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Henry Miller (1809–1888)

The Melbourne Daily Telegraph referring to the death of the Hon. Henry Miller, familiarly known as 'Money Miller,' which has already been mentioned in our telegraphic columns, furnishes some particulars of his career, from which the following it extracted:–Born in Londonderry, in the north of Ireland, on December 31, 1809, Mr. Miller was 78 years of age. He came to Victoria 48 years ago, and he never left it, not even on a visit to the other colonies or to the land of his birth. By remarkably successful financial operations he amassed a fortune believed to be the largest in the possession of any single individual in Victoria. He bequeaths over £2,000,000 to his widow, his sons, and daughters. The son of a captain in the 40th regiment of foot, Mr. Henry Miller began life as a clerk to his father, who was then in charge of the Ordnance Store Department at Hobart. He subsequently received an appointment as a clerk in the Government Audit Office there, and served for seven years in that capacity. In 1840 he emigrated to Victoria, and here he has ever since remained. Many stories are told to illustrate the bent of his life's work. Most of these are apocryphal, but the following is authentic: — Playing with a younger brother in his youthful days, he was asked to explain a boyish trick. 'Yes,' he said, 'I will if you give me fourpence.' From that time to the present the amassing of money has been the ruling passion of his life. His father was a good soldier of the old-fashioned type, who feared God and honored the king. He carried the colors at Waterloo. After the peace of 1815 the 40th regiment was ordered to Glasgow, and there young Miller resided for a few years. In 1823 he sailed with his father to Australia, Captain Miller having been selected as captain of the guard of the convict ship Isabella. He next went to Moreton Bay. On the voyage out Henry, as an enterprising lad, had been discussing with his brothers the glories of a private expedition of their own into the terra incognita of the bush, and immediately on landing they set off for anywhere — to see the wild men of Australia, to feast their eyes on the wonderful sights of a country in its primitive state, and to enjoy the luxury of climbing trees, the tops of which they could hardly see. The result was they were lost for a time, and the first duty of Captain Miller, when he became commandant of the infant settlement, was to order out a search party of the men belonging to the 40th to look for the runaways. They were rescued after some trouble. In 1825 his father's regiment was ordered to Van Dieman's Land. Arrived at Hobart, Captain Miller assumed the position of ordnance storekeeper, and Henry acted as his clerk. When the Ordnance Department was merged into an Imperial office Captain Miller rejoined his regiment, and Henry received the appointment in the Audit Office, which he held for seven years. Captain Miller's regiment was ordered to India, and he left Henry in charge of his house and of his two brothers, Mars and Charles. Henry turned the circumstance to good account. The same spirit which actuated him in asking for the fourpence from his brother was at work. In those days it was difficult for a respectable Englishman to obtain lodgings at Hobart, and Henry let the vacant rooms at the very highest figure he could obtain. He carefully, saved all the money he thus obtained, and it proved to be the foundation of his great fortune, for when he came to Victoria later on he was able to make profitable investments and lend money on mortgage. In 1834 he was married to Miss Eliza Mattinson, second daughter of the late Captain Mattinson, of the mercantile marine. Five years subsequent to his marriage he visited Port Phillip, and although what is now Collins-street was then a bush track, he foresaw the future of Melbourne, and returned to Tasmania, announcing that Port Phillip was the place for him. So it proved to be. 'A man,' he used to say, 'must attend to his business, or his business will leave him,' and attending to his business, he thought it well to leave Tasmania for Port Phillip. Thither he emigrated with his family in 1840. When he came to Victoria he started in business, lending money on mortgage and discounting bills, and gradually valuable properties fell into his hands. The gold fever tempted him not. He believed in slow, steady, accumulation of wealth, and in his little office, opposite where the Athenaeum now stands, he was his own accountant. It was then he started a novel system of bookkeeping. He dispensed with the formidable ledgers and daybooks, and merely kept memoranda of his transactions in notebooks. But there was no confusion. He had arranged everything himself for himself and his family, and he had a remarkably good memory, a splendid head for figures, was far-seeing, and never made mistakes. True, he might have made much more money had he been of a speculative turn of mind, but he might have lost, and to lose was the one thing he dreaded. Gradually his money lending business developed into banking, and he founded the Bank of Victoria. Of this institution he was the first chairman, for he loved to be at the head of affairs in all his enterprises, and up to two years ago he never missed attending the meetings of the directors. As Melbourne grew in importance he added to his pile. ‘Gold rushes’ were not for him, but money-making was. He formed the Victoria Fire and Marine Insurance, the Victoria Life and General Insurance Company, and both institutions have met with a remarkable success. In conjunction with Mr. William Nicholson, Mr. Miller was the originator of the building societies. Mr. Miller owned the Melbourne Exchange, which he purchased for £128,000; he held a lease of the Western Market; he built the market buildings; he owns a large block of city property, occupied by Mullen's Library, Gunsler's Cafe, and other businesses, which cost him £80,000. It is impossible at present to form even an estimate with any degree of correctness of the value of his city property, and this remark, owing to his unusual method of book-keeping, holds good in reference to his country property in the Bacchus Marsh district, Millpark, Craigieburn, and in the northern suburbs. Only once is it recorded of him that he went out of his money-making way. This was during the 'black war' in Tasmania. In 1830 he was one of the men chosen to form a net, by which it was hoped to secure the blacks on a peninsula, and put an end to the bitter revenge they were taking for the cruelties of the convict stockmen. The attempt was unsuccessful.

Original publication

Citation details

'Miller, Henry (1809–1888)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 December, 1809
Londonderry, Londonderry, Ireland


7 February, 1888 (aged 78)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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