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BATTYE, James Sykes CBE (1871-1954)

BATTYE, Dr James Sykes CBE (1871-1954)

James Battye, librarian, author and historian, the son of Daniel Battye, was born at Geelong on 14 November 1871, and attended the Geelong College from 10 February 1885 to 1886.

He came to the College as an Exhibitioner from the Flinders National School and in 1886 was first in Greek in the University Class, first in Euclid and Trigonometry in the Post-Matriculation Class and was awarded Dux of the College that year. He gained degrees in Arts and Law from Melbourne University and first became Assistant Librarian at the Melbourne Public Library (now State Library of Victoria) in 1889.

He became a leading public figure in Perth. He was the first Chief Librarian of the State Library of Western Australia from 1894 until his death in 1954. During the sixty years in which he served the Perth Library as Librarian and, later as secretary, he published several books including a 'History of Western Australia' (1924), for which he received a Doctorate of Literature from Melbourne University. He also published: 'Development of the Pastoral Industry of Western Australia' (1923) and edited 'Cyclopedia of Western Australia (1912-1913) and 'History of the North-West' (1915).

He was Chairman of Council of Perth High School and Deputy Grand Master of the Freemasons from 1908 to 1915, and from 1918 to 1919 as well as the first grand principal of the Royal Arch Chapter. For a time he was a member of the board of governors of Hale College, Perth and also Wesley College, Perth. He was President of the Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital, Perth and honorary secretary of the West Australian Institute for the Blind. The J S Battye Library of Western Australian History was named in 1956 in honour of him. He was most notably a Member of the Royal Commission which led to the founding of the University of WA – a role which led him to become Pro-Chancellor for five years, Chancellor for six years and Warden of Convocation several times.

A Memorial Tablet in the Wesley Uniting Church, William St, Perth honours him: 'Sacred to the Memory of James Sykes Battye CBE BA LLB LittD Hon LLD JP. Born 14. 11. 1871. Died 15.7.1954. A Regular worshipper in this Church for 60 years and for 55 years a member of the Wesley Church Trust of which he was Secretary for 23 years and later Treasurer for 19 years. And of his wife Sarah Elizabeth May Battye. Born 1.1.1873. Died 26. 11.1954. His constant Companion. Erected by their sons and daughters.'

Sources: Annual Report, 1986 p1; Pegasus May 1922 p32; Pegasus June 1934 pp47-8; West Australian 16 July 1954; Pegasus December 1954 p52.
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