Harrie Wood

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Harrie Wood, Federation University Historical Collection.


Born Kensington, London, England.[1]


In the News

No. 33-MR. HARRIE WOOD. - If the jurisdiction of the Under-secretary of justice extends from the Murray to the Tweed and from. Port Jackson to the Darling, that of the Under-secretary for Mines coincides with it and differs from it only in this -that Mr. Fraser's concerns and interests are all above board, and Mr. Harrie Wood's are chiefly under ground. A country so rich in a variety of minerals as New South Wales-gold and coal, silver and tin, copper and iron, and an endless variety of less widely useful treasures of the earth must needs have a man of undoubted qualifications to preside permanently over its Department of Mines. The Ministers who come and go as the political heads of this department of State are not, as a rule, experts in mining ; and, indeed, are not expected to be such, or even to possess any special knowledge of the subjects dealt with by the office. The present Minister for Mines, for example, is a member of the legal profession, and, perhaps, knows more about bores in the witness box than in the bush, and* is more familiar with fossicking in the deeds office than in worked-out claims. So that the permanent head of the Mining Department is " head " in a fuller sense than the chief of any of the other branches of the public service. Mr. Wood's practical experience of mining extends over 40 years, and has been acquired in the two colonies where most of the gold mining of Australia has been done. He was a miner on the famous Ovens Gold Field, in the Beechworth district of Victoria, when it was in its most prosperous era; and he was at the far-famed Ballarat when Peter Lalor and his army of miners raised the standard of revolt against the oppression of Sir Charles Hotham's Government and entrenched themselves in Eureka Stockade.
Mr. Wood was born at Kensington, London, close to the Palace where Queen Caroline died and Queen Victoria was born, in the year 1831. His father designed him for the legal profession. He himself was anxious to be a medical man, and the result of this divergence of taste on the part of father and son was that the son became neither a lawyer nor a doctor, but in 1852 left England to seek his fortune down south, where gold had just been discovered in abundance. He landed at Melbourne, and at once presented letters of introduction to Mr. C. J. Latrobe, the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, who received him kindly and offered him an appointment in the Civil Service, but advised him first to try his fortune on the gold fields, as most of the Government officials were then dissatisfied with their positions.
Mr. Wood, therefore, joined a party of miners and went to the Ovens diggings, and afterwards to other mining centres, when he saw in full swing the life of romance and adventure which was then associated with the gold fields of Victoria, where for- tunes were sometimes made by the turning of a shovelful of earth. Mr. Wood ultimately settled at Ballarat, where he was elected a member of the central committee which controlled the Deep Leads traced into the tableland west of the Yarrowee Creek, much of the land having been alienated by the Crown, and was shortly afterwards chosen as secretary of the committee which, though created by the miners on the roads without legislative authority, exercised administrative and judicial functions.
When mining boards were first established in Victoria, Mr. Wood was chosen secretary to the board of the Ballarat district, when he assisted in framing laws relating to mining and mining companies. He proposed a scheme of registration of mining titles which was approved by the Government and was asked to take the supervision of it in the Ballarat Mining District. Mr. Wood accepted these offices under the Government but declined to enter the Civil Service, and continued his private practice as a mining agent until 1866, when he consented to enter the service on condition that he was allowed to name his own salary and appoint his own staff of clerks. These conditions were practically conceded, and Mr. Wood took the position of District Mining Registrar, which he retained till 1873, when he came to Sydney.
In the year '74 the Mining Department was organised by virtue of an act then recentl passed and Mr. Wood was appointed Under Secretary for Mines. That the Victoria Government regretted the probable loss of Mr. Wood's services is apparent from the fact that they kept open for him the office which he had held in their colony for so many years, and with so much advantage to the public, in case he should decide to return to Victoria after he had fairly started the new Mining Department of this colony. When, however, he had completed reporting and otherwise preparing for the establishment of the Mines Department in New South Wales, Mr. Wood elected to remain herë, and share the fortunes of the new department of State which he had assisted to found. The Stock and Brands Branch was taken over from the Lands Department when the Mining Department was formed.
During his residence at Ballarat, Mr. Wood was a member of a committee which met there for the purpose of relieving persons in distress, for even in that "Golden city" the poor and needy were found, and with the charitable labors of the committee the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum originated. Since the decline of the gold mining in Victoria, by-the-bye, Ballarat has come to be spoken of as the " City of Statues its streets being now adorned with statues of Robert Burns, Thomas Moore, Peter Lalor, and Shakespere and A.L. Gordon are to follow. The mineral history of Ballarat since 1851 amply entitled it to the first designation. There are, in Ballarat, mines as deep as some of the coal pits of England, Mr. Harrie Wood, Under-secretary for Mines, and one of the largest pieces of natural gold in the world was found at Bakery Hill in the neighborhood of the city, at a depth of 180ft. This huge lump of treasure weighed 2217oz, and was sold for £10,500. Mr. Wood took an active part in the management of the Benevolent Asylum when established, and also of the Ballarat Hospital.
He was the first to suggest the establishment of a School of Mines in the city, and with the assistance of the Ballarat Mining Board, Judge Rogers (now Mr. J. W. Rogers, Q.C.) the late Mr. Justice (Sir Redmond) Barry, and a number of prominent citizens (including Mr. J. M. Bickett and Dr. Usher), succeeded in founding the present School of Mines, which takes the first place among such institutions in the southern colony. Mr. Rogers was, at the time alluded to, judge of the County Court and Court of Mines at Ballarat; and, probably, no man in the colony of Victoria has done such splendid service for the advancement of knowledge as the late Sir Redmond Barry, whose statue stands in front of the Melbourne Public Library, which he founded.
In 1878 the administration bf the Crown Lands Occupation Act of New South Wales was transferred to the Mining Department of this colony; also the Public Watering

Places Branch. The work connected with minor roads and forests was similarly transferred, and, later on, the public parks.

The first act for the exterminator of the rabbit plague was prepared and administered by the Mining Department, which continued to deal with all those matters-occupation of crown lands, roads, rabbits, and forests - till the end of 1884, when they were transferred to the Lands Department. In 1890 the Department of Agriculture was established in connection with the Mining Department, which was thus given control of a large portion of the soil of the colony above and below the surface. Mr. Wood was subsequently appointed Under-secretary for. Agriculture, as well as for Mines. In 1892 the Forest Department was transferred to the Mining Department, and in 1893 the Departments of Agriculture and Forests were reorganised, with a view to the two being worked as one department, at a considerably reduced cost.
Mr. Wood has taken an active interest in the establishment of a Mining School at the Sydney University.
The first effort to secure a supply of artesian water was made by the Mining Department, some years back, by means of water augers ; but these were found to be too slow in operation, and were superseded by. the more effective well-borer now in use, the work having been taken ;over and carried on most successfully - by the Public Watering Places Branch of the Department. Valuable experiments are now being made in the growing of fruits, fodders, cereals, and vegetables at several of the bores in the arid country on the other side of the Darling, by means of irrigation with artesian water.
In all those works and movements, Mr. Wood has been the leading and guiding spirit, working quietly and unseen, except by the few fellow-workers associated with him in the important departments over which he presides.
In 1868 Mr. Wood married a daughter of Mr. Robert Beattie, of Wigtonshire, Scotland, by whom he has had four sons and two daughters. The eldest son is a Bachelor of Arts of Sydney University, the second is a contractor, and the third who gained the Junior and Senior Knox Prizes at the Sydney Grammar School, and matriculated with honors at the Sydney University, is now an undergraduate in his third year, having taken honors in his first and second years.
In private as well as official life Mr. Wood is well liked and has troops of friends. He is a man of clear head and quiet disposition, and these qualifications carry him through a huge amount of work, at which the foggy and fussy would be soon appalled.[2]

See also



  1. Illustrated Sydney News, 9 December 1893
  2. Illustrated Sydney News, 9 December 1893

Further Reading

External links