Robert Benson

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Robert Benson was a goldminer at Bendigo and was a witness at the 1855 Goldfields Commission. He is buried at White Hills Cemetery (Mon M2) on 18 June 1860.[1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

(To the Editor of the Bendigo Advertiser.)
Sir,-Your Melbourne correspondent in his letter which appeared in your issue of to-day, gives a short account of the career of the late Captain Harrison on Bendigo during the anti licence agitations of the period, which, let me say, is incorrect in several particulars, and which, in justice to the deceased gentleman's memory, I wish to correct. Captain Harrison never entered into an engagement to hold meetings at the Black Swan in opposition to the digger's meetings conducted by the late Robert Benson and myself in front of the Shamrock. The facts are these: We only held two or three meetings there, and on the same days "Captain" Brown - with whom we would have nothing to do - held opposition meetings at the Black Swan, and which were better attended than ours for a time or two, until the novelty of his appearance wore off. The "bullock dray" too, must be pure imagination, as on the two or three occasions we met near the Shamrock, we had a platform erected. The last time I remember hearing Captain Harrison address the diggers, was at one of our meetings held where All Saints' Church now stands, and at a subsequent meeting I distinctly remember my making a collection for him, he being in poor circumstances at the time. Captain Harrison never had much to do with the anti-licence movement started by G.E. Thompson, Captain Brown, Dr Wall, Mr Hopkins, and myself, he having retired from the field after his efforts were successful in preventing the licence tax being raised from 30s to L3.
I am sir, yours truly,
Golden-square, 24th July, 1869.[2]

(To the Editor of the Bendigo Advertiser.)
Sir,—I have read in your issue of this morning, a very interesting and well written article on the old pioneers of Bendigo and their doings, from the pen of our venerable and much respected old friend Mr. J. N. Macartney. As he has written from the date of 1854 I write as a 53 man to set him right in one mistake he has made. He places our worthy Minister of Mines at the top of the tree, which he has no right to occupy. Mr Burrowes was not known to fame until 1860, when he stood for the borough council and was elected. The men who first stood by the mining community, and gained their right, were Captain Harrison (1852), Captain Brown, Dr. Jones, George Edward Thomson, Mr. Ferris or Fervars, J.E. Wall, Mr Dixon, Captain Baker, Robert Benson, Dr Owens, Wm. Hopkins, E. N. Emmett, W. D. C. Denovan, James Dumphy, and others, all 1853 men. The big anti-license meeting was held in August of that year on the present site of All Saints' Church, attended by some 20,000 people. In the same year Mr. Angus Mackay (now the Hon. A. Mackay), E. Harrison, and R. R. Haverfield represented the press at the meetings of the period, and did good service both to the miners and the government.—
Yours, etc.,
19th November, 1881.[3]

Post 1854 Experiences


The grave has closed over the mortal remains of Robert Benson. One of those men identified with the rise and the progress of this district has departed from amongst us, and we would that the circumstances of his death had been of a less melancholy character. Mr. Benson is identified with the political struggles of this, and, indeed, of all the goldfields, for the removal of grievances under which they labored, and the obtaining of privileges to which as free communities, they were entitled. It is a true saying that men who are engaged m great actions do not usually fully appreciate the importance of the events they are concerned in bringing about. With great justice may this be applied to the earlier political movements in which Mr. Benson was a prominent actor. At that time a few men associated themselves for the purpose of simply urging the ordinary claims of British citizens. The same thing was done throughout the colony, but we believe that the 'Bendigo school,' as poor Benson fondly termed it, was the foremost and the most influential in urging political claims upon the Government. Into what a goodly tree of public liberty has not this seedling sprung?" Is not our gratitude due to the staunch old champion just departed, who so consistently advocated the true principles of public liberty, and so worthily in his own person represented the good sense and the love of.order or our digging community?
Mr. Benson's funeral yesterday evinced the affectionate respect in which he was held by his fellow townsmen, and could he have foreseen this mark of the public esteem to his memory the knowledge would have solaced his last hours.[4]

It is with feelings of no ordinary regret that we have this morning to record the death of Mr. Robert Benson in the Bendigo Hospital. Mr. Benson appeared to be somewhat better on Sunday, but yesterday he sank rapidly, and it became too evident that the end was approaching. The disease, acute bronchitis, had made rapid progress, ancl the poor old man was almost, unconscious throughout the greater part of yesterday. His voice was utterly gone, and the only mark of recognition for a. friendly face was a squeeze of his hand. He died last night at 9 o'clock. The hard breathing had softened, and he passed gently away into the world of spirits. Peace be to his memory. A kindly, genial and honest heart has ceased to beat. We shall long miss the old familiar voice front amongst us—the ready jest, the pleasant laugh, and the proverbial speech of Mr Benson.
Mr. Benson, we believe, arrived in the colony in 1852, and he very soon after his arrival was engaged in gold-digging on Bendigo, chiefly in the vicinity or the pre sent township. He was engaged in almost all the political movements in this district. He was a zealous and efficient member of the Reform League, whose efforts contributed so materially to securing the mining communities share in the representation of the country, and he was one of the members of his first Mining Board. He was elected member for the Sandhurst Boroughs on 15th November, 1855, having polled the largest number of votes. Mr. Grant was returned with him. Mr. Benson took his seat on the 23rd of November following, and until the dissolution of Parliament, which took place a few months afterwards, he was always at his post, faithfully wording his vote on the Liberal side. On the inauguration of responsible government, in the succeeding year, Mr. Benson was a candidate for the Loddon district, but was defeated. Last year he was a Candidate for the representation of the Sandhurst Boroughs, and although un successful he polled a large number of votes. Afterwards he stood for Creswick. and was again defeated, and there is no doubt that the anxiety, the losses, and the disappointment attendant upon these successive failures materially injured his health. Mr. Benson was registrar of the district of Mandurang up to the time of the last; elections, and, indeed, we believe up to the time of his death, and had he not involved himself, in such heavy losses by electioneering and other expenses he could have maintained himself very comfortably and respectably.[5]

See also

Benden Sherritt Hassell Compensation Case

Red Ribbon Rebellion

Further Reading


  1., accessed 07 February 2017.
  2. Bendigo Advertiser, 26 July 1869.
  3. Bendigo Advertiser, 26 November 1881.
  4. Bendigo Advertiser, 16 June 1910.
  5. Bendigo Advertiser, 12 June 1860.

External links

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Caption, Reference.