M. C. Davies

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Maurice Coleman Davies (24 September 1835 – 10 May 1913) was a timber miller in the early history of Western Australia. He created 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, and even built its own private ports for exporting of timber.

Early years[edit]

Maurice Coleman Davies was born in London on 24 September 1835. 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 gold fields.

M. C. Davies moved to South Australia in 1856, 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. In 1872, Davies was part of a successful tender for the construction of a section of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway. 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 migrated to Western Australia, and the following year was granted a licence to cut timber. He then erected two saw mills on the Collie River. 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
Hamelin Bay jetty

Timber industry[edit]

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 of railway line 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 Davies' business, and the name of the business was changed from M.C.Davies to M.C.Davies Company Ltd. The 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[edit]

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 the 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.

Maurice Coleman Davies retired after the formation of the Millers Combine. He died at his home in Perth on 10 May 1913.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "OBIT: MR. M. C. DAVIES". Sunday Times (Perth) (801). Western Australia. 11 May 1913. p. 1 (First Section). Retrieved 1 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  • Gunzburg, Adrian & Austin, Jeff (1997). Rails Through the Bush: Timber and Firewood Tramways and Railway Contractors of Western Australia. Melbourne, Victoria: Light Railway Research Society of Australia. ISBN 0-909340-32-3. 
  • Hamling, Bruce F. (1979). "Maurice Coleman Davies, the Timberman". In Hunt, Lyall. Westralian Portraits. Nedlands, W.A.: University of Western Australia Press for the Education Committee of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations. pp. 68–72. ISBN 0-85564-157-6. 

Further reading[edit]

The following sources were not consulted in the writing of this article: