James M. Bickett

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J.M. Bickett was from Scotland. He arrived in Australia in November 1848. He first dug for gold at Turin, NSW, and arrived in the Ballarat district in January 1855

He was a member of the first committee of the Ballarat School of Mines. He was appointed Clerk of the Ballarat Mining Board on 18 December 1873 and Secretary of the Ballarat Prospecting Board in 1886. In 1886 he was a council member of the Ballarat School of Mines.[1]

James Bickett, courtesy federation University Historical Collection.
James Bickett, Australian Town and Country Journal, 12 August 1899


Bickett was born at Gervan, Scotland. He arrived in Victoria in 1848 on Nelson, and was one of the first to dig for gold at Golden Point. He died in 1917 aged 92.[2]

The publication 'Ballarat and Vicinity' starts its entry on James Millhinch Bickett with 'One of the most interesting biographies in the whole of this work is that of Mr J.M. Bickett. Born in 1826 near Girvan, Scotland, James Bickett left school at around 8 years of age to work at Printfields in printing fabric, but continued to attend night school aimed at working students like Bickett. He sailed for Australia in 1848 on the 'Nelson', and was engaged on a sheep station at Kyneton - the first of many short term positions around Victoria. In 1851, when the NSW gold discovery was announced, Bickett took a boat to Sydney and walked from Bathurst to Turon where he mined for four months, until he received a letter informing him of the amazing gold discovery at Forest Creek (Castlemaine). Bickett and his party walked the entire distance to Forest Creek surviving on 'Johnny Cake' a kind of dough roasted on coals. The journey took 6 weeks, and the first hole they sunk resulted in 5 ounces of gold. They next followed the rush to Bendigo and did reasonably well.[3]

Bickett, now settled in the Ballarat district, Harrie Wood and Rogers agitated for the education of miners. On 6 October 1869 a motion was put forward that a school be established at Ballarat, for the purpose of imparting instruction in mining and mining engineering. This became the Ballarat School of Mines.

James Bickett was involved in many Ballarat organisations, including:

  1. Member of the first Buninyong Mining Court
  2. Ballarat Old Colonists' Association
  3. Ballarat Mechanic's Institute Committee
  4. Ballarat Fine Art Gallery Committee
  5. Ballarat School of Mines Council (1870-1917)
  6. Ballarat School of Mines Trustee (1902-1917)
  7. Elected member of the Ballarat Mining Board in 1862 (Chairman 1868-74; Secretary 1874-1898>)
  8. Robert Burns Memorial Fund Secretary
  9. Nominated member of the Buninyong Local Mining Court (1856)
  10. Thomas Moore Memorial Fund Secretary
  11. Royal Arch Lodge[4]

Bickett was repeatedly asked to stand for Parliament in the Grenville district, but refused. He remembered witnessing John Basson Humffray become what he described as the 1st MLC representative of Ballarat miners. James Bickett died on 1 September 1917 aged 92. His obituary observed: ' ...A man of sterling qualities, and ever ready to assist his fellow man, ... He was one of the oldest Victoria Justices of the Peace, and was highly respected by a large circle of friends. He leaves a widow and grown up family of sons and daughters to mourn the loss of a devoted husband and father.'

Bickett died on 01 September 1917 at Ballarat. He is buried in the Ballaarat New Cemetery. [5]

Ballarat Mining Board

The original initiative for the founding of the Ballarat School of Mines was taken at a meeting of the Ballarat Mining Board on 06 October 1869.[6] On the suggestion of Harrie Wood, James M. Bickett moved that a school of mines should be established at Ballarat, making it the oldest site of technical education in Australia. The Board was concerned with the shortage of mine managers for the goldfields. Classes began in surveying, mathematics, and chemistry and a decade later they included metallurgy, assaying and geology.[7]


MR. J. M. BICKETT. - After an illness extending over a long period, Mr. J. M. Bickett, one of the best known pioneers and residents of Ballarat, died on Saturday afternoon. He has not been continuously confined to his bed during his illness, for he was at times able to get about, and while he gradually became weaker, his mind was not impaired. For a number of years the deceased was prominent in public life in Ballarat, where he resided for a long time. He was a native of Gervan, Scotland, and arrived in Melbourne at the age of 23 in the year 1849. He spent the next five years on the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria with varying success, and in the fifties he came to the Ballarat district. He was a member of the first Buninyong Mining Court, and in 1856 he was elected to the Ballarat Mining Board. It was during his term as chairman of the Board, in 1868, that the Duke of Edinburgh visited Ballarat. From 1874 to 1914, when the Board was abolished, he was secretary. He was legal manager of many Ballarat mining companies. His name figures amongst the founders of the School of Mines, and he was a committeeman of the institution for many years. He was a justice of the peace, an early member of the Old Colonists' Association, and one of the founders of the Mechanics' Institute, and president in 1883, 1893 and 1901. He was one of the most enthusiastic workers to secure the Robert Burns Statue for Ballarat, and he was secretary of the committee, and also of the Tom Moore Statue Committee. He was associated with the Orphanage, and was a committeeman till the day of his death. He was also a member of the council of the Fine Art Gallery. The deceased leaves a grown-up family.[8]

OBITUARY The funeral of the late Mr Jas. M. Bickett, of Doveton-street north, took place yesterday. The large attendance was sufficient testimony of the respect and esteem in which deceased and his family were held. The remains were encased in a casket of English oak; mounted in silver, and Masonic emblems (the deceased being a respected brother of the Yarrowee Ledge of Masons), and interred in the New Cemetery. The coffin-bearers were Messrs James, Robert, Leslie, and Bert Bickett (sons of the deceased) John Bickett (grandson), and H. Berry (son-in-law). The following gentlemen represented the public and Charitable institutions with which the deceased gentleman was ago elated, namely:-The Yarrowee Masonic Lodge, Worshipful Bros. Hon. A. Bell, M.L.C. P.M., W. A. Christy. P.M.. W. M. Williams, P.M. E.J. Farrell, P.M. (secretary), W H. Westwood, P.M, and W. Muir (steward); City Council Crs T. T. Hollway and W.D. Hill; Ballarat Orphan Asylum, Cr W. Hoare (president), J. Glasson, N. Clark, E. Chamberlain, (V.P.), ex-President Baker, J. Kenny (superintendent and secretary); Caledonian Society, Mr T. C. Miller; South Street Society, Mr Wm Coltman (ex-president); Mechanics' Institute, Mr. J. Gribble (president), E, Doepel, G.H. Abram, J. C. Dearden, and H. C. Batten (secretary) ; Mines Department, Mr . W. A. Christy, Stock. Exchange, Mr W. Gooch: Ballarat North Progress Association, Messrs T. Parry and J. Hawkins; School of Mines Council. Messrs W. H. Middleton (president) and D. Ronaldson; School of Mines staff, Prof. Mica Smith, Messrs M. Copland, H. Smith, J. M. Sutherland, E. M'Connon. and St. G. P. Austin; Old Colonists' Association, Messrs John Munro and Joseph Gooch; Berry, Anderson. and Co. Pty., Messrs W. J. Allen, J. N. Montgomery, C. White, and E. Curtis. The pall-bearers were the Hon. A. Bell, M.L.C. (Mayor of the City), Mjr H. Baird, M.L.A., T. Booth, T. Lamb, E.H. Praets, H. Benoit; John Cleghorn, J.H. Brokenshire, R. Young, J. Glasson, J. J. Brokenshire, C. Walker, C. Williams. N. Clark, J. Tweedale, and J. Wynne. The Rev. A. H. Moore, of Scots Church, officiated at the house and grave. The mortuary arrangements were carried out by Mr R. J. Miller. [9]


See Also

Ballarat Mining Board

Ballarat School of Mines

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute

Old Colonists' Association

Henry Berry

Britannia United Mine

Harry S. Brokenshire

James Job Brokenshire

W. F. Coltman

Maurice Copland

Tom Lamb


  1. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~carrick/Ballarat%20a%20to%20b.html accessed 15 March 2013.
  2. Barrier Miner, 6 September 1917
  3. McCallum, M. (1916) Ballarat & District Citizens & Sports, Ballarat.
  4. http://guerin.ballarat.edu.au/curator/honour-roll/honourroll_Bickett,%20James.shtml
  5. Corfield, Wickham and Gervasoni, The Eureka Encyclopedia, Ballarat, 2004, p54.
  6. Ballarat School of Mines Retrospect, Ballarat School of Mines, 1970.
  7. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1986
  8. Ballarat Courier, Monday 3 September 1917.
  9. Ballarat Courier, 4 September 1917, page 3.

--H. Scarpe 12:40, 25 August 2011 (EST), --C.K.Gervasoni 17:04, 16 August 2012 (EST)

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