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McComas, Robert Bond Wesley (1862–1938)

WOOLBROKER DIES

Mr. R. McComas

Mr. Robert Bond Wesley McComas, who played a leading part in the development of the wool industry in Australia, died yesterday at his home In Mary street. Hawthorn. He was aged 76 years.

Born in Victoria in 1862, Mr McComas became a leading business man early in life in spite of his lack, of school training Mr McComas became principal of the firm of William Haughton and Co., wool and skin brokers. He was a former member of the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Commonwealth Central Wool Committee, had acted as chairman of the General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Co Ltd. in Australia and was a former president of the Tasmanian and South Australian Wool Buyers Association.

Mr McComas's parents came to Australia from Ireland in 1850 and settled on the Braybrook Plains. His father established the wool and engineering business of McComas and Co. in the city. He also acquired two properties on the Darling River (NSW).

The failure or the City of Glasgow Bank and the Australian drought In 1867-70 seriously embarrassed the family and instead of going to school Mr Robert McComas began work in his father s office at an early age. He later transferred to the New Zealand Loan and Agency Co, and when aged only 19 years became manager of that company s grain store. Mr William Haughton joined his father in business in 1870 and from that time the firm has been known as William Haughton and Co.

Several years later when the business was in financial difficulties Mr Robert McComas was called upon to take charge under his management it grew from a small concern into one of the largest individually directed businesses in Australia, with agencies in all States except Tasmania and offices In London France. Belgium New Zealand Canada and the united States At one time he refused an offer of £2 000 000 for the business.

When the Commonwealth Government encountered difficulty in insuring the cargo of outgoing ships in the Great War. Mr McComas's aid was sought by the Prime Minister (Mr Hughes) and his organisation made marine insurance practicable in the early days of the war.

Mr McComas was a member of the Commonwealth Central Wool Committee for many years and with the late Sir John Higgins through the committed diiected the purchase of Australian wool by the British Government in the war years. With the help of wool experts the committee also successfullv reorganised tlie whole of the selling side of the wool industry.

In 1924, Mr McComas was appointed a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board from which he retired in 1935. His services were recognised in the New Year Honours of 1936 when he was created C.M.G.

It was because of his financial ability that many woollen mills are on a sound financial basis. He would supply them with wool assist in organisting theirbusinesses and finance them.

The construction of the out patients ward of the Alfred Hospital followed a large gift by Mr McComas and a fund which he assisted in raising. The wool sorting department of the Melbourne Technical College, which has been named after him, was established with his financial assistance.

Mr McComas owned a station in Queensland and a large number of business properties in Australia and overseas. His dairy farm at Gippsland was his main hobby.

Most generous himself his philosophy of life was that those whom he had assisted should repay him by assisting others. He despised immorality, laziness, drinking and dishonesty.

One instance of his generosity of which his friends tell occurred in the depression. Recognising that his business was incurring large losses, his employees approached him and asked that they might accept a 20 per cent, reduction of wages until conditions improved. This he declined to agree to saying that while there was money left in the business ,he would continue to pay his employees what he had paid in the past.

Mr McComas is survived by two daughters.

The funeral will leave his home this afternoon for the Boroondara Centre, after a service commencing at 3.30 pm conducted by the Rev Roscoe Wilson. The funeral arrangements are being made by A. A. Sleight Pty Ltd.

Original publication

Citation details

'McComas, Robert Bond Wesley (1862–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mccomas-robert-bond-wesley-7318/text30471, accessed 17 October 2019.

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