National Library of Australia
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The collection relates mainly by Thomas Ley, his wife Lewie and son Keith. There is a smaller amount of material from the Vernon family (Lewie's family), and Thomas and Lewie's other sons, Russell and Clive. A large part of the collection consists of legal and official documents. There are also many photographs, letters and press cuttings. The collection includes a number of interesting objects, including an urn which is reputed to contain Thomas Ley's ashes, and a portrait, on china, of an unknown woman.
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn561741).
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of the Ley family, National Library of Australia, MS 6149, [box number and series and/or file number]'.
This collection was acquired by the National Library in 1984. It lay in an old shed in the Southern Highlands for approximately 30 years before being discovered by a young man from Wollongong.
A film of Thomas Ley at the 1922 State election, which was originally part of the Ley Family Papers, was transferred to the National Film and Sound Archive.
Thomas John Ley:Born in Bath, England, in 1880, Thomas Ley came to Australia at the age of 8 with his mother, Elizabeth Ley, his grandmother, Elizabeth Bryant, his sister Minnie and two brothers (one of whom was named Wally). In 1894 he became a solicitor's clerk, and later, as a qualified solicitor, established the firm of Ley, Andrews & Co.
He became an alderman in Hurstville in 1908 and a State M.P. in 1917. In 1921 he was allotted two portfolios, Labour and Industry, and Public Instruction, in Premier James Dooley's ministry - a ministry which lasted a mere six hours. In 1922 he became the N.S.W. Justice Minister. In 1925 Thomas Ley contested and won the Federal seat of Barton. His election was overshadowed by scandal when his opponent, Frederick McDonald, accused him of bribery. McDonald later withdrew his allegations and disappeared. It was rumoured that McDonald had been murdered (his body was never found), and that Thomas Ley was involved. Two more of his opponents later died in suspicious circumstances.
Thomas Ley was defeated in the 1928 Federal elections. He had been involved in a number of ill-fated business dealings, including Prickly Pear Poisons Limited. He moved to England, and engaged in a number of activities, including many real estate dealings. He was a director of a number of property development companies. In 1946 Thomas Ley was implicated in the murder of a barman, John Mudie. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He was later transferred to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he died on 27 July 1946.
Thomas Ley's personal life was also controversial. He married in 1898 and had three sons, and while still married conducted an affair lasting about 25 years with a widow named Maggie Brook. It was apparently his jealousy of Mrs Brook which led to the murder of John Mudie.
A number of authors have written about John Ley, including Dan Morgan, who wrote The Minister for Murder (London : Hutchinson, 1979) and John Rowland, who wrote Unfit to Plead? (London : John Long, 1965).
Emily Lewise Stone Vernon Ley:Known as Lewie for most of her life (a certificate presented to her when she was nine years old is inscribed "Lewie E. Vernon"), Emily Lewise Vernon was born in England in 1874. She migrated to Sydney with her mother, brother and sister, and married Thomas Ley in 1898. Lewie was interested in writing, and was involved in the international suffrage movement. She followed Thomas to England in 1942, returning to Australia after his death. She died in Bowral in 1956.
Russell John Vernon Ley:The eldest of Thomas and Lewie's three sons, born in 1889. Little is known about Russell's life other than that he was involved in a real estate business in Glen Innes. He married Janet, and had a son John, who in 1947 was Thomas Ley's only grandchild.
Clive Vernon Ley: Youngest son of Thomas and Lewie, born in 1903.
Keith Edward Vernon Ley:Second son of Thomas and Lewie, born in 1900. Keith was an accountant and was involved in a number of business dealing with his father. He was imprisoned in England for three years after being convicted of forgery. After his release Keith joined the Navy and later returned to Australia.
Edward Vernon:Lewie's father. His name may have been Alfred (his burial certificate refers to Alfred Vernon). He was born in England in 1831 and qualified as a surgeon in 1853. He married Emily Jane Stone and had three children, Ethel, Edward and Emily. He died in Bath in 1893.
Edward Vernon:Son of Edward and Emily, and brother of Ethel and Lewie. Born in 1866. Edward came to Sydney in 1895 with his mother and sisters. He became a dentist, and lived for many years in Goulburn.
Ethel Jacynthar Stone Vernon:Oldest of Edward and Emily's three children, born in 1864. Often referred to as Ettie. She worked for a Mr Butterworth in Sydney in 1907 and was living in Goulburn by 1915. Ethel died in 1953, aged 89.
The nine folders in this series contain material relating to Thomas Ley's birth, career as a politician, business dealings in Australia and England, his trial and death. The career papers include sheets of blank writing paper from the political parties he was involved with; numerous letters of recommendation for his overseas trips; and dozens of certificates relating to his Commissioner of Deeds status in many countries. Much of the remaining material relates to court proceedings involving Thomas or his sons - there are relatively few details of Thomas Ley's personal life.
Thomas Ley's wife Lewie is represented by two folders of material. There are indications that Lewie had literary inclinations (a certificate for a story in Girl's own paper in 1883; a press cutting of one of her stories, published in 1892; and an exercise book containing drafts of short stories). There is also a quantity of advertising material for various small business concerns, including the Marblex Institute.
The folder of material in this series consists mainly of material relating to Russell's real estate business in Glen Innes. He is the least documented member of Thomas Ley's family.
This one folder series contains many private papers, including Clive's birth (1903) and baptism certificates, and many typed letters to his mother and brother Keith.
In this series there are six folders of papers, including documents and letters relating to Keith's naval service. There are three folders of material relating to a court case in 1940, Rex v Ley, in which Keith was accused of forgery and subsequently imprisoned. There is an intriguing set of documents relating to a French woman, Camille Paoli. It includes letters, hotel receipts in both names, and a statutory declaration by Camille. One folder of material consists of various letters, medical remedies, poems and prayers. This material was physically together, and located near Keith's papers, but it is not possible to determine if Keith indulged in all these interests, or if some material was collected by other members of the family.
The two folders of Vernon family papers include a few documents relating to Lewie's father (Edward Vernon), who was a doctor, and brother (also named Edward), a dentist. One folder contains papers, certificates and letters belonging to Lewie's older sister Ethel.
This series includes 8 photographs albums, a large number of loose photographs and a portrait, on china, of an unidentified young woman. Many are snapshots or portraits of members of the Ley and Vernon families. Also included are many foreign scenes, some of which would have emanated from Keith's sea service during World War II.