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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pye, James (1801–1884)

by G. P. Walsh

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

James Pye (1801-1884), orchardist, was born at Toongabbie, New South Wales, son of John Pye, farmer, and his wife Mary. John had arrived in the convict ship Britannia in 1791 and about 1810 began to grow oranges at Seven Hills near Parramatta. James followed suit, gradually acquiring large orchards in the Field of Mars, near Ryde, and Seven Hills districts.

Pye became an authority on fruit-growing and also carried on some mixed farming. Giving evidence in December 1865 to a Legislative Assembly select committee on disease in fruit trees, he claimed that the current infection in orange trees was caused by 'a change in climate' and variable weather. Prominent in agricultural circles, he was a founding member of the Cumberland, Camden and Cook Agricultural Society in 1843, a founder of the Cumberland Agricultural Society in March 1857, and a vice-president, trustee and committee member of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales in the 1860s. In June 1870 his long informative letter on farming in the County of Cumberland was reprinted in the Australian Town and Country Journal; in it he also referred to the value and dignity of labour and the training of youth for useful trades and commented on contemporary social evils.

In 1856 at the first elections under responsible government Pye was elected to the Legislative Assembly as second member for Cumberland (North Riding). Under the headings of 'Progress' and 'Advance Australia' he favoured 'speedy settlement of the land', better communications and the promotion of education. Defeated for Parramatta in the general election of 1858 by George Oakes, Pye appealed to the elections and qualifications committee, alleging that Oakes had influenced voters by threats and that £100 had been deposited in a bank to the credit of the Speaker of the House. The committee reported in May 1858 that Pye's allegations were not proved, but his petition was 'not frivolous or vexatious'. Pye then contented himself with local affairs; he was an alderman for Parramatta in 1862-84 and mayor in 1866-67. A member of the local National School Board he also fought hard to secure a water supply for the growing town of Parramatta. In February 1860 he had given evidence to the select committee on the condition of the working class and strongly criticized the attitude and character of the labouring classes in general and colonial-born workmen in particular; he claimed that 'not one in twenty' of the labouring classes were worth employing and though himself native-born stated: 'I never employed a native of the Colony—they will not work—they are very idle'.

Knocked from his horse by a runaway horse and cart, he died of his injuries on 30 December 1884 at his residence, Rocky Hall, Parramatta. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth (d.1895), and at least two sons and four daughters. He was buried in St John's cemetery at Parramatta. Probate of his estate was sworn at under £2300.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 1, 6, 839, 1859-60, 4, 1444, 1862, 5, 106
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Mar 1850, 16 Mar 1859, 30, 31 Dec 1884
  • Town and Country Journal, 18 June 1870, 10 Jan 1885
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 25 Nov 1871, 17 Jan 1885
  • Henry Parkes letters A926 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Pye, James (1801–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

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