People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

James Ballantine Mercer (1842–1925)

This article was published:

James Mercer, n.d.

James Mercer, n.d.

James Ballantine Mercer (1842-1925) wood carver, scripture reader, insurance salesman and Labor parliamentarian

Birth: 1842 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of William Mercer (b.1818), tobacco spinner, and Grace, née Dixon (b.1821). Marriage: (1) 30 December 1863 at St Phillip’s Church, Sheffield Yorkshire, England, to Rachel Fearnley (1839-1903). They had five daughters and two sons. (2) 1908 at Melbourne, Victoria, to Mary Ann Burley (d.1913). (3) 1915 at Melbourne, to Margaret Stewart (d.1924). Death: 4 November 1925 at Lakemba, NSW. Religion: Anglican.

  • About 1858 his parents moved the family to South Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. In 1871-1881 James was living with his wife and children at Sheffield, and worked as a wood carver. For about twelve years he was a paid lay reader for the Church of England in Sheffield and Plymouth.
  • Arrived in Queensland with his family in 1883 and settled at Mackay. In 1885 he moved to New South Wales. Worked as caretaker at the Seamen’s Institute at Cicular Quay from 1885 until 1896. Later became an insurance agent.
  • Active in the Rozelle branch of the Australian Labor Party. Member of the central executive from 1905 to 1909. On 10 September 1907 he was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the member for Rozelle. Appointed justice of the peace in 1911.
  • Left the ALP over conscription and did not contest his seat in elections on 24 March 1917, during which he campaigned for pro-conscription Nationalists. In 1921 he was elected president of the Hurstville South branch of the National Association and his wife was elected vice-president.
  • Was president of the Burns Anniversary club, for three years a lecturer for the Good Templars and a lay reader at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Sydney.
  • Cause of death: senile decay and cardiac failure.

Additional Resources

  • photo, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 9 December 1913, p 11

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Mercer, James Ballantine (1842–1925)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

James Mercer, n.d.

James Mercer, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


4 November, 1925 (aged ~ 83)
Lakemba, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism