T. B. Davis

davis stamp

On 23rd July, 1935, the Prince of Wales came to Jersey to open the Howard Davis Hall, Victoria College and unveil the portrait of King George V by John St. Helier Lander. This painting had been acquired at the Paris Salon Exhibition the previous year by Jerseyman Thomas Benjamin Davis. It was characteristic of Davis' generosity that he then also decided to provide a lecture hall in which to hang the picture. The Howard Hall built of granite from Ouaisne, matched the gothic style of the older College buildings. Inside there was seating for 238, almost exactly the number of boys at school when the building was opened. The paneling and woodwork were of teak, and the clock an exact replica of that at the Greenwich Observatory.

T. B Davis, one of Jersey's great philanthropists, was born at Havre des Pas, Jersey, on 25th April, 1867, son of a ship's carpenter. As a boy he was in the choir of St. Luke's Church. At fourteen he went to sea as apprentice in a sailing ship. The snapping of a rope in rough weather cast him adrift in an open boat at night in the North Sea- The following day, he was picked up by a Norwegian vessel 'Urda' which later put him ashore at Cowes. He reached Jersey on a Sunday morning, so went straight to his old church - where he found his Memorial Service in progress! There are not many who have observed their own memorial service - clearly T. B. Davis was destined for a long and eventful life.

In his early thirties he went to South Africa, living initially in Port Elizabeth. He worked and saved hard and within a short time purchased a stake in a stevedoring firm Over the next decade he gained control over the wharfinger business from Port Elizabeth to Dar-es-Salaam. His great wealth was most generously used. He found and endowed the fine University College of Science in Durban. He presented a training ship, the 'General Botha' to the Union Government. At the outset of the Second World War he established a fund of £100,000 to help dependents of South Africans serving in the Forces.

A major tragedy in Davis' life was the loss of his younger son Howard Leopold, who was killed during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Most of Davis' benefactions in Jersey were in memory of Howard. In November 1927, the States of Jersey unanimously agreed to accept as a gift from Davis, the house, farm buildings, and some 40 vergees of land (then known as 'Parkfield'), situated near Trinity Church. A Deed of Covenant stated that the bequest was made on the understanding that the Howard Davis Farm should be used as an experimental center for the development and study of agriculture and for the instruction in this science of young Jersey people and other interested parties. Today, the farm also houses the Jersey Agricultural Department's Headquarters .

In 1939, the Howard Davis Park in St. Heller was opened, this also being a gift to Jersey by Davis who had purchased the property known as 'Plaisance' and employed Mr. J. A. Colledge, a famous landscape gardener, to lay out the grounds in the form of a park. A statue of King George V was erected within the main entrance, (the nearby flagstaff is the spinnaker boom from the racing yacht 'Westward'), and a Hall of Remembrance established in the grounds. The Park is much admired by visitors and locals alike, providing as it does a quiet haven amidst the bustle of the busy town traffic and a feast for the eye with over 60,000 plants in full color during summertime.

One of Davis' greatest loves was sailing and in 1924 he purchased the 323 ton schooner yacht 'Westward'. She had been built and designed by the famous American yachting firm of Herreshoff, Rhode Island in 1910, having both American and German owners before Davis acquired her. She was constructed with an all steel hull of LWL 97 feet, designed and built for speed. During the inter-war years, 'Westward', with Davis at the helm, won many great races in competition with King George V's 'Britannia'. T.B. Davis died in south Africa in 1942 and despite efforts made by his family to find a new owner for the 'Westward', she was eventually scuttled in the Hurd Deep oft Alderney in 1947. A special set of stamps on this famous schooner will be issued in two years time.

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