John Cox Bray
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John Cox Bray

The Hon. Sir

John Cox Bray

John Cox Bray.jpg
15th Premier of South Australia

24 June 1881 - 16 June 1884
GovernorSir William Jervois
Sir William Robinson
William Morgan
John Colton
Personal details
John Cox Bray

(1842-05-31)31 May 1842
Adelaide, South Australia
Died13 June 1894(1894-06-13) (aged 52)
At sea
EducationSt Peter's College, Adelaide

Sir John Cox Bray (31 May 1842 - 13 June 1894) was a prominent South Australian politician and the first native-born Premier of South Australia (1881-1884).

Early life

John Cox Bray was born in East Adelaide, a son of Tom Cox Bray (1815-1881), shoemaker from Portsmouth, Hampshire, and Sarah Bray, née Pink, (1813-1877), from the same county.

Tom's father, William Bray, rather than being a captain in the Royal Navy as is traditionally claimed, in fact, worked as a cordwainer and cabinet maker prior to his early death in 1816, aged about 26 years.

The Bray family appears to have moved to the Portsmouth area from the Isle of Wight, in contradiction to the very garbled accounts of their origins to be found in Burke's Colonial Gentry (1891-1895), volume 2, under "Bray of Adelaide", and in the American Supplement (1939) to Burke's Landed Gentry (1937 edition), and Burke's American Families with British Ancestry, and found under "Bray" (covering the career and descent of Professor William Crowell Bray (1879-1946), head of the Chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, who belonged to the Canadian branch of the Bray family which had been established in Upper Canada in 1839 by William Bray, J.P., R.N. (1814-1882), a gunnery officer in the Royal Navy, and the elder brother of T.C. Bray).

Tom and Sarah were married at St Mary's parish church, Portsea, Hampshire, on 22 July 1838, just prior to their embarkation for Australia in the Prince George, arriving in the colony in December 1838. Sarah's father, William Pink (died 1853), also settled in Adelaide, and was employed as a labourer in the Survey of South Australia. Tom Cox Bray had a boot and shoe factory at 79 Hindley Street, Adelaide from 1840 to 1856, when he and his family returned to England. He had the good fortune to be one of the "Snobs" (i.e. tradesmen) who risked their savings on shares in the South Australian Mining Association copper mine at Burra, and made handsome profits.[1]

John was the second of their four sons (with two daughters), all born in Adelaide. Educated at St. Peter's College and in England, Bray read law in South Australia, being articled to W. T. Foster, and was called to the South Australian Bar in November 1870.

He joined the able lawyer J. B. Sheridan in partnership as Bray and Sheridan, but his mercurial temperament made him ill-suited to the practice of law, but he had the wit and debating skills for a life of politics.[2]

Meanwhile, his parents, elder brother and sisters returned to England, due to an improvement in their circumstances said to be the result of T.C. Bray's having inherited shipping interests from his paternal grandfather, possibly George Bray (elsewhere called Charles Bray), who had disapproved of his son's marriage to Ann Cox (1789-1840), later Winship, daughter of a farmer from Southsea, Hampshire. Once in England, the family lived in comfort first at Blackheath in Kent, and later at Harrogate, the Yorkshire spa town in which Mrs Bray died. The elder son, Thomas William Bray (1840-1887), was sent to Clare College, Cambridge, and later became an Anglican clergyman. He was father of Sir Denys Bray (1875-1951), K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E., C.B.E., sometime Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, and Indian delegate to the League of Nations during the British colonial period.

T.C. Bray lived the rest of his life as a gentleman, moving to Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire in Scotland, where he had descendants in the mid-1980s. He died in Scotland and his will was proved in Scotland and South Australia. Descendants include Sir John Henry Kerr, colonial governor in India, David Russell, classical guitarist, and Piers Sellers, astronaut.

Political career

In Adelaide, J.C. Bray practised law only briefly, as a solicitor, before being elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as M.P. for East Adelaide on 14 December 1871, a constituency he held until his retirement from politics on 6 January 1892.[3]

Bray served as Minister of Justice and Minister of Education in the 3rd Blyth ministry (15 March 1875 - 3 June 1875). He also served as Attorney-General of South Australia (June 1876 - 26 October 1877) in the Colton ministry, when he was responsible for introducing an "Act to Provide for the formation and registration of trades unions", the first such legislation in Australia. He served as Leader of the Opposition to the Morgan ministry (October 1877 - 24 June 1881), and Premier and Chief Secretary of the Province of South Australia (24 June 1881 - 23 April 1884), and Premier and Treasurer of South Australia (23 April 1884 - 16 June 1884). At the time, he was the longest-serving premier of the colony.

The Bray Government in 1883 petitioned the Home Government for absolute control of the Northern Territory, put in 1865 under the administration of South Australia, but on the ground that at some future time it might be necessary to erect a separate colony in the north their request was refused.[4]

He visited England and the United States from 1884 to 1885, returning to serve as Chief Secretary of South Australia (14 October 1885 - June 1887), and Treasurer (8 June 1886 - 7 June 1887) in the 1st Downer ministry. He was acting Premier during Downer's absence in England until June 1887. Due to his popularity, Bray was elected Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly (served 31 May 1888 - June 1890), after which he refused renomination to that office. He was Chief Secretary in the 2nd Playford ministry (19 August 1890 - 6 January 1892), when he left politics, sparking the East Adelaide by-election, which saw the first Labor MP elected in South Australian history.

Bray attended the Sydney Intercolonial Conference in 1883, and was one of seven South Australian representatives at the first Federal Convention at Sydney in 1891.

Late life and legacy

Bray was appointed Agent General for South Australia in London (served 29 February 1892 - April 1894), resigning early because of ill health.

On 13 June 1894, he died at sea between Aden and Colombo aboard the Oceana en route for South Australia. His obituary appeared in The Times (London) of 19 June 1894.

Bray was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) by Queen Victoria in the New Year's Honours List for 1890. His wife, Alice Maude née Hornabrook, Lady Bray, (1850 - 13 July 1935), whom he married in 1870, survived him. They had three sons and one daughter.

  • The youngest son, Harry Midwinter Bray (1879-1965), an Adelaide stock broker, was the father of the Honourable Dr John Jefferson Bray (1912-1995), poet, lawyer, academic, and judge, who served as Chief Justice of South Australia and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide.
  • In 1904 Bray's only daughter, Blanche Ada Bray (1881-1908), married, as his first wife, Sir John Lavington Bonython (1875-1960), sometime Mayor and later Lord Mayor of Adelaide, member of the well-known family of newspaper proprietors, philanthropists, and art connoisseurs. She bore him three children before dying 4 years later in childbirth aged 26: John Langdon Bonython AO (1905-1992); Elizabeth Hornabrook Bonython (1907-2008), later Lady Wilson, though better known by the incorrect but popular style Lady Betty Wilson CBE, who lived to age 101; and Ada Bray Heath (1908-1965).

Bray's descendants continue to include people prominent in Australian politics and the Australian judiciary.

Bray was the first native-born South Australian to serve as premier, speaker, and agent-general for the colony.


  1. ^ "Mining Association- Election of Officers". South Australian Register. South Australia. 30 April 1845. p. 3. Retrieved 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "The Biographer". Leader (1698). Victoria, Australia. 28 July 1888. p. 36. Retrieved 2018 – via National Library of Australia. a witty contemporary account.
  3. ^ "John Cox Bray". Former Member of Parliament Details. Parliament of South Australia.
  4. ^ The Northern Territory, The Advertiser, 6 June 1901, p. 6. (Note: the article contains several inaccuracies)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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