Federation University Australia Historical Collection (Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre), Mount Helen
An image of Yarrowee Hall, the home of of mine manager Robert Malachy Serjeant.
Both portraits were purchased by the donor from the State Library of Victoria.
ROBERT MALACHY SERJEANT (1828-1902)
Robert Malachy Serjeant was born on 21 December 1828 at Callington, Cornwall. He was the son of Philip Davey Serjeant, a surgeon in the Royal Marines, and Eliza Malachy. Philip Serjeant died in 1834. His mother, Eliza, remarried John Burgh in 1836. He died in 1837.
In September 1848 Eliza, Robert and his two sisters, Caroline and Susan, departed Plymouth on the William Moneya for Port Adelaide and arrived in January 1849.
Once gold was discovered in Victoria, Serjeant made his way to Forest Creek (near Castlemaine) and he and his mate Mr Victor, were the first party to sink through the basalt in search of a deep lead. In 1854 he moved to Ballarat to work as a miner and enjoyed some success. In 1855 he was with a group that discovered a 500 ounce nugget. With his share of the sale he set himself up with the latest mining equipment, as well as beginning a lifelong interest in the share market. He became the Manager of the Chryseis, Isis and Garibaldi claims and then the Manager of the Band and Albion Consol Company. He held the position for thirty years and only resigned when the company amalgamated with the Sir Henry Loch Mine.
Robert Malachy Serjeant became interested in Politics. The first election for Parliament Representatives for Ballarat was in 1855. Robert stood for election for the first time in 1859, representing Ballarat West. He was also elected to represent Ballarat West in 1874 and 1880.
Robert Serjeant’s community involvement extended to Education. Years of discussion eventually saw the development of the Ballarat School of Mines, the first school of mines in Australia. The inaugural School Council was formed in 1870 with Sir Redmond Barry, the Chief Justice, as President and Robert Malachy Serjeant as a member of the council. He held a position on the council until illness forced him to retire in 1889. He was elected a Life Governor in 1889. He was also a Life Governor of the Ballarat Hospital.
Robert Serjeant showed Prince Albert and Prince George (later King George V) around the Band and Albion Mine.
At the age of 42, Robert enrolled as a student at the School of Mines in 1871. He obtained a Certificate of Competency in Assaying (including Metallurgy) in 1875. The first certificate in “Geology as Applied to Mining” was awarded to Robert Serjeant in 1876.
Robert Serjeant was an active and generous supporter of the School of Mines. As well as being a financial contributor, he lectured and examined in the Principles and Practice of Mining. He was regarded as an authority on alluvial and quartz mining and was a member of the Ballarat Local Court and mining board. In 1977 Robert, Joseph Flude and Henry Caselli donated the patent rights of a novel Pyrites furnace to the school.
The R.M. Serjeant Scholarship at the Ballarat School of Mines resulted after a reward was offered for the first to produce the best method of treating auriferous ores – other than the smelting method. The offer was open for two years but not awarded. The money for this was donated by Robert Serjeant to the amount of 256 Pounds. It was then used to fund the School of Mines Scholarship in Engineering (1889). It was first awarded in 1922.
Robert Malachy Serjeant died on 25 October 1902 and was buried at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery.
(Sometimes Malachy is incorrectly written as Malachi)