Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Oliver Trickett (1847–1934)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Oliver Trickett (1847-1934), surveyor and speleologist, was born on 29 May 1847 at Bridlington, Yorkshire, England, son of Rev. Edward Trickett, Baptist minister, and his wife Henrietta, née Young. Arriving in Victoria aged about 15, Oliver was appointed clerk in the Office of Mines, Melbourne, on 28 August 1865. He qualified as a mineral surveyor in 1870 and by 1875 was acting secretary of the Board of Examiners (Mines) in Collins Street. Moving to New South Wales next year, he was licensed as a surveyor by the Department of Lands.

After completing surveys in various parts of the colony, in March 1880 Trickett joined the Department of Mines. By the late 1880s he had begun private practice as a mining surveyor, broker and agent at 114 Pitt Street, Sydney, and was also associated with R. W. Harvey in a Sydney general auctioning business. Trickett's agency managed mines in New South Wales (mainly around Broken Hill) and some in Queensland and the Northern Territory. With Harvey, he published the Handy Register of Mining Companies (1889). Trickett became agent for Chaffey Bros Ltd's 'Irrigation Colonies'; with four others, he ran the East Lambton Colliery Co. which went bankrupt in 1892.

Rejoining the Department of Mines in June as a draftsman and surveyor in the geological survey branch, Trickett developed an interest in the limestone caves of New South Wales. To assist in surveying them, he designed an adaptation of the plane table to be used in conjunction with the theodolite. In addition, he gave advice on protecting the caves' formations and on improving them for tourists. On 8 June 1893 at the Catholic presbytery, Miller Street, North Sydney, he married Melbourne-born Elizabeth Anne Collins (d.1933).

He published Notes on the Limestone Caves of New South Wales (1898) and guides to the Jenolan (1899), Wombeyan, Wellington and Yarrangobilly (1906) caves. Other works included a large-scale tourist map of the Blue Mountains (1909), a Bibliography of the Economic Minerals of New South Wales (1919) for prospectors, and an article on limestone caves in the Australian Encyclopaedia (1925).

Eventually chief draftsman in the branch, Trickett prepared numerous maps, sections, diagrams and models. Among his most notable achievements were (Sir) Edgeworth David's maps of the Maitland coalfield, a model of Sydney Harbour, a geological map of the State (1915) and a model of the Broken Hill lode which won a gold medal at the Panama Pacific International Exposition (1915). His limestone cave models, many executed in his spare time, were popular exhibits in the Mining and Geological Museum, Sydney.

An untiring worker in both field and office, Trickett—though of a retiring disposition—was well-known to tourists all over the State as the genial 'cave man'; his speleological work was fundamental to the scientific study of Australian karst topography. Survived by two sons and four daughters, he died on 31 March 1934 at his Crows Nest home and was buried with Presbyterian forms in the Catholic section of Northern Suburbs cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Department of Mines (New South Wales), Annual Report, 1896-1918
  • Bulletin, 12 Sept 1907
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Apr 1934.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Trickett, Oliver (1847–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 May, 1847
Bridlington, Yorkshire, England


31 March, 1934 (aged 86)
Crows Nest, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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