Collingwood Notables Database
William Mountford Kinsey Vale
Bookseller, barrister, Member of Parliament, Protectionist
Vale was a defender of tariff protection, a keen advocate for technical education, a prominent member of the Independent or Congregational Church and a supporter of the temperance cause. In 1886 he bought Mayfield, the lovely house originally built to the design of Georgiana McCrae in the 1840s, and after her departure the residence of Sir Francis Murphy. Here he spent the last ten years of his life surrounded by his clever and talented daughters and son William who followed him into the law. According to Alfred Deakin, he was ‘strong in domestic affections’ and the closeness of the family is indicated through their frequent appearances together at social, community and church events, and their house sharing in adult life.
Vale had arrived in Victoria in 1853, setting up in business as a bookseller with his brother in Castlemaine before moving to Ballarat. After a short absence during which he married Rachel Lennox in 1859 and their first child was born, the little family returned to Ballarat where he interested himself in politics.
Vale represented Ballarat West in the Legislative Assembly from 1864 to1869. He was vice-president of the Board of Land and Works and Commissioner of Public Works from 1866 to 1868 and Commissioner of Trade and Customs from 1868 to 1869. In October 1869 he won the seat of Collingwood, which he represented until March 1874, returning to live in Melbourne in 1872.
In 1874 Vale went to England, where he was a member of the Board of Advice to the Agent-General. While in London their son John Bright died and another son was born, named John Stone Fowler (Jack). Vale qualified as a barrister in 1878, returned to Melbourne and the following year was admitted to the Victorian Supreme Court. In May 1880 he won the seat of Fitzroy and from August until July 1881 he was Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He contested the seat of Collingwood unsuccessfully in 1889.
Vale, an energetic and committed man, took a great interest in industry, technical education, and education generally. He advocated protection but saw that Victoria not only needed industrial growth, but also an improvement in the level of technical knowledge among workers. In 1869-70 he was a member of the Technological Commission, charged with ‘promoting technological and industrial instruction by Lectures and otherwise, among the Working Classes'. This led to the establishment of Schools of Design, including one in Collingwood. He was a trustee of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery in 1872-95 and was a foundation member of the board of the Young Men's Christian Association. In the late 1880s he was a founder of the Working Men's College (later R.M.I.T). He was involved with the 1880-81 Melbourne Exhibition and the 1887 Centennial International Exhibition.
His support for education extended to his own family. At a time when many people considered that young ladies were unsuited to higher education, his daughter Grace was one of seven determined women who enrolled in Medicine in 1887; May was a noted artist who studied extensively in Melbourne, London and the continent; Elsie studied for Matriculation exams at PLC and also became an artist although less well-known; Beatrice was a writer who later lived in Shanghai with her Congregationalist minister husband; Faith set up a private school at Mayfield, assisted by Elsie.
Rachel Vale was not prominent in public life, but her influence within the family must have been strong and she surely supported her children in their education. Both she and William came from London’s East End and probably knew each other in their youth, as William sailed back to London in 1859 and married her shortly after his arrival. She had been employed as a gold-finisher; her father was a labourer and mother a boot closer, so the family must have lived in humble circumstances. She took on the great adventure of travelling to Australia and not only gave birth to eleven children, but sailed back and forth to London with young children in support of her husband’s career (they sailed separately and divided the children up between them). Vale was known among his colleagues, despite his many good qualities, as a cantankerous and egotistic man; let us hope he was different when in the bosom of his family. A painting of Mrs Vale in later life can be seen on the website about May Vale (link below). At the time of her death she was living at Yorrock in Northcote with May, Elsie, William, Faith and Faith’s husband.
|10 August 1833
|Date of Marriage
|Rachel Lennox (c. 1834-1918)
|Five daughters and three sons survived him
|Status of Building
|37 Church Street
|Independent Order of Good Templars
|23 October 1895