LEWIS, David Edward (1866-1941)


LEWIS, David Edward (1866-1941)
public benefactor
son of Dafydd Lewis, a carpenter, was born at Llanrhystyd, near Aberystwyth, Wales, on 7 March 1866. His mother died at his birth, his father when he was nine years old, and the boy was brought up by his maternal grandparents, the Rev. Edward and Diana Mason. He went to a village school and at 13 was employed by a grocer in a coal-mining district. He was next apprenticed to N. H. Lewis, a draper at Neath, working very long hours, and afterwards worked for another Lewis, William Lewis of Pontnewyndd, who encouraged David to attend evening classes and had much influence on his life. The young man then went to London to study the wholesale side of the drapery business, and in 1890 decided to go to Australia. Landing at Melbourne he gained experience on the staff of Craig Williamson Pty Ltd and then in partnership with a Mr Jones started a drapers' business at Williamstown. He soon afterwards sold his interest in this business, and with J. A. Love, opened a drapery shop in Brunswick-street, Fitzroy, in 1892. This business prospered and in a year or two another shop was opened in Chapel-street, Prahron (sic), which became the principal shop and rapidly grew in size. In 1910 Love retired and Lewis became the sole proprietor. He worked hard until later years, when he did much travelling, some of which was for business purposes. In 1930 a property in Bourke-street, Melbourne, was purchased for the business, and in 1936 Lewis bought a country property in New South Wales in which he became much interested. He died at Melbourne on 17 August 1941. He was twice married and left a widow and two sons of the first marriage.
Lewis was a strong, rugged character with a keen sense of business. When he started for Australia he was aged 24 and had accumulated a capital of rather more than £100. He did not believe in waste and throughout his life remained careful in money matters, though this did not prevent him from helping people who were in need. He gave £2000 to the university of Melbourne in 1928 for laboratory extensions in the engineering school, and in his last years devoted much thought to the problem of helping boys of ability whose parents could not give them a university education. Under his will the Dafydd Lewis trust was formed which will have control of about £700,000. From the year 1943 onwards scholarships will be available to boys educated in Victorian state elementary and state secondary schools, whose parents have a joint income not exceeding the purchasing power of six pounds a week at the time of the death of Lewis. These scholarships will not only pay the university fees but will cover the cost of books, food and clothing.
Booklet issued by the Trustees of the Dafydd Lewis Trust; The Argus, 19 August, 23 and 24 September 1941; information from The Trustees Executors and Agency Co. Ltd.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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