Davis, Abraham de Vahl

[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 12 April 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. provided to the author by the late Malcolm Barker]

List of passengers known to have been bound for Broome.

From Fremantle

Davis Abraham Manager for Mark Rubin, Broome.


[Passenger list, "KOOMBANA" 37, compiled 02 April 1912, Adelaide Steamship Company. Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University, 0186/N46/634]

Fremantle-Broome Davis Mr. [blank]

[Barker, Malcolm, 2001, The Truth Is So Precious, Success Print, Perth, Western Australia, page53]


For Broome

Mr Abraham Davis, Manager for Mark Rubin Broome

Mr G. Simpson, the Resident Engineer of the Harbours and Rivers Department at Broome

Mr G. Harper, of the Harper Brothers (Pearlers)

Mrs Syd. Piggott, (and her two daughters) wife of an ex-Mayor of Broome who was currently Secretary of the very powerful Pearlers Association,


["The Koombana", The West Australian, Saturday 30 March 1912, page 11]



Particulars of the complete passenger list are being gradually collected and corrections made in the original list printed in the Press.


Mr. A. Davis, who booked at Fremantle by the Koombana, had only arrived from the Eastern States by one of the mail boats a few days before leaving for the North-West.


["Cursed Pearl and the Koombana": Graham de Vahl Davis, interviewed by Greg Hayes, ABC Kimberley, Western Australia, 09 May 2002]

Presenter: Greg Hayes.

Interviewee: Graham deVahl Davis, grandson of Abraham.

Graham states that Abraham worked for his brother-in-law Mark Ruben, but had luggers of his own.

["No News of the Koombana", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 31 March 1912, page 1]


Mr. Arthur[sic] Davis, of the firm of Rubin and Davis, pearl buyers, Broome, was just returning from Melbourne after undergoing a serious operation. He was not fairly recovered from the effects of this, but being under the necessity of visiting his buying agent at Shark Bay, was practically forced to travel by the Koombana. He would otherwise have waited a fortnight. Mr. Davis was highly esteemed by all who knew him.


["Fate of the Koombana", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 06 April 1912, page 2]


Mr. Davis was not Siebe Gorman's manager, as reported from Perth last week, but the noted pearl buyer, Rubin's representative.


["The Perth Passengers", The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA), Thursday 04 April 1912, page 3]


Mr Arthur[sic] Davis is of the firm Rubin and Davis, pearl buyers, of Broome, and had just returned from Melbourne where he had undergone a serious surgical operation.


["Loss of the Koombana", The Brisbane Courier (Qld.), Wednesday 10 April 1912, page 5]


The late Mr Abraham Davis visited Brisbane several times, and was a brother-in-law of Mr Mark Rubin, who is perhaps the largest pearl merchant doing business in Australia. Mr. Davis controlled the Australian business, which embraced interests in pearling, pastoral, and other concerns. He was a shrewd business man, and was well known In Melbourne.

[Personal communication, Bethwyn Brandis, granddaughter of Koombana passenger Fred Clinch, 25 May 2005]

Background: In March 2002 Mrs Brandis, granddaughter of Fred Clinch, sought to contact with other descendants of those lost on the Koombana. She placed an advertisement in The West Australian under the heading "Can you help?". She was very surprised at the response and has recorded the correspondence which followed. Amongst her correspondents:

Lyn Yelland

[address & telephone number withheld]

Great grandfather was Abraham Davis a pearl buyer from Broome. He is alleged to have had the Roseate Pearl on the Koombana. Most of Lynn's information was copies of newspapers which which you probably already have. I believe Lynn is away on a six week trip at present."

["Koombana's Passenger List", Broome Chronicle (WA), Saturday 30 March 1912]


For Broome.


Mr. A. Davies (M. Rubin)

Mr. J. Davis (Siebe Gorman)


["Asiatics etc.", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 27 March 1909, page 7]

Since we commenced a series of articles on the Asiatic influx into the Nor'-West various people have been put forth a bogey that we were seeking the annihilation of the pearling industry. So far has this bogey been labored that our critics have sought to place every pearler on an irreproachable pedestal of honor and respectability, with the colored indentured men forming a halo, and it now becomes necessary for us to say much we did not set out to relate. Mr. Davis, a very wordy resident of Broome, in an interview with "Truth," oiled over our contentions in our issue of January 10, and ended up by declaring that whitemen cannot do the pearling work, and if Australia ceases to allow cheap colored labor, the pearlers will leave Australia. In previous articles we clearly indicated that we were not yet prepared to advocate the abolition of indentured labor in the pearling, although we recognise that there are sound arguments in favor of such a course. Whitemen can perform all the work on the pearling ground, and some five or six divers have for some time been engaged in the trade on this coast. Mr. Davis points out that divers have died while at work, and it is better to sacrifice colored men than white. How would that argument be received if applied to the mining industry of the State? Similar arguments were advanced by the semi-slave holders in the Queensland sugar industry, which today is entirely worked by whitemen and is thriving.


["Personal", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 17 December 1910, page 1]

Messrs. Reubin & Davis, of Broome, have purchased the station property, inland from Hedland, recently owned by Messrs Logue & Matthews.

["Broome's 'Visitor'", The Age (Melbourne), Saturday 07 November 1931]

see text scans and transcribe

["Melbourne Hebrew School", The Argus (Melbourne), Monday 01 February 1875, page 6]

The first annual distribution of prizes to the pupils of the Melbourne Hebrew School took place yesterday afternoon at the Bourke-street Synagogue.


Mr Louis Ellis, hon. secretary of the school, read a short report which stated that in the early part of 1874 when the state school system was established, the Melbourne Hebrew school became an absolute appanage of the Hebrew congregation and was opened to children of both sexes on payment of a small sum per month for tuition. After mentioning the names of several gentlemen who had offered special prizes for various subjects it went on to say that the total number of children attending the school was--boys 122, girls 30--making a total of 158. The fees received during the year had been totally inadequate to meet tho expenses and immediate steps were necessary to enable the sehool board to extend the benefits of the establishment.


Special Prizes.


Second best Hebrew Scholar (presented by Mr A. Waxman).--Abraham Davis.


["The Melbourne Hebrew School", The Argus (Melbourne), Monday 19 March 1877, page 7]

The Melbourne Hebrew School.

The annual distribution of the prizes to the pupils of the Melbourne Hebrow School took place yesterday in the Melbourne Synagogue in the presence of about 5OO ladies und gentlemen. Mr. Louis M. Myers, president of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, occupied the chair, and read the following report:--

"The Melbourne Hebrew School, which was formerly a state school under the education department, was dissevered from Government control at the commencement of 1874, and since then has been maintained as a Communal Institution by the Jewish inhabitants of Melbourne and suburbs. It is satisfactory to note that whilst during 1873 (the last year of its connexion with Government) the average attendance was 101.83; since then, whilst charging school fees, and having to contend against the free education of the State, the attendances have been:--For the year 1874, average attendance, 94.65; for the year 1875, average attendance, 142.03; for the year 1876, average attendance, 170.98; for two months of 1877, average attendance, 195.80. So that now with an average attendance of about 200 pupils and with school fees bringing in about 300 per annum, the school may be regarded as in a highly flourishing condition.



The Hon. Edward Cohen, M. L. A., offered a prire of 10 guineas to the first pupil who would matriculate from the school. This prize has consequently been gained by Joel Fredman.


The chairman then proceeded to distribute the prizes as follows:--

Special Prizes --

Matriculation (10 guineas), Joel Fredman;

dux, English (five guineas), Albert Cohen;

improvement Hebrew, Rosetta Marks;

improvement English, Simon Moses, Sigismund Sehlam (equal);

needlework, Matilda Levy;

improvement English, Abraham Davis and Maurice Lederman;


Hebrew translation, Abraham Davis;


music, Isaac Bennett, Abraham Davis (equal);


Hebrew, Abraham Davis;


[school prize certificate, held by Graham deVahl Davis]

Scotch College


Second Prize for French

Awarded to A. Davis

17th December 1878

["Divorce Interrogatories. Liability of Parties.", The Argus (Melbourne), Thursday 23 November 1911, page 9]

Divorce Interrogatories.

Liability of Parties.

An interesting point in divorce law affecting the liability of respondent and co-respondent to answer interrogatories was the subject of a judgment in the State Full Court yesterday. The suit was that of Davis v. Davis, Hattrick co-respondent, and the matter which was referred to the Full Court by Mr. Justice Cussen was heard before Mr. Justice Hodges, Mr. Justice Hood and Mr. Justice Cussen. The petitioner in the suit is seeking a divorce from his wife on the ground of misconduct, and respondent and co-respondent had declined to answer questions put to them, on the ground that their answers might tend to incriminate them. A motion for attachment was then made against them, and the question that went to the Full Court was whether the replies they had given were sufficient, or whether they were bound to give full answers.

Mr. Duffy, K.C., Mr. L. S. Woolf, and Mr. Arthur (instructed by Mr. J. Woolf) appeared in support of the petitioner, and Mr. McFarlan (instructed by Messrs. Blake and Riggall for the respondent and co-respondent.

Mr. Duffy contended that as the English ecclesiastical laws, which made misconduct punishable, did not apply here as they did in England, the parties here were bound to answer the interrogatories.

Mr. McFarlan claimed that parties could not be compelled to risk incriminating themselves on the issues before the Court by answering questions.

Mr. Justice Hodges said the rules of procedure governing the Supreme Court applied with regard to interrogatories and discovery in divorce so far as they did not conflict with the rights of parties. No person was compelled to confess or to admit adultery in an affidavit. That, in the opinion of the Court, was a recognition of the English practice that a respondent and co-respondent could not be required to answer interrogatories which were directed to that purpose. In this case neither of these parties had put in an answer on the suit, and if they had they would not under the rules be required to verify those answers by affidavit. And it would be strange, that being the case, if they could be compelled to give and answer on issues through interrogatories.

Mr. Justice Hood said he concurred in the decision with reluctance, because he could see no principle which would justify the Court in excusing a person who had committed a matrimonial offence from being compelled to tell the truth respecting it. To answer that it would tend to incriminate was palpably absurd. There was no possibility of any incrimination in these answers. The English practice still existed, and had been recognised here by the rules, and there was no indication that the Legislature desired to depart from it. If a respondent or co-respondent went into the witness box they could be cross-examined as to misconduct. As long as they kept out there appeared to be no machinery to compel them to make admissions. Personally, he would like to see the rule altered.

Mr. Justice Cussen, in concurring, said it would be a curious result if it were held that at the beginning of a suit a defendant could not be compelled to answer on oath as to adultery, and then by some express question to compel an answer to be made.

Mr. Justice Hodges said: "Speaking personally with respect to what Mr. Justice Hood has said, I should think it undesirable to alter the rule and place a co-respondent in a position possibly of having to commit perjury or place on permanent record in an affidavit that he had committed misconduct."

The summons was dismissed.

["A Divorce Case", The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Friday 24 November 1911, page 10]

A Divorce Case.

An Interesting Point of Law.

Melbourne, November 23.

A divorce suit, in which Abraham Davis, business manager, of Melbourne and Western Australia, was petitioner; Sarah Davis, respondent and J. M. Hattrick, of Sydney, co-respondent, was before the State Full Court yesterday for decision on a point of law which had been referred to the Court by Mr. Justice Cussen. The petitioner was seeking a dissolution of his marriage on the ground of misconduct by his wife with the co-respondent. An order had been made that the respondent and co-respondent should answer various interrogations and allow the "discovery" of certain documents in relation to the case. The "documents" consisted of letters which had passed between them. They objected to answer the questions submitted in writing on the ground that if they did so the answers would tend to incriminate them. On a motion for attachment being made for refusing to answer the questions, Mr. Justice Cussen referred the matter to the State Full Court, which was asked to decide whether the respondent and the co-respondent were bound to answer the questions, or whether the replies given by them were sufficient.

The court found that the rules of divorce provided that no person in affidavit was compelled to confess or admit the commission of misconduct. It would be extremely undesirable to place a respondent in the position of either having to commit perjury or else having to place permanently on record in an affidavit that he had committed misconduct. The summons was dismissed.

["Divorce Court. Davis v Davis", The Argus (Melbourne), Friday 1 December 1911, page 5]

Divorce Court.

Davis v Davis.

Abraham Davis, 48 years of age, of Drummond-street, Carlton, Melbourne, business manager, sought a dissolution of his marriage with Sarah Davis, 40 years of age, on the ground of misconduct with J. M. Hattrick, of Sydney, commercial traveller, otherwise known as "Sandy," "Peter," or "Jack," and also on the ground of desertion. The parties were married on November 19, 1890, in the Synagogue, at East Melbourne, be the Rev. J. [?Lenzer].

Mr. L. S. Woolf (instructed by Mr. J. Woolf) appeared for the petitioner. The respondent and co-respondent entered appearances, but did not file any answer in the petition. Mr. J. R. McFarlan (instructed by Messrs. Blake and Riggall) watched the case for the co-respondent upon the questions of costs.

There were two children, 17 and 14 years of age.

Mr. Woolf said that in 1901, after prior disagreements, the husband and wife became reconciled. The petitioner went to England on business, and returned in 1903. There were further disagreements and reconciliations. In 1905 or 1906, the parties went to live in lodgings in Western Australia, where petitioner found certain letters secreted, and taxed his wife with the question, "Do you swear before our child's grave and your living parents that you are innocent?" Respondent said she was innocent, and petitioner gave her the benefit of the doubt. Marital relations were resumed. Petitioner submitted the letters to a lawyer and was informed that, while they showed indiscretion, they did not establish proof of misconduct. In 1908, petitioner brought his wife to Melbourne for medical advice, and afterwards himself returned to Western Australia. A little later respondent wrote and told petitioner that she was advised to take a trip to South Africa for her health's sake. Respondent, in spite of her husband's protests, left for South Africa with her brother, who was on a trip to Australia. On March 3 petitioner wrote to his wife to Africa, remonstrating with her for her disobedience. Respondent remained away for two years, until 1910, and, except for two letters, never communicated with her husband or children. In the meantime petitioner took other advice, and was told that references in the letters to "torrid kisses," double beds, the communication of the respondent's bedroom number to the co-respondent could only mean one thing.

Petitioner allowed his wife 6 a week, with an extra allowance for the children. When respondent arrived in Melbourne in 1910, a letter was handed her from her husband, asking who "Sandy" was and other pertinent questions relating to the man, the author of the compromising letters to the respondent. The daughter had gone away to her mother, but the boy had remained with his father. Respondent went to live with her daughter at Pott's Point, Sydney, and passed herself off as a widow and her daughter as her niece, and also accounted for Hattrick's presence by saying he was her business manager. On finding out about the real state of affairs, Mrs. Fuller, who kept the boarding house at Pott's Point, asked them to leave. From there they went to the Wentworth Hotel, and afterwards to North Sydney, where the pair were now living under the same roof. In 1911 it had been ascertained that Hattrick paid a number of cheques into Cecilie E. Davis's banking account. In 1905 the respondent, against her husband's wishes, went travelling with corsets for Sargood's, and the co-respondent first saw respondent in a train, and fell in love with her at first sight "in spite of the powder on her face," and not long after there was a question in a letter from co-respondent, asking respondent if she got the note he left for her in the toe of her shoe the morning she left Ararat.

Alice Fuller, who kept the boarding-house at Macleay street, Pott's Point, Sydney, gave evidence as to the co-respondent having engaged rooms for Mrs. Davis, Miss Davis and himself in March of this year, and identified the respondent and co-respondent from snapshot photographs produced.

After further evidence had been taken, the case was adjourned sine die.

["Petition For Divorce", The West Australian, Tuesday 12 December 1911, page 7]

Petition For Divorce.

Decree Nisi Granted.

Question of Costs Reserved.

Melbourne, Dec. 11.

The hearing of the suit in which Abraham Davis, 48 years of age, of Carlton, business manager, petitioned for a disolution of his marriage with Sarah Davis, 40 years of age, on the grounds of desertion and misconduct with J. M. Haterick[sic], of Sydney, commercial traveller, was resumed in the Divorce Court today. The respondent and the co-respondent entered an appearance without filing an answer, and were represented by Mr. J. McFarlane on the question of costs only. The petitioner, re-examined, said that in 1908 he brought his wife from Western Australia to Melbourne and took her to three different doctors. He returned to his business in Western Australia, and since February 1908, he had never seen her.

Leonard McCallum, a secret service agent, said that in May of this year he saw the respondent, the co-respondent, and Miss Davis several times in Sydney. They were living in Macleay-treet, Potts Point, in Mrs. Fuller's house. On four different evenings he had seen the respondent going away with the co-respondent.

A decree nisi was granted on the grounds of misconduct. Judgment on the question of costs was reserved.

["Davis v. Davis", The Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 19 December 1911, page 8]



In the First Civil Court yesterday, Mr. Justice A'Beckett delivered judgment upon the question of costs reserved at the hearing of the divorce suit of Davis v. Davis (Hattrick co-respondent).

Abraham Davis, 48 years of age, business manager, of Drummond-street, Carlton, sought a dissolution of his marriage with Sarah Davis, 40 years of age, on the grounds of desertion, and also of her misconduct with J. M. Hattrick, commercial traveller. Mr. I. S. Woolf appeared for the petitioner, and Mr. J. McFarlan for the co-respondent, upon the question of costs only. There was no appearance for the respondent.

Mr. Justice A'Beckett said that the general proposition prevailed that it was for the husband to satisfy the Court that the co-respondent was aware that the respondent was a married woman. From the letters written by the co-respondent himself, it was evident that in this case the co-respondent had such knowledge, and he must therefore pay the costs, except those of three witnesses, whose attendance had not been necessary. A decree nisi would be granted on both grounds, with costs against the co-respondent.

'decree nisi'


A decree nisi (non-absolute ruling) is a court order that does not have any force until such time that a particular condition is met.

Once the condition is met the ruling becomes decree absolute and is binding. Typically, the condition is that no new evidence or further petitions with a bearing on the case are introduced to the court. "Nisi" is Latin for "unless", the wording of the decree being something like "that the marriage had and solemnized on (date) between AB and CD be dissolved by reason that (grounds) UNLESS sufficient cause be shown be shown to the court why this decree should not be made absolute within 6 months of the making hereof".

This allows time for any party who objects to the divorce to come forward with those objections. It is also at times termed as rule nisi. In most common law jurisdictions, a decree nisi must be obtained in possession proceedings before the court will order foreclosure under a mortgage enforcement.

["Koombana Victim's Will", The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 25 September 1912, page 7]


Abraham Davis, of Broome, pearler who went down in the Koombana last year, had his will in his possession at the time. His solicitor, possessing a draft of the document, presented it to the Supreme Court in solemn form and, execution having been sworn to, probate was granted.

["A Melbourne Divorce", The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 22 November 1912, page 10]




MELBOURNE, Thursday.

A remarkable position has arisen in connection with the divorce suit Davis v Davis (Hattrick co-respondent), owing to the apparent fact that between the time that petitioner obtained the decree nisi and the data on which the decree was made absolute he was drowned at sea. Petitioner, Abraham Davis, commercial traveller, last year took action to obtain a divorce from Sarah Davis on the ground of misconduct between her and J. M. Hattrick. On December 18 Mr. Justice A'Beckett granted a decree nisi, which was made absolute on April 10 last. In the meantime, about March 30 last, the steamship Koombana, on which it is supposed Davis was a passenger, went down, with all hands, off the north-west coast of Western Australia.

Probate has been granted on the draft of the will of Davis in Western Australia, the date of death being stated as on or about March 20 last. Now the matter of the divorce is to come before the courts again on an application by the respondent to have the decree dissolving her marriage with petitioner set aside, on the ground that he was dead at the time it was made absolute.

The matter came before Mr. Justice Cussen in the Practice Court when Mr. McFarlane appeared to support the application, and Mr. Hogan to oppose.

Mr. Macfarlane said he appeared on the summons.

Mr. Hogan: I appear for the petitioner.

Mr. Macfarlane: We say there is no petitioner.

Mr. Hogan: I appear for the representatives of the petitioner, and ask for an adjournment. We do not know where he is. He may not be dead. If so, I appear for his executors.

Mr. Justice Cussen held that Hogan appeared for the executors of Davis, and adjourned the matter till Thursday.

["Unusual Divorce Proceedings", The West Australian, Saturday 30 November 1912, page 12]



Melbourne, Nov. 29.

The action taken by a divorced wife to have an order absolute erased from the decree because the petitioning husband died before it was made was not proceeded with to-day, and the summons was dismissed by consent by Mr. Justice Hodges in the Practice Court. The petitioner in the suit, Abraham Davis, of Western Australia, commercial traveller, on December 18 last obtained a decree nisi for the dissolution of his marriage with Sarah Davis on the grounds of misconduct with J. M. Hattrick, otherwise known as "Sandy," and on April 20 in the ordinary course the decree nisi was made absolute. In the meantime, about the end of March, Davis went down on board the steamer Koombana. Since then probate had been granted to his will in Western Australia. The application was made by the respondent to have the order absolute erased, and was adjourned to allow an answer to be made. Mr. Hogan to-day appeared for the executors of the late Abraham Davis and asked that the summons should be dismissed without costs. He said that the executors had the consent of the applicant, who did not appear. The summons was dismissed.

["Deaths", The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 10 April 1912, page 18]

DAVIS.-At sea, in S.S. Koombana, Abraham Davis, son of the late Woolf Davis, of Melbourne, and beloved brother of Mrs. Ph. Phillippstein, of Murilla, 4 Park-road, Moore Park, aged 48 years.