M. C. Davies

Last updated

Maurice Coleman Davies (24 September 1835 – 10 May 1913) was an Australian timber merchant and pastoralist. Born in London, he emigrated to Tasmania with his family as a child, and later moved to Blackwood in the Victorian goldfields, then to Melbourne and Adelaide. He then relocated to Western Australia, where he created the M.C. Davies Company, later the M.C. Davies Karri and Jarrah Timber Company, a timber empire that employed hundreds of men, laid over a hundred kilometres of private railway, including the Flinders Bay Branch Railway, and even built its own private ports for exporting of timber. He also formed the Kimberley Pastoral Company and was its managing director.


Early years

Davies was born in London on 24 September 1835 to John and Catherine Davies (née Hart; 1795–1889). [1] His family migrated to Australia when he was about five years old, and settled in southern Tasmania as farmers. In 1847, the family moved to New Norfolk, where Davies' father found work as a shopkeeper. In 1851 the Davies family joined the gold rush to the Victorian Goldfields, where Davies worked in Blackwood; he later moved to Melbourne. [1]

In 1856 Davies moved to South Australia, establishing himself as a supplier of building materials. His venture was a financial success, and by 1867 he was operating as a general commission agent and merchant in Adelaide, specialising in the supply of hardwood timber to the railway and construction industries. He was associated with John Wishart in building a bridge over the River Torrens, then in 1872 was part of Baillie, Davies and Wishart, who successfully tendered for the construction of the Aldgate to Nairne section of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway. [2] This required a steady supply of quality hardwood, which was scarce in South Australia. Davies was involved in the difficult task of contracting for timber, and during this time he became interested in the large forests of jarrah and karri in Western Australia. In 1875, he applied for a lease of 1,920 acres (780 ha) of forest in Bunbury, and the following year was granted a licence to cut timber. He then erected two saw mills on the Collie River, which operated for eight years. [1] The success of these mills was limited, mainly because of the poor quality of road between the mills and the port of Bunbury.

Flinders Bay jetty M C Davies Flinders Bay Jetty.jpg
Flinders Bay jetty
Hamelin Bay jetty Hamelin Bay Jetty 1899.jpg
Hamelin Bay jetty

Timber industry

M. C. Davies timber concessions in 1899 M C Davies Karri and Jarrah concessions 1899.jpg
M.C. Davies timber concessions in 1899

From 1877, Davies became increasingly interested in the timber country north of Augusta. This area contained excellent forests of jarrah and karri, and there were bays nearby where ships could be loaded. Davies sought a licence to work the area in 1879, but was rejected. He eventually obtained timber rights in 1882, and over the following years he consolidated with numerous additional land purchases and licences. His business prospered, and he built numerous saw mills and over 100 kilometres (62 mi) of railway line, including the Flinders Bay Branch Railway, to cart the timber. Jetties were built to enable loading of ships in Hamelin and Flinders Bays, and the town of Karridale was established to house the hundreds of workers employed by Davies. Davies' business became so successful that by 1890 he was responsible for 32% of all timber exported from Western Australia.

By 1894, all six of Davies' sons were involved in his business, and the name of the business was changed from M.C. Davies to M.C. Davies Company Ltd. In that year he constructed what became Bussell Highway and he was also involved in the construction of the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in 1895. [3] [4] His timber business continued to prosper and expand, but the timber markets expanded even more rapidly, and by 1897 the company no longer had the resources to keep pace with market growth. In that year, Davies went to London to float the business as a public company, under the name M.C. Davies Karri and Jarrah Company Ltd.

Amalgamation of timber business, other ventures, and final years

The next five years were difficult for Davies' business. Many new companies had entered the timber market in Western Australia, and there was fierce competition. South African demand for timber had been seriously affected by the Second Boer War, and other overseas markets were flooded with jarrah and karri. In 1902, M.C. Davies Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd amalgamated with seven other companies to form Millars Karri and Jarrah Forests Limited, informally known as the "Millars Combine". The main Karridale mill was closed soon after, and by 1913 all of the M.C. Davies Company mills were closed.

Davies retired from sawmilling after the formation of the Millers Combine. However, he also had interests in other fields, including shipping, gold-mining, and especially the pastoral industry. He was involved in the 1881 formation of the Kimberley Pastoral Company, which bought the Liveringa station, and was the company's managing director until 1913. [1] He made various acquisitions that he eventually amalgamated into Kimberley Downs station and his family controlled Napier Downs. [1] [5] He also ran Palmirup Grazing Company, which had large holdings in the Kojonup and Katanning areas. [1] He died at his home at St Georges Terrace, Perth on 10 May 1913 and was buried in the Jewish section of Karrakatta Cemetery. [1]

Personal life

On 24 March 1858, Davies married Sarah Salom, sister of Maurice Salom. the couple had twelve children, four of whom predeceased Davies; six sons and two daughters outlived him. [1] [6]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Robertson, J. R. (1974). "Davies, Maurice Coleman (1835–1913)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . 4, MUP. Melbourne University Press. ISSN   1833-7538 . Retrieved 2 August 2019 via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  2. "The Late Mr. M. C. Davies". The Advertiser (Adelaide) . LV (17, 027). South Australia. 13 May 1913. p. 10. Retrieved 22 October 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "Bridgefield Monument". Heritage Council of Western Australia . Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  4. "Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Quarters". Heritage Council of Western Australia . Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  5. "Register of Heritage Places – Assessment Doc'n Lillimilura Ruins and Grotto 1". Heritage Council of Western Australia . Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  6. "Davies, Maurice Coleman (1835–1913)". The Register . 12 May 1913. Retrieved 2 August 2019 via Obituaries Australia.

Related Research Articles

<i>Eucalyptus marginata</i> Species of plant in the family Myrtaceae endemic to the south-west of Western Australia

Eucalyptus marginata, commonly known as jarrah, djarraly in Noongar language and historically as Swan River mahogany, is a plant in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae and is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. It is a tree with rough, fibrous bark, leaves with a distinct midvein, white flowers and relatively large, more or less spherical fruit. Its hard, dense timber is insect resistant although the tree is susceptible to dieback. The timber has been utilised for cabinet-making, flooring and railway sleepers.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Protected area in Western Australia

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is a national park in the South West region of Western Australia, 267 km (166 mi) south of Perth. It is named after the two locations at either end of the park which have lighthouses, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. It is located in the Augusta-Margaret River and Busselton council areas, and is claimed to have the highest visiting numbers of any national park in Western Australia. The park received 2.33 million visitors through 2008–2009.

<i>Eucalyptus diversicolor</i> Species of flowering plant

Eucalyptus diversicolor, commonly known as karri, is a species of flowering plant in the family Myrtaceae and is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. It is a tall tree with smooth light grey to cream-coloured, often mottled bark, lance-shaped adult leaves and barrel-shaped fruit. Found in higher rainfall areas, karri is commercially important for its timber.

Torbay, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Torbay is a small town and a bay in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Albany. Torbay is within the City of Albany local government area. The Torbay townsite was gazetted in 1910.

Augusta, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Augusta is a town on the south-west coast of Western Australia, where the Blackwood River emerges into Flinders Bay. It is the nearest town to Cape Leeuwin, on the furthest southwest corner of the Australian continent. In the 2001 census it had a population of 1,091; by 2016 the population of the town was 1,109.

Denmark, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Denmark is a coastal town located on Wilson Inlet in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, 423 kilometres (263 mi) south-south-east of the state capital of Perth. At the 2016 census, Denmark had a population of 2,558; however, the population can be several times the base population during tourist seasons.

Flinders Bay Branch Railway

The Flinders Bay Branch Railway, also known as the Boyanup to Flinders Bay Section ran between Boyanup and Flinders Bay, in South Western Western Australia.

Hamelin Bay, Western Australia Locality on the south-west coast of Western Australia, named after the nearby bay

Hamelin Bay is a bay and a locality on the south-west coast of Western Australia between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. It is named after French explorer Jacques Félix Emmanuel Hamelin who sailed through the area in about 1801. It is south of Cape Freycinet.

Karridale, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Karridale is a small township in the south-west of Western Australia. It is located just north of Augusta and south of Margaret River between Caves Road and Bussell Highway. A newer township was built a short distance north east of the original Old Karridale following fires that destroyed the town in 1961. At the 2006 census, Karridale had a population of 285.

Karri forest

Karri forest is a tall open forest type dominated by Eucalyptus diversicolor (karri), one of the tallest hardwoods in the world.

Timber railway lines of Western Australia

The network of railway lines in Western Australia associated with the timber and firewood industries is as old as the mainline railway system of the former Western Australian Government Railways system.

Kudardup, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Kudardup is a locality in the South West region of Western Australia. The locality is in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and on the Bussell Highway, 312 kilometres (194 mi) south of the state capital, Perth.

The Adelaide Timber Company was a family saw mill company that had timber mills and timber railway lines across a number of locations in Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Millars' Karri and Jarrah Company (1902) Limited, commonly known as Millars, was a Western Australian focused timber and timber railway company.

Boranup, Western Australia

Boranup, in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, is the site of a large coastal dune blow out known as the "Boranup sand patch" as part of the Boranup beach, and the site of a former M. C. Davies timber company mill. The sand patch area and sand blows affected the alignment of the Busselton to Flinders Bay railway.

Henry Yelverton was an Australian sawmiller and timber merchant.

Maurice Salom

Maurice Salom was a businessman and politician in the colony of South Australia.

Henry Teesdale Smith was an Australian businessman and politician who was prominent at various times as a timber merchant, railway builder, and pastoralist. He served in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia from 1901 to 1904.

The Canning Jarrah Timber Company was a timber and timber railway company operating in the Darling Range in Western Australia in the 1890s.

Neil McNeil (businessman)

Neil McNeil was a prominent Australian businessman who was significant in the development of railways across Australia along with Western Australia's timber industry.


Further reading