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Maurice Robert McKeown (1884–1972)

by D. F. Fairweather

This article was published:

Maurice Robert McKeown (1884-1972), mining engineer, was born on 29 March 1884 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, son of native-born parents George Maurice McKeown, estate agent, and his wife Emmeline Mary, née Mayhew. Keith Collingwood McKeown was his brother. The boys grew up on Wollongbar Experimental Farm where their father was officer-in-charge. Maurice attended Fort Street Model School (while boarding with his uncle Robert McKeown, vicar of St Mary's, Waverley) and later Sydney Technical College.

During the great drought of 1901-02 McKeown worked with a railway survey team in north-western New South Wales. In 1904 he took a post at Broken Hill with Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd; six years of mining and milling experience, with part-time study at the Broken Hill Technical College, enabled him to gain his mine manager's certificate. After a year as mill superintendent with Phillips River Gold & Copper Co. Ltd in Western Australia, he returned to Broken Hill as mill superintendent (1911-14) at the large operations of North Broken Hill Ltd. On 16 August 1913 at St Andrew's Kirk, Ballarat, Victoria, he married Margaret McKenzie with Presbyterian forms. He turned to farming in the Joadja Valley, near Newnes, New South Wales, in 1914, but went to Emmaville in 1917 to be assistant-manager of the Vegetable Creek Tin Mining Co. (N.L.).

Determined to establish himself as a consultant mining engineer, McKeown moved to Melbourne in 1922. He was first retained by the gold-mining interests of A. Victor Leggo. McKeown gave expert advice covering metalliferous, coal and oil deposits, often in remote places, and wrote at least 255 reports on mining properties. Several small mining firms benefited from his advice, especially during Depression times of 'penny-a-month' calls on their shares. He was made a director of twelve companies, including Deborah Gold Mines (N.L.), Renison Associated Tin Mines (N.L.), and Technical Developments Ltd.

McKeown was a member (from 1912), councillor (1945-68) and vice-president (1948-49 and 1953-54) of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. Honorary editor (1946-54) of its Proceedings, he also edited the volumes of the Fifth Empire Mining and Metallurgical Congress (1953). He published in the Proceedings a definitive paper (1942) on the new Tennant Creek goldfield, Northern Territory, with which he was associated. In addition, he edited (1939-45) the Chemical Engineering and Mining Review and co-authored (with H. S. Elford) Coal Mining in Australia (Melbourne, 1947). A member (from 1946) and vice-president of the Victorian Chamber of Mines, he served as chairman of the board of examiners for the metalliferous and coal mine managers' certificate in Victoria, and as an external examiner for the mining school at the University of Melbourne.

Of average height, somewhat heavy build and balding in middle age, McKeown had kindly eyes which bespoke warmth and quiet charm. Bowls was his only recreation, although he never lost his youthful enthusiasm for steam-trains. He belonged to the Hannans (Kalgoorlie) and Melbourne Scots clubs. Predeceased by his wife, he died on 27 September 1972 in East Melbourne and was buried in Burwood cemetery. His son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Dew (compiler), Mining People (Melb, 1993)
  • Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Proceedings, Mar 1973, and records (Parkville, Melbourne)
  • M. R. McKeown reminiscences (manuscript, University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

D. F. Fairweather, 'McKeown, Maurice Robert (1884–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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