Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morey, Edward (1832–1907)

by Austin McCallum

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Edward Morey (1832-1907), mining and civic leader, was born on 27 March 1832 at Frindsbury, Kent, England. Apprenticed in the merchant navy at 13, he served in ships trading on the English coast and the Mediterranean. In 1852 he signed on for Hobart Town in the Columbus, went to Mauritius and in the Sir Walter Scott to Adelaide where he worked as a supervising stevedore before commanding a brig on the Yarra in Melbourne for two months. At Geelong in 1853 he joined a party of gold-seeking sailors from the Bournehuf and Stelonheath. They went to Ballarat where as a co-operative they had astonishing success for three years. By quickly changing claims from Prince Regent Gully to Sailors' Gully, New Chum Gully, Dalton's Flat, Red Hill, Gum Tree Flat and the Jewellers' Shops where a claim 24 feet sq. (2 m²) yielded a ton of gold, the sailors became wealthy enough to go their own ways.

Morey witnessed the attack on Eureka Stockade on 3 December 1854 and was one of the first to tend the wounded diggers; later he declared that the affair savoured of a massacre. In 1855 he began to furnish ill-equipped miners with tools and gear, taking in payment a share in their claims. He extended his mining interests to Buninyong, Carngham, Linton and Happy Valley. He followed the gold rush of 1861 to Otago where he was moderately successful and returned to Ballarat to become its most spectacular investor and landowner. By the late 1860s he had a large share in the rich quartz mines of Sebastopol and was founder and director of many companies working deep leads. He was a member of Loughlin's syndicate of eight which in 1875 formed the Seven Hills estate to mine near Creswick.

Very wealthy, Morey began to invest in land. He bought properties at Linton, Skipton, Pitfield and Maryborough, mined gold from them and profited from stud sheep and dairy cattle. By 1880 he had formed more mining companies and held more leases than any other investor in the colony. Until 1883, when he handed over to a son, he was in business as a machinery merchant. He imported engines and heavy equipment for the deep-lead mines when companies could afford machinery manufactured in England and Germany. He was also a director of the Phoenix Foundry and the Ballarat Woollen Mills. On two notable explorations outside Victoria he was commissioned in 1869 by the directors of Stanley Copper Mines north of Blinman, South Australia, to report on their operations and in 1888 with Henry Gore he reported extensive tracts of rich minerals in northern Queensland.

In 1884 Morey became patron of the new Ballarat Fine Art Gallery Public Association and later served on the gallery council, the committees of the School of Mines and Old Colonists' Association. In 1888 he was elected to the Ballarat City Council and mayor in 1894. In 1889 he became a member for Wellington in the Legislative Council but in 1904 and 1907 contested the seat in vain. He had served on the council's select committee on railways in 1891 and was nominated by the Munro government to the first Country Fire Brigades' Board. A cricketer and footballer, he helped to found the Ballarat Yacht Club in 1877 and was commodore in 1881-91.

At St Paul's Church, Ballarat East, on 25 June 1855 Morey had married Mary Ann, only daughter of Alexander Frickett of Manchester. In 1882 with his wife and a daughter Morey went abroad in search of his mother who had gone to America after her eight children had separated; he discovered that she had died in England just before his arrival. He died on 4 October 1907 from a clot on the brain, predeceased by his wife and five of their six daughters and nine sons, the eldest of whom was Edward, a cricketer who played for Australia against a visiting English team.

Generous and hearty, Morey earned the admiration and respect of his local community. Impressive and convincing, he was often commended for his faith in the nation's mineral potential and played an important role in Ballarat's rise to a large provincial centre. Inability to read and write never hindered him because his daughter looked after his correspondence and he could scrawl a signature.

His monuments are the stone lions in the Ballarat Botanic Gardens and the ornamental cast-iron gates at the main entrance.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Withers, The History of Ballarat (Ballarat, 1887)
  • W. B. Kimberly (ed), Ballarat and Vicinity (Ballarat, 1894)
  • R. Gay, Some Ballarat Pioneers (Mentone, 1935)
  • Ballarat Courier, 5 Oct 1907
  • Ballarat Star, 5 Oct 1907
  • private information.

Citation details

Austin McCallum, 'Morey, Edward (1832–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/morey-edward-4243/text6851, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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