22a["General News", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 08 April 1911, page 10]


Another fortnight will see the willy-willy season out, and for seven months to go the raising of pearl shell will be prosecuted without fear and with vigor, as numbers of owners declare they will "go for their lives" for three years [at the end of which white divers are to be insisted upon,] and then "chuck it."

22b["White Divers", The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 18 November 1911]

White Divers

Perth, November 11.

The Premier communicated with the Federal authorities to ascertain whether permission would be given for white divers and tenders to be brought from England in order to comply with the requirements of the Commonwealth Government respecting the future manning of pearling luggers.

To-day Mr Scaddan was informed that the question of the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject was before the Federal Parliament, and the debate would be resumed next week.

The Prime Minister asked for details from the Pearlers' Association regarding the terms under which the men referred to are to be employed.

22c[Idriess, Ion L., 1937, Forty Fathoms Deep, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Chapter 14]




Routine had hardly quietened to a stormy normal when Long Jimmy James breezed in. Rubin greeted him darkly. "Why the storm clouds?" demanded James as he stretched his long frame in the most comfortable chair. "Any one would think there was a war on!"

"There soon will be a war," answered Rubin darkly; "a bigger war than you ever dreamed of."

"What on earth are you talking about?" "War. War-war-war-war!" shouted Rubin. "Rats!" replied James.

Rubin glowered, then shrugged. "All right, you'll see." "How's the pearls?" inquired James.

"I've got half a million tied up in pearls. The world does not want pearls!"

"What does it want?"

"Wool! There is going to be a war - mark my word, James - a war in two or three, perhaps four years."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" "I'm going to buy sheep. "


"I'm going to buy a sheep station. Perhaps more than one."

"What do you know about sheep stations?"

"I'm surprised at you, James, asking me what I know about anything!" said Rubin scathingly. "You know as well as I do you can always buy brains!"

He could. And he bought his sheep stations. He had known what it was to be without a shilling in the world. Now he was buying stations to grow wool that would help clothe troops in a great war the possibility of which was denied by almost all the world.



RUBIN, MARK (1867?-1919), pearl dealer and pastoralist, and BERNARD (1896-1936), sportsman, were father and son. Mark was born probably in 1867 at Salantai in the province of Kovno, Russia (Lithuania), son of Louis Rubinstein, medical practitioner, and his wife Hannah, née Smitkin. He left Russia as a young man and lived for a time at Cardiff, Wales, before reaching Sydney in December 1886. He moved to Melbourne in February 1887. With little English, he worked at odd jobs, including a spell as a wharf labourer, before investing his savings in haberdashery which he hawked round the city in a wheelbarrow. After acquiring a horse and buggy he extended his business into country areas. For several years he was an opal miner and dealer at White Cliffs, New South Wales. On returning to Melbourne, he was naturalized in January 1893. He became a jeweller and married Rebecca, daughter of Woolf Davis, a well-known figure in the Melbourne Jewish community, on 23 October 1895 at Carlton.

Soon after 1900 Mark moved to Broome, Western Australia, centre of the pearling industry, where he quickly became a leading pearl dealer, travelling yearly to London. He also owned a large pearling fleet. About 1901 the family moved to London, although Mark continued to spend most of his time in Australia. Believing that war in Europe was inevitable and that wool would be more in demand than pearls, he bought several large sheep stations in 1912-13, including de Grey and Warrawagine near Port Hedland, Western Australia, and Northampton Downs in Queensland. He also transferred his pearl-dealing business to London and Paris. Mark died at Fontainebleau, France, on 6 November 1919, leaving a fortune. His will requested that he be buried in the Jewish cemetery, Melbourne, and a special request was entered that his family return to live in Australia and his sons marry without delay and take an active interest in Jewish communal affairs. The running of the family business was left to his younger son Harold de Vahl (1899-1964), who achieved fame as an art collector and philanthropist.


Select Bibliography

J. S. Battye (ed), The History of the North West of Australia (Perth, 1915); H. Birkin, Full Throttle (Lond, 1932); O. Cathcart-Jones, Aviation Memoirs (Lond, 1934); I. L. Idriess, Forty Fathoms Deep (Syd, 1937); J. D. Benjafield, The Bentleys of Le Mans (Abingdon, Eng, 1948); A. F. C. Hillstead, Those Bentley Days (Lond, 1953); N. Bartlett, The Pearl Seekers (Lond, 1954); D. Berthon, A Racing History of the Bentley (1921-31) (Lond, 1956); W. O. Bentley, An Illustrated History of the Bentley Car 1919-1931 (Lond, 1964); E. Nagle, The Other Bentley Boys (Lond, 1964); W. O. Bentley, My Life and My Cars (Lond, 1967); A. Swinson, The Great Air Race (Lond, 1968); M. A. Bain, Full Fathom Five (Perth, 1982); H. Edwards, Port of Pearls (Adel, 1983); E. P. Wixted, The North-West Aerial Frontier 1919-1934 (Brisb, 1985); Autocar, 26 Oct 1928, 3 July 1936, 10 June 1978; Australian Jewish Herald, 14 Oct 1921; Argus, 6 Apr, 3 May 1934; Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr 1934, 7 Mar 1964, 4 Oct 1972, 16 Apr 1983; Times (London), 2 May 1934, 1, 4 July 1936; Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 20 Oct 1957; West Australian, 30 July 1963; Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 7 Mar 1964; Courier Mail (Brisbane), 4 Feb 1966; Daily Mirror (Sydney), 21 Apr 1977. More on the resources

Author: John Playford

Print Publication Details: John Playford, 'Rubin, Mark (1867? - 1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, pp 474-475.