Attewell in London on 2 June 1904 he practised in various Western Australian country towns, winning renown for unselfish devotion to goldfields patients and, as 'Mr the Doctor', to the Aborigines.

Laver's great faith in Western Australia led to his reputation as the 'super-optimist'. He had several interests on the Golden Mile, Kalgoorlie, and in the flotation of the British Flag, Craigiemore and Barneycoat mines at Laverton, the town named after him. He had some success at mining but his sheep-farming experiments at Yundamindra station were under financed and collapsed.

An Anglican, Laver died at Kalgoorlie on 14 May 1937 and was buried there, survived by his wife, two daughters and four sons, one of whom, Jack, also had a distinguished medical career.

Frank was educated at Castlemaine Grammar School and in 1887-95 worked as a clerk in the government Law Department before joining his brother Ralph's Collingwood fruit-preserving business. 'A gangling, heavy-legged six-footer' (the height and leanness a family trait), he joined the East Melbourne Cricket Club about 1887. In the 1892-93 season, during which he made a record 352 not out for his club, he was selected for Victoria and made 104 against South Australia; in later years he often captained Victoria. He played for Australia against the visiting Englishmen in 1901-02 and toured England in 1899, 1903-04, 1905 and 1909. Alban Moyes describes him as 'a splendid medium-fast off-spinner and rough and ready batsman'. His Test triumphs included 7 wickets for 61 at Nottingham in 1905 and 8 for 31 at Manchester in 1909. In 15 Tests against England, Laver took 37 wickets at an average of 25.97. In Sheffield Shield matches he made 2760 runs and took 108 wickets.

Laver was popular with team members as player-manager in England in 1905 and 1909. In 1911-12 he was again players' candidate for manager and when the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket Matches insisted on the appointment of G. S. Crouch, six players led by Clem Hill declined to tour. In 1905 Laver wrote An Australian Cricketer on Tour. He was also a prominent baseballer, captaining the Australian team which visited the United States of America in 1897.

Frank married Katie Myrtle Adele Major on 15 September 1914. He died at East Melbourne on 24 September 1919 after visiting his Northern Territory property with his brother Alfred. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he was buried in Brighton cemetery.

Alfred Edmund (1858-1927) was born on 16 November 1858. As a youth a prominent Castlemaine footballer and cricketer, he established himself as a vigneron at Woodbrook, marrying Margaret Ellen Williamson (d.1904) at Castlemaine on 22 March 1882. In 1891 he became superintendent and secretary of the Castlemaine Benevolent Asylum and in 1896-1924 directed the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum. He died at Marrickville, Sydney, on 15 August 1927, survived by his wife Flora, née Dash, whom he had married on 2 April 1911, and by three children of his first marriage.

Ralph Herbert (1874-1962), youngest of the brothers, was born on 14 July 1874. He and Rudolph (b.1872) were educated in Germany where Rudolph remained to become a highly successful electrical engineer. Ralph returned to Melbourne and with Otto Jung's help established Laver Bros in 1893 in Collingwood as a greengrocery and then a preserving factory. The firm developed a large trade throughout Australia and with England and China. After Frank's death Ralph was joined by Arthur (1860-1927), a successful grazier. Ralph retired to Warrandyte about 1935. He died at Canterbury on 24 September 1962.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1959)
  • H. H. Wilson, Westward Gold (Adel, 1973)
  • A. L. Bennett, The Glittering Years (Perth, 1981)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 29 June 1935
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25, 29 Sept 1919, 19 May, 16 Aug 1927
  • Australasian, 27 Sept 1919
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Aug 1927
  • Daily News (Perth), 15 May 1937
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 15 May 1937
  • G. W. Laver, The Consummation of a Youthful Dream (manuscript, University of Melbourne Archives)
  • Monash papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ann G. Smith, 'Laver, Ralph Herbert (1874–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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