Guide to the Papers of Sir Thomas Bavin


MS 560

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Bavin, Thomas, Sir, 1874-1941
Papers of Sir Thomas Bavin
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 560
0.42 metres (3 boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

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.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for reference.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

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 item number]'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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 In 1988 Mrs Valerie Tod, a grand-daughter of Bavin, donated the unpublished biography which had been written by J.W. Bavin under the name of 'Amicus'.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.

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.


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.

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.

Item 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.

B.R. Wise (Sydney) to Sir Samuel Griffith (Brisbane), 22 December [1898] (Item 1-2)

P.F. Rowland (Bowral), 26 January 1901 (Item 3)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 12 February 1901 (Item 4)

Louis von Doussa (Adelaide), 4 December 1903 (Item 5)

Herbert Nicholls (Hobart), 4 May 1904 (Item 6)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 July 1904 (Item 7-9)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 24 October 1904 (Item 10)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 27 October 1904 (Item 11-12)

Tom Roberts, 15 November 1904 (Item 13-14)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 17 November 1904 (Item 15)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 22 November 1904 (Item 16)

P.F. Rowland (Rockhampton), 28 November 1904 (Item 17)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 3 December 1904 (Item 18)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 December 1904 (Item 19-20)

P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 24 December 1904 (Item 21)

P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 2 January [1905] (Item 22)

W.M. Hughes (Melbourne), 3 January 1905 (Item 23)

P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 4 January 1905 (Item 24)

P.F. Rowland (Toowoomba), 5 January 1905 (Item 25)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 6 January 1905 (Item 26-27)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 3 February 1905 (Item 28)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 20 March 1905 (Item 29)

P.F. Rowland (Townsville), 3 April 1905 (Item 30)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 April 1905 (Item 31)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 10 June 1905 (Item 32)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 21 July 1905 (Item 33-34)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 6 August 1905 (Item 35)

A. Inglis Clark (Adelaide), 1 September 1905 (Item 36)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 16 February 1906 (Item 37)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 20 April 1906 (Item 38-39)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 April 1906 (Item 40)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 11 June 1906 (Item 41-42)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 28 June 1906 (Item 43)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 26 July 1906 (Item 44-48)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 7 September 1906 (Item 49)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 7 September 1906 (Item 50-51)

J.H. Gordon, 25 November 1906 (Item 52-55)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 10 January 1907 (Item 56-58)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 16 January 1907 (Item 59-61)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 19 January 1907 (Item 62)

A. Inglis Clark (Hobart), 6 May 1907 (Item 63-68)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 23 September 1907 (Item 69)

Tom Roberts (London), 28 September 1907 (Item 70-72)

J.H. Gordon (Adelaide), 25 March 1908 (Item 73)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 2 July 1908 (Item 74-75)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 19 August 1908 (Item 76-77)

Tom Roberts (London), 26 September 1908 (Item 78-81)

Littleton E. Groom (Melbourne), 16 November 1908 (Item 82)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 2 December 1908 (Item 83-84)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 11 December 1908 (Item 85)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 3 February 1909 (Item 86)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 24 April 1909 (Item 87)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 4 May 1909 (Item 88)

Littleton E. Groom, 4 June 1909 (Item 89)

Edward Grigg (London), 12 August 1909 (Item 90-91)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 October 1909 (Item 92)

Tom Roberts (London), 16 October 1909 (Item 93-95)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 June 1910 (Item 96)

Prof. W. Harrison Moore (Melbourne), 21 June 1910 (Item 97)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 8 July 1910 (Item 98)

W. Harrison Moore, 20 July 1910 (Item 99)

R. Muirhead Collins, 25 August 1910 (Item 100)

R. Muirhead Collins, 18 November 1910 (Item 101)

Sir John Gordon (Kangaroo Island), 20 January 1911 (Item 102)

Bavin (Sydney) to H.E. Starke, 1 February 1911 (Item 103)

H.E. Starke (Melbourne), 14 February 1911 (Item 104-5)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 27 September 1911 (Item 106)

R.E. O'Connor, 4 January 1912 (Item 107)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 26 June 1912 (Item 108)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 1 July 1912 (Item 109)

Sir John Gordon (incomplete), 5 July 1912 (Item 110-18)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 11 July 1912 (Item 119)

Sir John Gordon, 30 July 1912 (Item 120-1)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 23 August 1912 (Item 122-4)

Includes cutting.

Sir John Gordon, 2 September 1912 (Item 125)

Sir John Gordon, 23 September 1912 (Item 126-28)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 27 September 1912 (Item 129-30)

Sir John Gordon (Kangaroo Island), 14 February 1914 (Item 131-33)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 9 June 1914 (Item 134)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 19 August 1914 (Item 135-39)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 16 October 1914 (Item 140-41)

J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 17 October 1914 (Item 142)

J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 9 November 1914 (Item 143)

J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 25 January 1915 (Item 144-45)

Includes map

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 11 February 1915 (Item 146-49)

J.G. Latham (Melbourne), 5 April 1915 (Item 150)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 16 April 1915 (Item 151-52)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 24 August 1915 (Item 153-54)

Includes cutting.

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 25 August 1915 (Item 156)

R. Muirhead Collins, 16 December 1915 (Item 157-58)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), 21 January 1916 (Item 159)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 21 June 1916 (Item 160-62)

B.R. Wise (London), 8 September 1916 (Item 163)

R. Muirhead Collins (London), 14 March 1917 (Item 164-67)

W.A.B. Shand (Townsville), 22 August 1917 (Item 168-69)

W.J. Schutt (Melbourne), 28 July 1919 (Item 170)

Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Brisbane), 6 February 1920 (Item 171)

Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Brisbane), 28 February 1920 (Item 172)

Bishop G.M. Long (Bathurst), 6 April 1920 (Item 173)

Bishop St Clair Donaldson (Roma), 15 April 1920 (Item 174)

Lionel Curtis (London), 6 November 1920 (Item 175-77)

Sir William Irvine (Melbourne), 4 February 1926 (Item 178)

James Ashton (Sydney), 24 March 1930 (Item 179-80)

Sir Mungo MacCallum (Sydney), 26 October 1930 (Item 181)

Sir Joseph Carruthers (Sydney), 28 October 1930 (Item 182)

Lord Stonehaven (Ury, Scotland), 10 April 1931 (Item 183-85)

A.G. Anderson (Ottawa), 4 August 1932 (Item 186)

Lord Stonehaven (London), 11 August 1932 (Item 187-88)

Sir John Latham (Hakone, Japan), 7 January 1941 (Item 189-90)

Robert Menzies (Melbourne) (copy), 11 June 1941 (Item 191)

Sir John Gordon (Melbourne), n.d. (Item 192)

Sir John Gordon (Adelaide), n.d. (Item 193)

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

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 1-38)
Notes by Bavin for speech by Barton at Maitland describing the first year's work of his Ministry,, [1902] (Item 39-57)
Notes by Bavin for speech by Barton on Pacific Islanders Bill, with amendments by Barton. (Item 58-73)
Draft by Bavin for speech on powers of Senate. (Item 74-85)
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 86-142)
Draft by Bavin for speech by Barton on establishment of High Court, with notes by Robert Garran (Item 143-55)

Subseries 4-2. Speeches by Bavin

Motion of censure in Legislative Assembly (printed), 17 November 1921 (Item 156)
Toc H ceremony, Newcastle Cathedral, 29 September 1926 (Item 157-59)
National policy, Chatswood Town Hall (printed), 8 September 1927 (Item 160)
Opening of St Mary's Cathedral, 2 September 1928 (Item 161-67)
Unveiling of Cenotaph at Martin Place, Sydney, 21 September 1929 (Item 168-69)
Economic position, Legislative Assembly (printed), 8 April 1930 (Item 170)
Albury, 26 May 1931 (Item 171-87)
Opening of National Convention, 23 June 1931 (Item 188-219)
United Australia Party Convention, 31 March 1932 (Item 220-23)
Retirement as Leader, 2 August 1932 (Item 224-30)
Armistice Day, 11 November 1934 (Item 231-40)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (ms and typescript), 3 December 1934 (Item 241-64)
Constitutional Association, 29 April 1935 (Item 265-75)
Australia and foreign affairs, Griffith, 2 July 1935 (Item 276-89)
Presentation of portrait to Sir John Peden, Law Society dinner, 14 October 1935 (Item 290-95)
Church gathering, 15 March 1936 (Item 296-313)
Welcome to Lord Wakehurst, Australian Club, 20 May 1937 (Item 314-20)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 29 September 1937 (Item 321-31)
Anniversary of Captain Cook's landing at Kurnell, 30 April 1938 (Item 332-36)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 28 July 1938 (Item 337-48)
British Commonwealth Relations Conference, 4 September 1938 (Item 349-63)
Death pf J.A. Lyons, 19 April 1939 (Item 364-65)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (ms and typescript), 25 July 1939 (Item 366-400)
Bush Book Club, 6 June 1940 (Item 401-4)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs, 25 July 1940 (Item 405-17)
Memorial to Sir John Harvey at St Mark's Church, Darling Point, 22 December 1940 (Item 418-19)
Annual meeting of Australian Institute of International Affairs (printed message), 30 July 1941 (Item 420)
Australian Institute of International Affairs (Item 421-38)
Church Men's Society, Longueville Congregational Church (Item 439-41)
'What we are fighting for' (Item 442-61)
Jubilee of Law School of University of Sydney, [1940] (Item 462-70)
Trial Bay Prison (Item 471-88)
T.R. Bavin: extracts from his speeches 1923-1932 (Sydney, 1933), inscribed by Bavin to Margaret Hay, 17 August 1933 (Item 489)

Series 5. Miscellaneous papers

Typescript (5pp) entitled 'Tom Bavin - the New Premier', [1927] (Item 1-5)

Typescript (4pp) entitled 'Tom Bavin - the Man', [apparently written by Margaret Dalrymple Hay] (Item 6-9)

Diary of Bavin kept on visit to Italy, England, United States and Canada, 15 May-21 July 1929 (Item 10)

Typescript verse entitled 'The Amateur' sent to Bavin, December 1930 (Item 11)

Photograph of Bavin in eighteenth century fancy dress (Item 12)

Newspaper photograph of Bavin, 25 July 1928 (Item 13)

'Definition of a diplomat', Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 1940 (Item 14)

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 15)

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 16)

Tributes to Bavin, Supreme Court of New South Wales (typescript), 1 September 1941 (Item 17-19)

Order of service for the funeral of the late honourable, Sir Thomas Rainsford Bavin, St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, 2 September 1941 (Item 20)

R. Clive Teece, Obituary of Bavin, Union Recorder, 11 September 1941 (Item 21)

Photograph of portrait of Bavin by Jerrold Nathan, University of Sydney Law School (Item 22)

'Amicus', Thomas Rainsford Bavin, typescript, 238pp (Item 23)

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

Container List

Series File/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