Guide to the Papers of Sir Thomas Bavin

MS 560

National Library of Australia

Date completed: March 1998
Last updated: March 1998

Collection Summary

Creator: Bavin, Thomas, Sir, 1874-1941
Title: Papers of Sir Thomas Bavin
Date Range: 1898-1942
Collection Number: MS 560
Extent: 42 cm (3 boxes)
Repository: National Library of Australia
Abstract: Letters, speeches, speech notes, a diary, a few photographs and some miscellaneous printed items, together with the typescript biography. The papers are an important source on Australian politics and law in the period 1900-1920 and, in particular, document Bavin's close association with the first two Prime Ministers of Australia.


Scope and Content

The papers comprise letters, speeches, speech notes, a diary, a few photographs and some miscellaneous printed items, together with the typescript biography. They form a relatively small and uneven collection. Apart from some speeches and the 1929 diary, they provide little information about Bavin's distinguished career as a New South Wales parliamentarian and Premier. They are, however, an important source on Australian politics and law in the period 1900-1920 and, in particular, document Bavin's close association with the first two Prime Ministers of Australia.


The Bavin Papers were originally held at a number of collection numbers. In 1998 they were consolidated at MS 560 and this guide was produced which supersedes earlier lists.


The collection is available for reference.


The Bavin Papers were received from four sources over a period of thirty years. In 1959 Bavin's son, Mr J.W. Bavin, transferred the long series of letters written to his father by Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. In 1965 he donated further items, including the drafts of speeches and letters of Tom Roberts. In the following year a larger group of speeches, together with photographs, cuttings and Bavin's diary of his 1929 overseas tour, were presented by Miss Margaret Dalrymple Hay, who had been for many years Secretary of the University of Sydney Law School. In 1988 Mrs Valerie Tod, a grand-daughter of Bavin, donated the unpublished biography which had been written by J.W. Bavin under the name of 'Amicus'. Finally, another grand-daughter, Mrs Prue Wyndham, in 1990 presented the letters which now form Series 3 of the collection.

Copying and Publishing

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Related Material

A manuscript biography of Bavin by Margaret Hay, entitled 'A High Adventure', is held in the Margaret Dalrymple Hay Papers (MS 2210).

Letters of Bavin can be found in a number of collections, most notably the papers of Sir John Latham (MS 1009).

A photograph of Bavin, signed and dated 1925, is held in the Pictures Branch.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Sir Thomas Bavin, National Library of Australia, MS 560, [series and/or folder number]'.

Biographical Note

Thomas Rainsford Bavin was born on 5 May 1874 at Kaiapoi, New Zealand, the son of the Reverend Rainsford Bavin, a Methodist minister. The family moved to Sydney in 1889. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School, Newington College and the University of Sydney, where he graduated as a B.A. in 1894 and LL.B. in 1897. He was admitted to the Bar in 1897.

Bavin became an enthusiastic supporter of Edmund Barton's National Federal Party and unsuccessfully stood for Parliament in the 1898 election. Following Federation, he became Barton's private secretary and was also Alfred Deakin's private secretary in 1903-1904. He returned to the Bar in 1904, but remained strongly interested in politics and wrote regular newspaper articles. From 1907 to 1911 he shared with Deakin the writing of the 'Australian Correspondent' column in the London Morning Post. In 1911-1913 he chaired the Royal Commission on Food Supplies and Prices. He became joint secretary of the Universal Service League in 1915.

Bavin lost Liberal pre-selection in 1910 and 1911, but he finally won the Legislative Assembly seat of Gordon as a Nationalist in 1917. He was Attorney-General in the Ministry led by Sir George Fuller in 1922-1925. Following the Government's defeat in 1925, he succeeded Fuller as Leader of the Nationalist Party. In 1927 he became Premier and Treasurer in a coalition ministry. In 1930, with the onset of the great depression, he took drastic measures, including the restoration of the 48 hour week, and in October the Government was defeated by the Labor Party led by J.T. Lang. Bavin continued to be Leader of the Nationalist Party, but in March 1932, faced with a challenge by Bertram Stevens, he resigned as Leader. In October 1935 Bavin resigned from Parliament on his appointment as a Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court. For the rest of his life he suffered from continued ill-health. He remained, however, a prominent public figure. He was President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the Sydney University Law Society, the Sydney Repertory Theatre Society and in 1938 chaired the British Commonwealth Relations Conference at Lapstone. He died at Sydney on 31 August 1941.

Bavin was appointed K.C.M.G. in 1933. He had married Edyth Winchcombe in 1901 and they had a son and three daughters.

Series List and Descriptions

Series 1 Letters of Sir Edmund Barton, 1898-1919

Bavin was the private secretary of Sir Edmund Barton in 1902-1903, he was briefly his associate when Barton moved to the High Court, and he remained a close friend for the rest of Barton's life. Most of the surviving letters from Barton to Bavin were written in 1901-1909 and many of them are brief notes requesting Bavin's assistance on political and administrative matters. They refer inter alia to Bavin's defeat in the 1898 New South Wales election, his work as Barton's secretary, Cabinet arrangements, the 1903 Naval Agreement, preferential trade, mail contracts, Robert Garran, High Court cases, appeals to the Privy Council, the case of Deakin v. Webb, Federal politics, Alfred Deakin, Andrew Fisher, Barton's travels in Australia, his overseas trip in 1915, World War I, books and reading.

The 48 letters have been arranged chronologically (items 1-67). There is also a letter from Lord Hopetoun to Barton (item 68) and a note from Bavin to Barton (items 73-74).

Series 2 Letters of Alfred Deakin, 1903-1916

Bavin was for a brief period in 1903-1904 the private secretary of Alfred Deakin. He remained a close friend and supporter of the Liberal leader. In 1907 when Deakin went to England to attend the Colonial Conference he asked Bavin to take over his work as the anonymous Australian correspondent of the London Morning Post. For the next four years the two men shared the task and many of Deakin's letters discuss Bavin's writings and the approach that they should take to various topics.

The letters deal inter alia with family news, especially the activities of Stella and Vera Deakin, books and reading, Bavin's newspaper articles, the possibility of Bavin entering politics, Deakin's relations with the Labor Party, the formation of his second Ministry in 1905, the 1906 elections, High Court cases, the Webb Case in the Privy Council, Bavin's articles for the Morning Post, Deakin's visit to England in 1907, industrial arbitration and wages boards, 'New Protection', the 1909 'Fusion', Deakin's return to power in 1909, relations with the Melbourne Age, the Financial Agreement of 1909, the electoral defeat of 1910, Bavin's work as a barrister, the Royal Commission on Food and Fish, the death of R.E. O'Connor in 1912, Deakin's ill-health and his departure from politics in 1913. There are references to J. Watson, Sir George Reid, Sir George Turner, W.M. Hughes, Robert Garran, B.R. Wise, A.W. Jose, Joseph Cook, Andrew Fisher, Charles Wade, J.A. Holman and the Reverend Albert Rivett.

The 167 letters have been arranged chronologically (items 1-177). Included in the correspondence is a letter to Deakin from the writer Louis Becke in 1911 seeking financial assistance, (items 145-47)

Series 3 General correspondence, 1891-1941

This series contains virtually all the surviving letters received by Bavin apart from those written by Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin. They form a very small proportion of the letters that he would have received and it can be assumed that in most cases they were retained on account of the importance of the correspondents. A significant proportion of them were written by barristers and judges, while others were written by politicians, public servants, academics and church dignitaries. They mostly date from the years 1900-1920 and surprisingly few letters from the last twenty years of Bavin's life have survived.

Among the subjects discussed in the letters are Bavin's marriage, Andrew Inglis Clark's writings on constitutional law, developments in the legal profession, the work of the Supreme Court of South Australia, High Court cases including the River Murray Case and the Vend Case, the possibility of Bavin entering politics, federalism, the River Murray Agreement, Australian naval policy, the 1909 Defence Act, Bavin's writings on Australian politics, the 'fusion' of 1909, the 1910 Land Tax Act, the possible establishment of an Imperial Court of Appeal, the 1911-1912 Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry, the outbreak of World War I and the course of the War, Muirhead Collins' visit to France in 1917, conscription, the League of Nations, the Round Table, banks and the Depression, Bavin's defeat in the 1930 elections, Sir John Latham's impressions of Japan in 1941, holidays and Bavin's illnesses. There are references to Sir Josiah Symon, Sir Samuel Way, Alfred Deakin, Sir Samuel Griffith, B.R. Wise, Sir Isaac Isaacs, Sir George Reid, Winston Churchill and H.H. Asquith.

The letters have been arranged chronologically. Unless indicated otherwise, Bavin was the recipient.

Item 1-2 B.R. Wise (Sydney) to Sir Samuel Griffith (Brisbane), 22 December [1898]
Item 3 P.F. Rowland (Bowral), 26 January 1901
Item 4 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 12 February 1901
Item 5 Louis von Doussa (Adelaide), 4 December 1903
Item 6 Herbert Nicholls (Hobart), 4 May 1904
Item 7-9 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 July 1904
Item 10 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 24 October 1904
Item 11-12 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 27 October 1904
Item 13-14 Tom Roberts, 15 November 1904
Item 15 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 17 November 1904
Item 16 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 22 November 1904
Item 17 P.F. Rowland (Rockhampton), 28 November 1904
Item 18 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 3 December 1904
Item 19-20 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 December 1904
Item 21 P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 24 December 1904
Item 22 P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 2 January [1905]
Item 23 W.M. Hughes (Melbourne), 3 January 1905
Item 24 P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 4 January 1905
Item 25 P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 5 January 1905
Item 26 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 6 January 1905
Item 28 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 3 February 1905
Item 29 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 20 March 1905
Item 30 P.F. Rowland (Townsville), 3 April 1905
Item 31 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 April 1905
Item 32 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 10 June 1905
Item 33-34 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 July 1905
Item 35 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 6 August 1905
Item 36 A. Inglis Clark (Adelaide), 1 September 1905
Item 37 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 16 February 1906
Item 38-39 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 20 April 1906
Item 40 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 April 1906
Item 41-42 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 11 June 1906
Item 43 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 28 June 1906
Item 44-48 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 26 July 1906
Item 49 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 7 September 1906
Item 50-51 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 7 September 1906
Item 52-55 J.H. Gordon, 25 November 1906
Item 56-58 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 10 January 1907
Item 59-61 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 16 January 1907
Item 62 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 19 January 1907
Item 63-68 A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 6 May 1907
Item 69 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 23 September 1907
Item 70-72 Tom Roberts (London), 28 September 1907
Item 73 J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 March 1908
Item 74-75 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 2 July 1908
Item 76-77 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 19 August 1908
Item 78-81 Tom Roberts (London), 26 September 1908
Item 82 Littleton E. Groom (Melbourne), 16 November 1908
Item 83-84 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 2 December 1908
Item 85 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 11 December 1908
Item 86 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 3 February 1909
Item 87 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 24 April 1909
Item 88 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 4 May 1909
Item 89 Littleton E. Groom, 4 June 1909
Item 90-91 Edward Grigg (London), 12 August 1909
Item 92 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 October 1909
Item 93-95 Tom Roberts (London), 16 October 1909
Item 96 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 June 1910
Item 97 Prof. W. Harrison Moore (Melbourne), 21 June 1910
Item 98-99 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 8 July 1910
Item 100 W. Harrison Moore, 20 July 1910
Item 101 R. Muirhead Collins, 25 August 1910
Item 102 R. Muirhead Collins, 18 November 1910
Item 103 Sir John Gordon (Kangaroo Island), 20 January 1911
Item 104 Bavin (Sydney) to H.E. Starke, 1 February 1911
Item 105-6 H.E. Starke (Melbourne), 14 February 1911
Item 107 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 27 September 1911
Item 108 R.E. O'Connor, 4 January 1912
Item 109 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 26 June 1912
Item 110 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 July 1912
Item 111-19 Sir John Gordon (incomplete), 5 July 1912
Item 120 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 11 July 1912
Item 121-22 Sir John Gordon, 30 July 1912
Item 123 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 23 August 1912

Includes cutting.

Item 125 Sir John Gordon, 2 September 1912
Item 126-28 Sir John Gordon, 23 September 1912
Item 129-30 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 27 September 1912
Item 131-33 Sir John Gordon (Kangaroo Island), 14 February 1914
Item 134 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 9 June 1914
Item 135-39 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 19 August 1914
Item 140-41 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 16 October 1914
Item 142 J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 17 October 1914
Item 143 J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 9 November 1914
Item 144-45 J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 25 January 1915

Includes map

Item 146-49 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 11 February 1915
Item 150 J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 5 April 1915
Item 151-52 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 16 April 1915
Item 153-54 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 24 August 1915

Includes cutting.

Item 156 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 25 August 1915
Item 157-58 R. Muirhead Collins, 16 December 1915
Item 159 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 21 January 1916
Item 160-62 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 21 June 1916
Item 163 B.R. Wise (London), 8 September 1916
Item 164-67 R. Muirhead Collins (London), 14 March 1917
Item 168-69 W.A.B. Shand (Townsville), 22 August 1917
Item 170 W.J. Schutt (Melbourne), 28 July 1919
Item 171 Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Brisbane), 6 February 1920
Item 172 Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Brisbane), 28 February 1920
Item 173 Bishop G.M. Long (Bathurst), 6 April 1920
Item 174 Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Roma), 15 April 1920
Item 175-77 Lionel Curtis (London), 6 November 1920
Item 178 Sir William Irvine (Melbourne), 4 February 1926
Item 179-80 James Ashton (Sydney), 24 March 1930
Item 181 Sir Mungo MacCallum (Sydney), 26 October 1930
Item 182 Sir Joseph Carruthers (Sydney), 28 October 1930
Item 183-85 Lord Stonehaven (Ury, Scotland), 10 April 1931
Item 186 A.G. Anderson (Ottawa), 4 August 1932
Item 187-88 Lord Stonehaven (London), 11 August 1932
Item 189-90 Sir John Latham (Hakone, Japan), 7 January 1941
Item 191 Robert Menzies (Melbourne), 11 June 1941 (copy)

Item 192 Sir John Gordon (Melbourne)
Item 193 Sir John Gordon (Adelaide)

Series 4 Speeches and speech notes, 1901-1941

The first group of papers in this series consist of notes made by Bavin for speeches given by Sir Edmund Barton in 1902-1903. To each speech are explanatory notes written by Margaret Dalrymple Hay. The rest of the series contains manuscript, typescript or printed speeches of Bavin, mostly dating from 1930-1940.

Subseries 4.1 Speech notes

Item 1-38 Notes by Bavin for E. Barton's first policy speech as Prime Minister, delivered at Maitland on 20 Jan. 1901, with amendments by Barton, 20 January 1901
Item 39-57 Notes by Bavin for speech by Barton at Maitland describing the first year's work of his Ministry, [1902]
Item 58-73 Notes by Bavin for speech by Barton on Pacific Islanders Bill, with amendments by Barton.
Item 74-85 Draft by Bavin for speech on powers of Senate.
Item 86-142 Draft by Bavin for speech by Lord Tennyson on opening of Federal Parliament, May 1903, including letters to Barton from Tennyson, 21 May 1903, Sir John Forrest, 10 April 1903, and C.C. Kingston, 18 May 1903, and amendments by Barton
Item 143-55 Draft by Bavin for speech by Barton on establishment of High Court, with notes by Robert Garran

Subseries 4.2 Speeches by Bavin

Item 156 Motion of censure in Legislative Assembly (printed), 17 November 1921
Item 157-59 Toc H ceremony, Newcastle Cathedral, 29 September 1926
Item 160 National policy, Chatswood Town Hall (printed), 8 September 1927
Item 161-167 Opening of St Mary's Cathedral, 2 September 1928
Item 168-69 Unveiling of Cenotaph at Martin Place, Sydney, 21 September 1929
Item 170 Economic position, Legislative Assembly (printed), 8 April 1930
Item 171-87 Albury, 26 May 1931
Item 188-219 Opening of National Convention, 23 June 1931
Item 220-23 United Australia Party Convention, 31 March 1932
Item 224-30 Retirement as Leader, 2 August 1932
Item 231-40 Armistice Day, 11 November 1934
Item 241-64 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (ms and typescript), 3 December 1934
Item 265-75 Constitutional Association, 29 April 1935
Item 276-89 Australia and foreign affairs, Griffith, 2 July 1935
Item 290-95 Presentation of portrait to Sir John Peden, Law Society dinner, 14 October 1935
Item 296-313 Church gathering, 15 March 1936
Item 314-20 Welcome to Lord Wakehurst, Australian Club, 20 May 1937
Item 321-31 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 29 September 1937
Item 332-36 Anniversary of Captain Cook's landing at Kurnell, 30 April 1938
Item 337-48 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 28 July 1938
Item 349-63 British Commonwealth Relations Conference, 4 September 1938
Item 364-65 Death pf J.A. Lyons, 19 April 1939
Item 366-400 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (ms and typescript), 25 July 1939
Item 401-4 Bush Book Club, 6 June 1940
Item 405-17 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 25 July 1940
Item 418-19 Memorial to Sir John Harvey at St Mark's Church, Darling Point, 22 December 1940
Item 420 Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (printed message), 30 July 1941
Item 421-38 Australian Institute of International Affairs
Item 439-41 Church Men's Society, Longueville Congregational Church
Item 442-61 'What we are fighting for'
Item 462-70 Jubilee of Law School of University of Sydney, [1940]
Item 471-88 Trial Bay Prison
Item 489 T.R. Bavin: extracts from his speeches 1923-1932 (Sydney, 1933), inscribed by Bavin to Margaret Hay, 17 August 1933

Series 5 Miscellaneous papers

Item 1-5 Typescript (5pp) entitled 'Tom Bavin - the New Premier', [1927]
Item 6-9 Typescript (4pp) entitled 'Tom Bavin - the Man', [apparently written by Margaret Dalrymple Hay]
Item 10 Diary of Bavin kept on visit to Italy, England, United States and Canada, 15 May-21 July 1929
Item 11 Typescript verse entitled 'The Amateur' sent to Bavin, December 1930
Item 12 Photograph of Bavin in eighteenth century fancy dress
Item 13 Newspaper photograph of Bavin, 25 July 1928
Item 14 'Definition of a diplomat', Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1940
Item 15 The Church Messenger, St Mark's, Darling Point, vol. 14 (5), 1 Feb. 1941, referring to memorial to Sir John Harvey and tribute by Bavin, 1 February 1941
Item 16 T.R. Bavin, Sir Henry Parkes, his life and work; John Murtagh Macrossan Lectures for 1940 (Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1941), inscribed by Bavin to Margaret Hay, April 1941
Item 17-19 Tributes to Bavin, Supreme Court of New South Wales (typescript), 1 September 1941
Item 20 Order of service for the funeral of the late honourable, Sir Thomas Rainsford Bavin, St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, 2 September 1941
Item 21 R. Clive Teece, Obituary of Bavin, Union Recorder, 11 September 1941
Item 22 Photograph of portrait of Bavin by Jerrold Nathan, University of Sydney Law School
Item 23 'Amicus', Thomas Rainsford Bavin, typescript, 238pp

A biography, with copies of documents and photographs, by J.W. Bavin.

Container List

Series Folder/Item Box
1 1-74 1
2 1-177 1
3 1-150 1
151-193 2
4 1-489 2
5 1-23 3