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David York Syme (1844–1932)

from Argus

Deep regret will be felt at the announcement of the death of Mr. David York Syme, sen., chairman of the Melbourne Steamship Co. Ltd., which occurred at his home in Balwyn on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Syme was aged 88 years.

Mr. Syme, who was born in Castlebellingham, County Louth, Ireland, in 1844, was a son of the late Mr. David Syme of Monasterevan, near Dublin. In his youth he was apprenticed to a surgeon and apothecary in Bushmills, and later to a linen draper in Dublin. When aged 18 years he emigrated to Australia in the Blackwall line sailing ship Highflyer, arriving in Sydney in February, 1863, after a passage of 70 days. In Sydney Mr Syme was engaged with a wholesale softgoods firm, and in the sixties he obtained a commission in the Royal Sydney Artillery at a period when the weekly gun practice consisted in firing muzzle-loading field guns from Dawes Point.

In 1867 Mr. Syme married Mary, daughter of the late Rev John Reid, of 105 Princess street, Sydney, and a sister of the late Sir George Reid. Mr. Reid's home was demolished in 1923 to make way for the approaches to the Sydney Harbour bridge. Mrs Syme died in 1915. Attracted by the high price that was being offered for cotton in 1871, Mr Syme acquired a cotton plantation in Fiji. Trouble was experienced with black labourers and when the price of cotton fell heavily the plantation was abandoned. In 1873 Mr Syme sailed for Victoria where he was appointed manager of the Floating Dock and Engineering Works at Williamstown. Subsequently with his brother-in-law the late Mr Hugh R. Reid and others he assisted in forming the Melbourne Steamship Company. With this company he had been associated for 59 years and for the last 21 years he had occupied the position of chairman of directors.

Mr Syme was a former vice-president of the Employers' Federation. He represented the shipowners on the Marine Board for 30 years and was a trustee of the Pilots Superannuation fund and of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Relief Fund. He was a director of the Provident Loan Society of Victoria Limited and for a long period he was a member of the council of the Swinburne Technical College and a member of the Austin Hospital committee. Mr Syme was a former president of the Canterbury Bowling Club and he took a keen interest in horticulture. He was actively associated with many charitable organisations including the Kilmany Park Farm Home for Boys. For more than half a century he was associated with Williamstown and Canterbury Presbyterian Churches.

Mr Syme is survived by three daughters Mesdames G. E. Wiseman, B. Bradshaw and James Murray—and two sons Messrs F. M. and D. York Syme jun.

After a service at the Presbyterian Church, Canterbury road, Canterbury, at half past 3 o'clock this afternoon, which will be conducted by the Rev J. A. Forrest, the funeral will take place at the Boroondara Cemetery. The funeral arrangements are in the hands of A. A. Sleight Pty Ltd.

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Citation details

'Syme, David York (1844–1932)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Castlebellingham, Louth, Ireland


17 December, 1932 (aged ~ 88)
Balwyn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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