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Moore, Henry Byron (1839–1925)

by Suzanne G. Mellor

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

Henry Byron Moore (1839-1925), public servant and businessman, was born on 11 February 1839 in Surrey, England, son of Frederick Farmer Moore, businessman and later head of the Victorian Government Store Department, and his wife Emily, née Coe. After practical education mostly at Stratford-le-Bow, he sailed for Victoria and arrived at Corio Bay in November 1852. He hoped to be an engraver but at 14 he became a field-clerk and draftsman in the Survey Department at Geelong, where he added crescents to relieve the monotony of the town's streets. In 1861 he was appointed district surveyor and was in the party which surveyed the route for the Cape Otway-Geelong telegraph line. In 1862 he went to England for his health, taking the Burke and Wills diaries with him; he was also elected a member of the Royal Geographical Society.

On his return in 1863 he worked on maps, plans and photolithography for the Lands Department. In 1865 he was given charge of selection procedures in the eastern half of the colony under Grant's Act and composed his parody of Tennyson, 'The Charge of the Dirty Three Hundred' (squatters' dummies), but again the travelling taxed his strength. In 1866 he was land commissioner in Gippsland and in 1870 assistant surveyor-general.

In 1873 after a public outcry against dummying Moore toured Victoria collecting evidence. In 1874-77 he reorganized the Survey and Lands Department, where he simplified and streamlined the occupation branch by dividing it into territorial divisions at headquarters. In 1878 he gave important evidence defending his impartiality to the lands commission of inquiry.

Moore was one of the permanent classified officers 'dismissed without distinction' on Black Wednesday, January 1878. He soon received offers from other colonies but refused and set up as a surveyor and financial agent. When R. J. Jeffray built the Exchange for £20,000 Moore leased it and housed there his brokerage business and financial newspaper. Moore spared no efforts to induce the mercantile community to make the Exchange its rendezvous, providing club amenities and such facilities as a telephone exchange, reading rooms with overseas newspapers, an innovatory wool circular distributed throughout the world, an intercolonial and international telegraph service and shipping registers and cargo loadings for major ports. Many stockbrokers carried out most of their business at Moore's Exchange but he became insolvent when B. J. Fink persuaded brokers to build their own exchange, completed in 1891. Moore was heavily involved in speculative land companies, like the Beaumaris Park Estate Co. Ltd which collapsed, and Moore crashed for over £66,000, paying 3d. in the £.

Moore always had a wide range of interests and a knack for realizing the use of inventions. In 1880 he founded the Melbourne Electric Light Co., was its manager and lit up the Eastern Market on 1 July 1881, a memorable night for Melbourne though the movement was premature. He also established the Melbourne Telephone Exchange Co. which gave the city a telephone service two years before London. By 1882 the government had realized its mistake but the company was in a strong position and in 1886 asked £78,750 for a transfer. Commerce was demanding a more efficient and less costly service and was hostile when the company settled in August 1887 for £40,000, still a handsome profit, and the 1100 subscribers were transferred.

On 17 June 1881 Moore became secretary of the Victoria Racing Club, retaining the post until 1925. He saw the value of acquiring land at the back of Flemington, bought it himself when the committee refused, and willingly resold some at his purchase price when later required. His surveying knowledge helped the club to plan four new grandstands and create spacious lawns and gardens, especially of roses, making Flemington a world-class course. He developed the club in Australian racing eyes, made the Melbourne Cup a major annual occasion with complimentary tickets to entice celebrities, and helped racing generally by suggesting the registering of bookmakers. Seeing himself as a manager only, he missed no meetings but rarely watched a race and never placed a bet.

Moore was active in charitable work all his life. In World War I the V.R.C. raised £102,019 for war funds and he himself chose the comforts sent overseas. The V.R.C. Benevolent Fund 'for racing men in necessitous circumstances' was his idea. He helped to raise money for the Talbot Colony for Epileptics, and the Children's Hospital gained money from the sale of his musical chants and a fairy-tale. He wrote for an hour at dawn almost every day; a gifted musician and enthusiastic gardener, he loved cooking despite his various fads about food.

On 20 September 1877 Moore had married Mary Jane, daughter of Charles Samuel Morrow of Melbourne; they had three daughters and two sons. The last surviving member of the 'literary coterie that formed the Yorick Club', he died at his home in Collins Street on 22 June 1925, and after a funeral service with rites of the Anglican Church, of which he had long been a senior member, was buried in Brighton cemetery attended by 500 mourners.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Punch (Melbourne), 5 Nov 1908, 16 June 1921, 15 Jan 1925
  • Argus (Melbourne), 22, 23 June 1925.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Suzanne G. Mellor, 'Moore, Henry Byron (1839–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-henry-byron-4231/text6825, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 September 2017.

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

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