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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bayles, Norman (1865–1946)

by John Rickard

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Norman Bayles (1865-1946), politician and solicitor, was born on 1 February 1865 at Prahran, Victoria, sixth child of William Bayles, merchant, and his wife Isobel, née Buist. The family lived in Toorak. Norman was educated at Toorak and Scotch colleges and in 1883 attended classes at the University of Melbourne. Later he practised as a solicitor and became a member of the firm of Bayles, Hamilton & Wilks. On 18 February 1897 at Campbell Town, Tasmania, he married Marion Elizabeth Clarke, who died in 1915 leaving no issue. On 11 September 1917 he married a widow, Roma Mary Hill Neill, née James; they had one son.

When young, Bayles achieved renown as a tennis player, and was three times joint holder of that Victorian doubles championship; (Sir) Norman and (Dame) Mabel Brookes were his friends. He had gained political experience campaigning for D. Gillies and (Sir) George Fairbairn before he won the Legislative Assembly by-election in 1906 for the highly prized Toorak constituency. He retained something of a dashing image, though Melbourne Punch thought that 'his mannerism had always suggested the aesthetic—the drawing room as against the football field'. In his maiden speech he declared his intention of playing the game, and jovially warned other members that 'if they hit hard they must not expect him not to do the same, because he had a rather good left, and a good counter, too'.

Bayles, as befitting the representative of Toorak, soon established a reputation as one of the most conservative members. He opposed the land tax and resisted Sir Thomas Bent's closer settlement legislation. Never afraid to pursue an independent line, he helped to expel Bent from office in 1909; during World War I he was a member of the so-called 'Economy Party', which was critical of Sir Alexander Peacock's government. On moral issues he was responsive to the women's vote and always received a good deal of female support; he favoured legislation to suppress the gaming business of John Wren, and voted for the continuation of six-o'clock closing after the war. However, fourteen years of politics were enough for him and he retired in 1920.

Bayles was long a member of the Council of Scotch College; he also served on the committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club and was a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He was a member and for many years treasurer of Toorak Presbyterian Church and also took an active interest in the Alfred Hospital. He listed motoring as a hobby and his bright yellow motor car was said to have been a Collins Street West landmark. In the 1920s and 1930s he was a constant traveller abroad, claiming to have covered 300,000 miles (480,802 km) in a decade; the excuse he gave was the educating of his son at Winchester College. Bayles died at his home in Toorak on 25 September 1946, predeceased by his wife, and was buried in St Kilda cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £82,640.

Select Bibliography

  • E. H. Sugden and F. W. Eggleston, George Swinburne (Syd, 1931)
  • M. Brookes, Crowded Galleries (Melb, 1956)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1906, 2116
  • Australasian, 20 Feb 1897
  • Punch (Melbourne), 23 Oct 1917
  • Age (Melbourne), and Argus (Melbourne), 26 Sept 1946
  • K. Rollison, Groups and Attitudes in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 1900-1909 (Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe University, 1972).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Rickard, 'Bayles, Norman (1865–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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