Duncan Gillies

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Duncan Gillies was a Scottish gold miner who later became Premier of Victoria.



The Honourable Duncan Gillies M.L.A. (born 1834 near Glasgow, Scotland) emigrated in December 1852 and went to the Ballarat goldfields. One of his business partners was fellow parliamentarian Peter Lalor.

Another miner later wrote this description of him:

Duncan Gillies, the dapper little man of the "Reds," was a general favourite. His sash tastefully arranged round the waistband of his pantaloons — as spry and trim as a digger could be on an off-day. He sat in the old local court and schooled himself in the art of speaking and debating, so effectively characteristic of his after life in the Victorian House of Assembly — where either as a private member or a Minister of the Crown he has often proved himself able to break a lance with the most stalwart opponent, and return to the charge like a warrior bold, well equipped for either a slight wordy skirmish or a more desperate argumentative conflict.[1]

Duncan Gillies was elected to the Ballarat Mining Board in 1858, was a member of the Ballarat School of Mines in 1870, and a council member of the Ballarat School of Mines in 1886.[2]

Gillies sat on the first governing body of the Ballarat School of Mines in 1870, being the Crown Nominee on the Council, nominated by the Governor-in-Council.[3]

Gillies was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Ballarat West in 1861 holding this seat until 1868. A conservative, he was President of the Board of Lands and Works in 1868, a position which cost him his seat at Ballarat, a strongly liberal constituency. He was subsequently elected for Maryborough 1870-1877, Rodney 1877-1889, Eastern Suburbs 1889-1894, and Toorak 1897-1903. He served as Premier of Victoria 1886 – 1890.


Gillies Street, Ballarat is named after Duncan Gillies.

By W.L.
Old Ballaratians scattered all over the Commonwealth, and, indeed, over the English-speaking world, are turning their eyes and their thoughts back to Ballarat. To them has come the call for a home reunion during Easter week. A general committee, with several sub-committees, is making extensive arrangements for a grand reunion extending from Tuesday, April 3, over Monday, April 10, and it is expected that many hundreds will avail themselves of the opportunity of revisiting the scenes of their early life.
Of the people who have left Ballarat during the last 30 years, there are estimated to he about 11,000 abroad. The figure is arrived at by taking the population in that period, the excels of the birth rate over the mortality rate, and the average death rate among those who left the place. Whilst Ballarat people are to be found all over the world, the vast majority of those who have left the city are settled somewhere in the metropolitan area of Victoria. From them the call home is meeting with a splendid response. Intimations have also been received of dwellers far distant returning home for Easter-week. Unfortunately, many brave young men who a few months ago thrilled at the sound of the name of their native city will not even hear the call home. They lie in their eternal sleep in Gallipolian Valleys or on French farms in the vicinity of the Somme. In the midst of its rejoicing, Ballarat will not forget its noble dead, nor its proud sons who are still fighting Freedom's battle.
Drawn generally from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, the men of the early Ballarat days were of a resolute and progressive type. Very few of them went to the goldfields intending to remain there, but the freedom of their environment accorded with their disposition, and they settled down to fashion the bush country around them into the beautiful city that Ballarat now is. The late Mr. Duncan Gillies was typical of the first residents of Ballarat. Digger at first, he became a member of the Legislative Assembly for Ballarat West in 1860, but lost his seat in 1868, when he first accepted office as Minister for Lands in the Sladen Ministry. Subsequently he was Premier of Victoria. An earlier pioneer of Ballarat, who also became a legislator, was Mr. Peter Lalor, one of the leaders of the Eureka Stockade riot against the Government authorities in 1854. Mr. J. B. Humffray and he were the first representatives of Ballarat in the old Legislative Council before the Constitution Act came into force. While representing the electorate of Grant in the Legislative Assembly Mr Lalor was elected Speaker of the House. Colonel W. C. Smith, or, as he was more familiarly known during the greater part of his Parliamentary career, "the Major," was another Ballarat man of some note who attained Ministerial rank. The late Mr. W.M.K. Vale, a former Attorney-General, was a Ballarat man of those stirring political times, while the late Sir Henry Cuthbert and the late James Campbell, M.L.C.'s. were typical Ballarat men who also became Ministers of the Crown. Turning to the municipal life of Ballarat - speaking collectively of the city and the town-the services of such men as James Oddie (the first chairman of the municipal council), Dr. James Stewart, Robert Lewis - (of Rowlands and Lewis), Daniel Brophy, John Whiteman Gray, J. Noble Wilson, Frederick M. Claxton, John Hickman, E. Morey, James McDowall, John G. McDonald, Charles C. Shoppee (city), W. B. Rodier. Dr. Clendinning, William Scott, Emanuel Steinfeld, James Russell, James Long, Theophidus Williams, and John Ferguson stand out. They were men of broad minds and high ideals. Ballarat's interests were supreme with them.
Among other men who influenced the life of Ballarat considerably in its earlier years were Mr. John Russell Thomson, whose magnificent bequest of statuary in the pavilion at the botanic gardens has attracted notice in world art centres; Mr. Thomas Stoddart, who made the first gift of statuary to the botanic gardens. Mr David Ham, a member of-the Legislative Council; Judge Rogers, Judge Trench, and Judge Gaunt, Mr. R. Walsh, Q.C., Mr. C.B. Finlayson, Q.C. (formerly Crown prosecutor), Mr. R. M. Serjeant (member of 'the Legislative, Assembly in I860), Mr., Andrew Anderson, Mr. R.T. Vale (a former member of Parliament for Ballarat West, who died recently), Mr. E. J. Bateman, one of the founders of the Ballarat "Star".
Public men of note who are still living include Mr Agar Wynne (who attained Ministerial- rank in both Stale and Commonwealth), Mr. J. Y. McDonald (who within the last few weeks resigned from the Legislative Council), Mr. T. D. Wanliss (formerly n member of the Legislative Council, and now a resident of Scotland), Mr. W. M. Achesoon, Mr. A.M. Greenfield, and Mr. J.M. Bickett.
Among the old Ballaratians residing in various parts of the Commonwealth are men prominent in legislation, law, art, science, and business. Legislators are found in the Minister for Customs (Mr. Jensen), the Victorian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hagelthorn), Mr. Membrey (honorary State Minister), Mr. McWhae, M.L.C., and Mr. Menzies, M.L.A. The Chief Justice of Tasmania (Mr. Justice Nicholls), Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley are old Ballarat boys, as is Sir Bernard O'Dowd, poet and assistant, State Parliamentary draughtsman. Mr. H. E. Starke, the well known barrister, though born at Creswick, spent his boyhood in Ballarat. The Commonwealth Under Treasurer (Mr. J. R. Collins) is a native of Ballarat. Medical men among old Ballarat boys include Dr. Orr, of Collins street: Dr. T. E. Wills, of Malvern; Dr. H. E. Letcher, of Adelaide; Dr. G. F. Sleeman, of Creswick; Dr. J. H. Sleeman, of Portland; Dr. Gawne of Jeparit; Dr Fred Middleton, of the Ross Sea Antarctic Relief Expedition; and Drs. F. und H. V.- Bennett, of Prahran. Mr. A. A. Buley, formerly principal of Grenville College, where Mr. Justice Nicholls, Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley received their secondary education, is now on the staff of the Melbourne High School. Mr.D. Avery, of the Working Men's College-staff; Chief Inspector Fussell, Inspectors T. E. and J. J. Bothroyd and Mr. W. F. Gates (assistant chief inspector), of the Education department; and Mr. A. A. Peverill, chief clerk of the Lands department, are, old Ballarat boys, as well us the mayor of Prahran (Councillor Austin Embling), the Rev. S. Hoban, of the Central Methodist Mission, Sydney, and the Rev. M. Daly, Colac. Mr. William Davidson, formerly inspector - general of public works in Victoria, received his initial instruction in Surveying while a resident oí Ballarat, and the State income tax commissioner (Mr. R. M. Weldon) is a native of the city. Mr. J. F. Kirby, of Coleraine, who won the Melbourne Cup with The Parisian in 1911, was captain of the Ballarat Football Club in the seventies. Both Mr. Will Dyson, the artist, and Mr. E. Dyson claim Ballarat as their birthplace. Mr. Watkin Wynne, general manager of the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper in Sydney, in an old Ballaratian. He won the swimming championship of Ballarat in 1876, and the championship of Geelong by defeating Stedmun, on the Barwon River. Mr. Mcphan Ferguson, head of the Engineering firm which bears his name, was in business in Ballarat before he came to Melbourne. Ballarat men are conspicuous among members of the Stock Exchange of Melbourne. They include Messrs. W. J. Roberts (chairman). John McWhae. John S. Reid, Wallace Smith, John Rippon, A. E. and B. Millard, A. H. Tonkin, F. W. Holst, and J. Buchanan. Among other old Ballaratians may he mentioned Messrs- Alfred, Walter, and Frederick Sutton, of Suttons Proprietary Limited; Frederick and Maurice Cohen, of S. Cohen and Sons, hardware merchants; John Bailey, conductor of the Melbourne Choral Society: John West, secretary of the National Union; Hugh V. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Works; J. W. Kirton, formerly a member of the Legislative Assembly, and now secretary of the Master Bakers Association; Ex-Inspector Beckmann, of Warrnambool; Messrs. Hans Irvine, formerly member for Grampians in the House of Representatives; S. E. Figgis, secretary of the Colonial Gas Company, and a noted bowler in the Ballarat Cricket Club 33 years ago; Lieut. Colonel Wanniss, who had charge of a battalion in the First Australian Expeditionary Force; Captain D. J. Ham, who served through the Boer war; Major Jackson; and Messrs. J. H. Dill and D. Murray, legal managers: E. Cocking. J. L. Anderson; James Scobie, the well-known trainer; Mr. H. Niven, (F.W. Niven and and Co.), and Mr. E. A. Bennett (Superintendent of the Homeopathic Hospital).
Miss Mary Gaunt, the novelist; the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne (Lady Hennessy), Lady Irvine (wife of Sir William Irvine, K.C.). Mr. J. R. Trantham Fryer (Miss Bechervaise), and Mrs. J. J. Kingsbury (wife of a former Queensland Minister of the Crown, and now a Crown prosecutor) may also be mentioned as old Ballaratians. [4]


The first Ballarat Mining Board was elected on the 27th February, 1858, and Messrs James Baker, John Yates, Alfred Arthur O'Connor (for Ballarat Proper), William Frazor, Robert Lamb (for Buninyong), Duncan Gillies, Robert Critchley (for Smythesdale), Joseph Reed (for Creswick), — Martin (for Blackwood), and William Butcher (for Slieglitz) were the members, James Baker being chosen chairman. Mr Harrie Wood was appointed clerk, and he has held the office ever since. The first meeting of the board was on the 9th March, 1858. The Local Court members were remunerated by the fees paid in the cases brought before the courts in their judicial capacity. The Mining Boards receive each a Government subsidy of £500 a-year. The courts were more intensely local bodies than are the boards. The boards preside over and legislate for large districts, but the courts had very small areas of jurisdiction, nearly every mining centre, small or large, having its own court and its own regulations.
In looking at the mixed powers of the Local Courts and their great number, we see the cause of their abolition. The conjunction, of the legislative and judicial functions did not work satisfactorily, and the multiplicity of courts being followed by a multitude of varying regulations, another element of dissatisfaction was found to quicken the desire for further reform. Hence arose the present-Mining Boards and Courts of Mines, the former legislating for districts in which previously, per chance, half a score of Local Courts had exercised their anomalous union of jurisdictions, and the latter exercising judicial functions over areas coterminous with the mining board districts. [5]

See also

Charles Tinworth



  1. 1882 'OLD TIMES ON BALLARAT, VICTORIA.', The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), 4 May, p. 1 Supplement: The Mercury Supplement , viewed 8 November, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9008996
  2. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~carrick/Ballarat%20a%20to%20b.html accessed 15 March 2013.
  3. Warren Perry, A history of the School of Mines and Inudstries Ballarat 1870-1982,pp. 47-48, 575.
  4. The Argus, 3 March 1917
  5. Ballarat Star, 18 January 1870.

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