William Alan Bayley (1910-1981) was born in Sydney and attended the Sydney Teachers College in 1929-30. He taught in a number of Sydney schools before joining the staff of the Bega Intermediate High School in 1935. In 1943 he moved to Castle Hill and in 1946 he became Deputy Headmaster of Crookwell Central School. From 1954 until his death he lived in the Illawarra district and was Headmaster successively of Waniora Public School, Unanderra Public School, Farmborough Road Public School and Bulli Public School.
Bayley devoted his spare time to researching and writing histories. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society in 1951 in recognition of his historical writings and also his collecting and indexing of country newspapers. After he settled in Bulli, he became an active member of the Illawarra Historical Society and from 1957 to 1980 he held the offices successively of Research Officer, President and Secretary. He had a very close association with the Mitchell Library in Sydney and donated many publications, photographs and other material. They included his card indexes of the Sydney Mail (1860-1938) and the Australian Town and Country Journal (1870-1914).
Bayley was a prolific writer of local histories, especially histories of New South Wales country towns and districts. They were nearly all published by city, municipal or shire councils, often celebrating centenaries of local government. They included histories of Albury (1954), Bega (1942), Bulli (1956), Campbelltown (1965), Condobolin (1965), Crookwell (1950), Goulburn (1954), Grenfell (1954), Kiama (1960), Lockhart (1979), Nundle (1953), Shellharbour (1959), Shoalhaven (1965), Yass (1973) and Young (1956). His other publications included histories of Methodism in Bega, the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales and the Illawarra District Ambulance Service. In his later years he became very interested in railway history and set up Austrail Publishing. It published several books on the Blue Mountains railway, the Zig Zag railway at Lithgow, the Pichi Richi railway in South Australia and other railways.
Between 1954 and 1980 W.A. Bayley made numerous donations to the Library of books, newspapers, photographs, postcards and manuscripts.
The Bayley Collection includes books, booklets, pamphlets, leaflets and other printed ephemera, mainly relating to New South Wales country towns. In addition, there are two lengthy runs of newspapers: Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser (1894-1946) and Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser (1863-1947).
The Bayley Collection contains many hundreds of photographs and postcards focussing particularly on railways, shipping, country towns and schools of New South Wales. They mostly date from the first half of the twentieth century. They include many postcards produced by William H. Broadhurst in the period 1900-27, but generally the photographers are not identified.
The personal papers of Bayley include the typescripts of his books on Jamberoo and the central south coast of New South Wales, notes on the history of Albury, Bega, Lockhart and Moruya, postcards, and local history booklets.
The photographs and postcards are held in the Pictures Collection and are filed under appropriate subject headings. Many of them are place names, including Austinmer, Bega, Berry, Bulli, Candelo, Cooma, Crookwell, Goulburn, Grenfell, Katoomba, Kiama, Lockhart, Moruya, Narooma, Newcastle, Nundle, Picton, Wollongong, Young. Others are filed under such subjects as Banks, Mining: coal, Post offices (NSW), Railways (NSW), Schools and colleges (NSW), Ships, and Town halls (NSW).
The printed material has been integrated in the Australian and Newspaper collections. The manuscripts and personal papers are housed in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 5529, MS 3031, and MS 2453.
Obituary of W.A. Bayley, Illawarra Historical Society bulletin, June 1981, pp. 27-28