Robert Archibald Fiveash

When Robert Archibald Fiveash arrived in South Australia, as an assisted migrant, on the Planter in 1839 there were fewer than 14,000 people in the infant colony. By October 1842 he was living with his wife Margaret Rees at Currie Street. On 7 February 1843 they had a son at Thebarton and named him John Lodewick Rees. John died on 27 July 1895. On 25 November 1844, while living at Sturt Street they had another son, Robert Durling, who died a few months later on 9 March 1845. Early 1845 they had moved again and now lived at North Adelaide. Fiveash had by now developed in interest in local politics and signed a petition against the transportation of convicts to South Australia.

On 30 March 1846 they were living at Hindley Street where his wife presented him with son number three Robert Henry. He died in 1912. A fourth son, Edward William was born on 9 May 1847 but died on 27 February 1848. Their first daughter, Anne Elizabeth Louise was born on 15 January 1849, She also died very young on 12 March 1850 at Morphett Vale. Mary Emily was born on 12 August 1850. Margaret Adelaide was born on 28 January 1853 and died on 14 April 1854 barely 14 months old. The last daughter, Rosa Catherine was born on 22 July 1854 and outlived the whole family. She never married and died at Gable House, after a very successful career as a botanical artist, versatile illustrator of scientific papers and pioneer china-painter in Adelaide, on 13 February 1938.

Fiveash soon worked his way up the ladder and one of his first ventures was a butcher shop in Hindley Street. On 30 April 1847 he attended a Public Breakfast to honour Captain Charles Sturt. Among some of the other guests were John Baker, Charles Bonney, Alexander Tolmer and Frederick Wicksteed. On 1 July 1848 Fiveash took over the business of Henry Martin. From July 1850 he was also a director of the Equitable Building Society, shareholder in the Menkoo Mining Company and in 1851 treasurer of the newly constituted Butchers' Society.

In June 1852 Fiveash was elected Councillor for the Gawler Ward of the Municipal Corporation of Adelaide. He attended almost every meeting during his 18 months on the Council and worked hard to help the butchers reducing the cost of pasturing their sheep on the Adelaide Parklands. He also was much interested in protecting and upgrading footpaths and waterways. However he was against the proposed changes in the recently granted constitution which asked for universal suffrage, secret voting and abolishing property qualifications.

He was not the only one. JH Fisher, Mayor of Adelaide was like minded as were William Paxton, James Chambers, Thomas Young Cotter, George Tinline and Frederick Wicksteed. In 1854 he wanted the squares of Adelaide fenced and planted, in particular Victoria Square.

In 1853 Fiveash transferred his business to John Edwards and started working as a contractor for the Adelaide City Council. Now he was in a much better position to move around and he was soon roaming as far north as the Flinders Ranges, where he was prospecting and taking up leases either for himself or on behalf of others. However he was in Adelaide on 5 May 1853 to attend with Dr Cotter the 9th anniversary dinner of the Albion Lodge of Oddfellows.

In August he joined his brother William, who also lived in Hindley Street, in a partnership to operate a drapery store in Hindley Street. He also was on the committee of the War Relief Fund and served with GS Kingston, FS Dutton and Major O'Halloran. In May 1855 he was appointed Synodsman for Trinity Church. However his many absences from Adelaide and the shop, including a trip with wife and three children to England in 1857, resulted in the dissolution of his partnership with his brother on 9 January 1858. The official documents were signed and witnessed by Henry Martin. William set up his own business at 4 Hindley Street. Within a short time both brothers advertised their business almost every week in most of the newspapers.

From the early 1860s Fiveash's interest in mining became an important part of his life. In March 1860 he wrote that he was very much in favour of a gold escort service to the Snowy River Goldfield. In October 1861 he was a shareholder in the New Cornwall Mineral Association. At the same time he was involved in the design and production of flags, even receiving orders from as far away as Fremantle. He may have been in competition with his brother in business: they were still members of the same associations, among them the Adelaide Volunteer Artillery.

In 1862 he accompanied Henry Martin for the official opening of the Yudanamutana mine and from then on spent a lot of time in the Northern Flinders Ranges. One of the mine's shafts was named in his honour. In January 1863 he finally decided to close his shop and sell all his stock. A few months later he retired as a Churchwarden after more than five years' service so that he would be able to concentrate on his mining interests. On 28 April he presented a petition to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for better roads in the north and sink wells every fifteen or twenty kilometres.

While a lot of his time was taken up with travelling between the far north and his Adelaide office he was home at Gable House, Ward Street on 27 December 1865 when his eldest son John married Eliza Jane Gill of Coromandel Valley. The ceremony took place at Trinity Church and was performed by the Very Rev. the Dean of Adelaide.

At the Yudanamutana Company's headquarters in London it was decided to appoint Robert Archibald Fiveash as South Australian Superintendent from February 1867, to take charge of its works at Yudanamutana and Blinman. Fiveash certainly seemed the right choice for the position and it was hoped that it would be possible now to make a success of both mines. Fiveash had extensive prospecting and some mining experience. He certainly had proven managerial and organisational skills. He had been in South Australia almost from its inception, having arrived at Holdfast Bay on 17 May 1839, after a six month voyage from London.

After being appointed as Superintendent, Fiveash paid particular attention to lowering the cost of transport. One way of achieving this would be by improving the roads north of Port Augusta, something he had been trying to do since 1863. Within three months he secured himself a seat on the local board of main roads for the district of Port Augusta. A year later he added the position of Attorney for the Yudanamutana Company to his already busy work schedule.

Advertiser August 1863

Sud Australische Zeitung August 1863

All ads were sourced from Trove newspapers.

In September 1868 Fiveash was appointed a Justice of the Peace at Blinman and was the owner of the Ooraldana mine, about eight kilometres west of Wooltana Station. That same year he also became a member of the board of directors of the newly formed Mount Lyndhurst and Burr Mining and Smelting Association Ltd, and an agent for the Warreuta Copper Mining Company of South Australia Ltd. At the same time Mr Fiveash kept making applications for mineral sections in the north of South Australia.

During his five years as Superintendent and Attorney Fiveash often steered the mine through troubled waters. Even though he encountered many almost insurmountable problems he never lost faith. One of the first things he did was to make sure that the nine hundred tons of ore, which had been raised at Yudanamutana before the drought, were carted to Blinman for smelting. RA Fiveash lived in Ward Street, North Adelaide next to CL Klisser. Fiveash died on 28 January 1872, after a few hours illness, aged 56, and was replaced as Superintendent by Francis Joseph Botting. His wife Margaret died at her home in Ward Street on 26 August 1885. Both are buried at the West Terrace Cemetery.

Mining interests remained in the family, even after his death. His son Robert Henry married Annie Bertha Catchlove on 29 October 1873. Annie was the fourth daughter of the late Henry Catchlove of Brighton.


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