Robert Porter

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


Robert Porter was born in London. He lived at Ballarat, and was recorded on the 1855 Electoral Roll, under the electoral qualification of Miner’s Right.[1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences

In The News

MR. ROBERT PORTER. "A solid citizen, a man of goodly port.- "Venice Preserved."
"It could never be said of the original of this week's picture that he took himself otherwise than seriously and with due regard to all the proprieties of prominent citizenship. Indeed, if one were asked to name the Brisbane municipal councillor, past or present, who came nearest to the accepted ideal of a London alderman, the personality not of the present incumbent of the Mayoral office, nor even of Mr. John Hardgrave, but of Mr. Robert Porter would immediately suggest itself. Not, however, be it well understood, because of any especial rotundity in his "corporate" capacity, nor by virtue of any outward and visible manifestations of colonial turtle and port wine in physique or feature, but rather on the strength of that dignity of deportment, urbanity of mien, and conscious air of solid respectability so long inseparably associated with membership of the civic parliament of the world's metropolis. Mr. Porter is a notable example of an English-trained business man caught and transplanted from the Old World early enough to acclimatise and prosper to admirable advantage under colonial conditions. Born in London many years ago — not to be impertinently curious we will assume the event to have taken place not remotely antecedent to the accession of her Majesty, the sixtieth anniversary of which we shall so soon be celebrating with Diamond Jubilee rejoicings—Mr. Porter is descended from an old Nottinghamshire family in whom the business of contracting had been hereditary for many generations. At an early age he was placed by his father in the hands of that eminent firm of contractors, Cubit and Co., Pimlico, from which he was transferred to W. Cubit and Co., Gray's Inn road. The experience acquired in those great establishments culminated in a partnership with his father at the age of 21, and, under their joint management, many important works, involving very large operations, were successfully carried oat. With the human tide which set towards Victoria in 1852 — a tide which has had no equal in volume until the great Westralian wave of the present day — came the Porter family in quest of larger fortunes. Settling first in Geelong, and later in Ballarat, they embarked in mercantile pursuits.
While residing in Ballarat the subject of our sketch was an eye-witness of the famous Eureka Stockade riots led by Peter Lalor, the burning of Bailey's Hotel (sic), and the quelling of the emeute by the arrival of the troops and bluejackets. During those troublous times the Porter family suffered so many heavy trade losses that they decided on winding up their mercantile business and starting as architects and surveyors, and in these persuits they were rewarded with a very considerable measure of success. Attracted by the larger horizon opened up to Queensland by separation, Mr. Porter in 1859 came to Brisbane, which has been his home ever since. Well equipped by training and experience for the business of contracting, and realising what an important field of operations the circumstances of the new colony must necessarily open up, he seized the opportunities which offered with a mental and physical vigour which still largely remain with him as a marked characteristic. In nearly every Northern port the first wharves were of his building, and in North and South to-day are still standing numerous bridges erected by him. In 1869—the same year as Mr. John Hardgrave — he made his entry into the Brisbane Municipal Council as representative of Kangaroo Point. In 1882 he was elected to the Mayoral chair. If he were put to the question suddenly, he would not find it easy to enumerate off-hand the various positions of trust and responsibility he has worthily filled in Brisbane. He was one of the founders, and for many years chairman, of the South Brisbane Gas Company. Was also founder, and is still chairman, of the Queensland Mutual Insurance Company. Has a seat on the Bridge Board, the Waterworks Board, the Tramway Directory, and is a co-nominee with Mr. Thomas Finney of the Government on the City Fire Brigade Board. For the last thirty-five years he has been a large and always considerate employer of labour; and he takes an honest pride in having inscribed his name large and deep upon the numerous structural undertakings built under his direction. Such, rather than political adroitness or municipal suppleness, will be his best monument when he is gone. Mention of politics suggests notice of the fact that, although always an active and even ardent politician in the electoral field, he has declined many invitations to stand for Parliament. He is a member of the Political Association, and a M'Ilwraithian by sentiment and conviction — claiming for that now invalided states - man a soundness of policy and range of political vision hitherto unapproached by any other Australian public man. Time has dealt lightly with Mr. Porter, as the tale of his years would tell were we to go into particulars about his natal day and date. As the good old American poet said of his friend—both of them being then hale septuagenarians —" Look through the record where his deeds are told ; count his gray hairs— they cannot make him old," Robert Porter is physically younger than many an ordinary man fifteen years his junior. "I am open to undertake a big contract still," he will tell you on the slightest hint that his day for bothering about plans and specifications is past — " but not," he is careful to add, " at the cut-throat competitive prices now ob- taining, which leave little for the master, and more or less little for the man." Lucky and sturdy veteran, so to be able to defy circumstances and dictate terms to fate ! [2]

See also

Eureka Hotel

James Bentley

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  2. Brisbane Queenslander, 1 May 1897.

External links