John Robson

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Image: John Robson (Ballarat and Vicinity)



John Robson was born at Newcastle, Northumberland, England[1], the son of Mathew Robson and Hannah Spicoat.[2] He sailed to Australia on the Arabian, landing at Port Phillip in 1854. John Robson died in 1910 and is buried at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery.[3]



For many years John Robson lived with his brother James Robson (2) on the corner of Eureka and Otway Streets.


General regret was expressed at the death yesterday morning at Miss Garnett's private hospital, of Mr John Robson, musician and and elocutonist and one of Ballarat's oldest, best known and most respected citizens. Mr Robson had been sitting for a few weeks, and his medical adviser, diagnosed his complaint as appendicitis, which afflicted, him in such a severe form that an operation was deemed to be absolutely necessary. He was removed to Miss Garnett's private hospital, and about a week ago he was operated upon. Mr Robson, being a man of robust constitution, stood the shock of the operation well, and he was making good headway towards recovery when the spell of hot weather set in, and caused exhaustion. Heart failure followed, and exhaustion the attention of his medical adviser, and the careful nursing he received, the end came peacefully at the time stated above. Mr John Robson was born at Newcastle, Northumberland, England, in , and he was therefore 72 years of age. Mr Robson's father, who was a contractor, had much to do with the building of the City of Newcastle. After passing through minor schools, Mr John Robson entered the academy of Professor Ross, and soon rose to a foremost position in the classes. When his studies were completed he was apprenticed to an architect and for a time studied the technique of this important branch of his father's calling. His adaptability for the work was great, and hopes were entertained that he would rise to a high position in the profession. Then came glowing reports of the wonderful Australian gold discoveries. Mr Robson’s father decided to migrate to these parts, and he sent a son to prepare the way. Believing that tools and timber might not be procured in Australia. Mr Robson, senr, constructed a portable wooden residence, which was shipped in pieces on the White Star liner Arabian which brought the family over. In 1854 Mr John Robson, who was then nearly 17 years of age, landed at Port Phillip, and with the other members of the family came on to Ballarat, which place he made his home to the end. When he first reached Ballarat, Mr Robson joined in the search for gold, but not being strong enough for this rough work, he turned his attention to carpentering. This he did not care much about, and in 1858 he was appointed a teacher in St. Paul's Day School, Ballarat, but in the following year he relinquished this position and became exchange clerk in the local branch of the National Bank. Being adapted to this quickly made himself acquainted with the details of a banker’s profession, and his rise was rapid. In the year 1871, about 12 years after he joined the bank, he was appointed manager, and for four years occupied that position with conspicuous success. He was connected with the National Bank for eighteen years, and in 1875 he entered business on his own account. With his brother, Mr Wm. Robson, he erected red-gum sawmills at Gunbower, on the River Murray. Subsequently he was offered the management of the Australian and European Bank in mills. In 1886, he accepted the position and held it until the bank was absorbed by the Commercial Bank of Australia. For a time he lived privately, still, how ever, holding his interest in the saw mills. In 1886, he accepted, the position of manager of the Ballarat branch of the Mercantile Bank of Australia. This bank was closed in 1892, and Mr Robson retired, altogether from commercial circles. In the meantime his brother died, and the saw-mills were sold. Mr Robson held a very important position in music, in fact he for many years was looked upon as the leading musician in Ballarat, he being master of quite a variety of instruments. In 1864. he was appointed conductor of the old Harmonic Society in this city, and subsequently conductor of the Ballarat Liedertafel. Under his leadership this society attained a high state of efficiency, which has since been well-maintained. Many years ago Mr Robson formed an operatic company from amongst Ballarat residents, and such beautiful operas as “Lucrezia Borgia' "Lucia di Lammermoor," “Ernani,' La Sonnambula,” and others were successfully rendered. As an elocutionist, Mr Robson attained much prominence, he being recognised as one of the most capable teachers in Ballarat. He was president of the one-time Ballarat Shakespearian Dramatic Club, which under his direction, from time to time produced Shakespeare’s masterpieces. In this, too, he took the chief characters, the roles of Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, and Shylock, all being powerfully represented by him. For some years prior to his demise Mr Robson, acted as a teacher of music, and elocution, and many of his pupils, competed with great success at the Ballarat and other competitions. Some years ago he acted as adjudicator at the South street competitions, when he gave every satisfaction, and his services were frequently secured to judge at competitions in other parts of the State and in other states of the Commonwealth. At the Ballarat band contests every year, he was a conspicuous figure, and he always acted as leader of the massed bands, by whom his appearance was always enthusiastically greeted. In his younger days he took a keen interest in several forms of sport, was a successful oarsman, one of the best amateur boxers of his weight and as a billiard player was able to hold his own with professionals. 'Mr Robson was an earnest adherent of the Church of England, and in social and other organisations he from time to time held important positions. As a Anglican churchman, he was widely respected, being the official principal and lay Canon of the Cathedral, a member of the Bishops Council, and a prominent member of St. Paul's Church, Ballarat East. He was also a prominent member of the Masonic order. and was a Past Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Victoria, an office which he filled with the greatest credit. He was also a member of the Old Colonists' Association and the Mechanics' Institute, was at one time vice-president of the Art Gallery was once a member of the School of Mines Council, and was many years ago made a Justice of the Pence. On many occasions he was asked to stand for Parliament, as a representative of Ballarat and on one occasion he consented to do so, but subsequently retired without going to the poll in favor of the late Mr Daniel Brophy. He was also often pressed to stand for both the Ballarat East and City Councils, but he declined to allow himself to be nominated. Mr Robson was an active gentleman, and a brilliant conversationalist. His courtesy, high mental and moral endowments, and warm open-heartedness, made him a most interesting and congenial companion. During his long residence in Ballarat, which city he declined to sever his connected with, he was well known and much courted, and was looked up on as one of the most prominent citizens, and his loss will be very severely felt. Some years ago a portrait of Mr Robson, in full Masonic regalia, was painted by he late Mr Stanton Bowman, and was presented by Mr Robson to the citizens, and it was hung in the City Hall, where it is always admired by visitors. The late Mr John Robson never married, and with his brother, James, lived for many years in Eureka street, Ballarat. The two brothers were nearly always together, and as they walked the streets with arms linked, they were frequently referred to as the Siamese twins. The only Australian relative of the late Mr John Robson is his brother. Mr James Robson, who hardly left the bedside during John's illness, and to him the blow has been a very severe one. In his bereavement he will have the heartfelt sympathy not only of the whole of the residents of Ballarat, but of people in all parts of the State. When the news of Mr Robson’s death became known the flags were flown at half-mast at the City and Town Halls, and the Old Colonists’ Hall, out of respect to the memory of the deceased. The interment will take place at the Old Cemetery this afternoon. The cortege will leave “Rothbury," Eureka street, Mr Robson’s late residence, at 3 o'clock, for St. Paul’s Church, where there will be a short service conducted by the vicar, the Rev T. A. Colebrook.[4]

The esteem and respect in which the late Mr John Robson was held was evidenced by the very large and representative attendance on Saturday afternoon. Shortly after 3 o’clock the cortege left “Rothbury,” Eureka street, for St. Paul’s Church, a very large number of vehicles joining in the funeral procession.- The chief mourner was Mr James Robson, brother of the deceased. When St. Paul’s Church was reach ed, the beautiful coffin containing the remains was carried in at the front entrance, which was almost blocked with people. The church itself was crowded with members of the congregation and friends of Mr Robson. A short service was conducted by the Ven. Archdeacon Tucker, Ex-vicar, and the Rev. T. A. Colebrook, Vicar of St. Paul’s, and the incidental music was rendered by the church choir. As the remains were being taken back to the hearse Mr George Herbert played the “Dead March in Saul’’ on the organ very impressively, and there was hardly a dry eye amongst Mr Robson’s friends. The cortege, which was a lengthy one, then moved off for the old cemetry, and the streets en route were lined with people, heads being bared as the cortege passed by. Amongst the bodies represented at the funeral were the City and Town Councils, the Masonic Order, Benevolent Asylum, Orphan Asylum, Ballarat Hospital, Ballarat Progress Association, and Ballarat Liedertafel, and Old Colonists’ Association. The cemetery contained a large number of people who had assembled to see the remains committed to the ground. The pall bearers were Mayors Hill (City), and McNeil (Town), Dr Woinarski (President of the Lieder tafel), Drs. Champion and Fleetwood, Messrs H. A. Nevett, R. A. Chapman, E. W. G. Chamberlain, C. Lndbrook, Geo. Herbert, J. Parker (Worshipful Master of the Yarrowee Lodge), R. L. Nicholl, W. Bennett, G. Shepherd, W. Little. P. W. Must, H. W. Morrow, C. E. Grainger, J. J. Brokenshire, A. Kenny, W. D. McKee, and W. T. Glenn. The coffin bearers were Messrs C. Towl, W. Cox, W. Swenson, E. Doepel, and A. O. Stubbs. Dean Parkin, who represented the Dishop and Diocese, committed the body to the grave, and other clergy men who assisted in the service were Archdeacons Tucker and Allanby, and the Revs. T. A. Colebrook (St. Paul’s). T. H. Justice (Christchurch), A. J. Pearce (Bumnvontr). Lintott Tay. lor (St. John’s, Soldiers' Hill), and J. A. Forster. Under the leadership of Mr Geo. Herbert the Liedertafel gave an impressive rendering of “The Long Day Closes” at the end of the service. A large number of beautiful floral tributes were received, including one from the Liedertafel. The funeral-arrangements were admirably carried out by Mr Chas. Morris.[5]

See also

Old Colonists' Association

Ballarat School of Mines

James Robson (2), brother



  1. Ballarat Star, January 1910.
  2. Victorian Death Registration.
  3. Ballarat Star, January 1910.
  4. Ballarat Star, January 1910.
  5. Ballarat Star, 17 January 1910.

Further Reading

External links

--Clare K.Gervasoni 23:35, 6 June 2017 (AEST)

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