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Miller, Robert Byron (1825–1902)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

This is a shared entry with Granville George Miller

Robert Byron Miller (1825-1902), lawyer and politician, and Granville George Miller (1847-1910), judge, were born in London, the eldest and youngest of four sons of Robert Miller and his wife Jane Matilde, née Montmorini. Their father had entered Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1822; M.A., 1827), and was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple on 10 November 1826; he practised on the Midland circuit, became serjeant-at-law on 7 November 1850 and from January 1856 was a circuit judge in Leicester and Rutland until he died on 5 August 1876.

Robert was born on 19 April 1825 and educated at private schools and King's College, London. He was trained in his father's chambers, admitted to the Middle Temple in 1843 and called to the Bar on 28 January 1848. After practising in London he decided to migrate, arrived at Hobart Town in January 1855 and was admitted a barrister in the Supreme Court of Tasmania. On 11 April he married Emily, daughter of George Berkeley Harrison of London. They settled in Launceston where Miller was a partner of Adye Douglas for five years. He is credited with finding 'some primitive customs in … Tasmanian courts' and risking the displeasure of those in power by successfully introducing 'changes more in accordance with justice and freedom'.

In 1861 Miller was elected a member for Launceston in the House of Assembly and soon started to propose bills for legal reform. He was appointed solicitor-general in 1862 and in January 1863 attorney-general in James Whyte's ministry. With the premier he tried in vain to persuade the Victorian government to share in the cost of the submarine telegraph cable from Cape Schanck to Low Head. At the general elections in October 1866 he clashed with his independent constituents who abhorred the ministry's proposal for ad valorem duties and income tax. He therefore contested a Hobart seat and won, but the ministry was defeated in November and soon afterwards he resigned from politics. For three years he practised in Melbourne and then returned to Launceston. Criminal actions were his speciality. His cases were thoroughly prepared and his eloquence, experience and quick perception magnetized juries, often turning defeat into victory. According to the press, he was 'the cleverest of his class that Tasmania has known'. In 1871-76 Joseph Powell was his partner and then his eldest son Ernest Granville. For years he was president of the Mechanics' Institute and as an alderman strongly supported improved drainage and sanitation. Increasing deafness made him withdraw from the practice which passed to his son. He died at his home in Elphin Road, Launceston, on 5 October 1902, survived by his wife, three sons and several daughters. He left an estate of £1982 to his family.

Granville George was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (B.A., 1874) and called to the Bar of the Inner Temple on 3 November 1873. He migrated to Queensland in 1877 and was admitted to practise in the Supreme Court on 4 December. He was briefly crown prosecutor and in 1879 became master of titles. In November 1882 he was appointed a district court judge, his duties taking him as far as Normanton and other remote parts of north and west Queensland. From close acquaintance Sir Arthur Rutledge described him as 'a most careful, able, painstaking, and just Judge'. Miller was always ready to take the place of a colleague temporarily and was 'merciful to a degree in sentencing wrongdoers'. With a retiring disposition he made few close friends and on circuit his favourite exercise was walking. In his last years he presided over the Land Appeal Court. He died from chest trouble at his home, Clonmyle, Bowen Terrace, New Farm, on 6 July 1910 and was buried in Toowong cemetery. Predeceased by his first wife Clara Theresa Daly whom he had married in 1882, he was survived by his second wife Frances Georgina O'Reilly whom he had married in 1905.

Select Bibliography

  • Examiner (Launceston), 6, 7 Oct 1902
  • Mercury (Hobart), 6 Oct 1902
  • Brisbane Courier, 7, 8, 9 July 1910.

Citation details

'Miller, Robert Byron (1825–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/miller-robert-byron-4203/text6765, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 19 January 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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