Website Banner. John Monash: Engineering enterprise prior to World War 1.

[People: Staff and Others] [People: Architects] [Main JM Index] [Abbreviations]

People who interacted with JM
Notes on special individuals, Page 1.

On this Page:

Baltzer, William (Wilhelm) Julius;   Catani, Carlo G. D. E;   Fairway, Percy T;   Gibson, John;   Jenkinson, H. Gordon;   Lynch, Alexander (Alex);   Lynch, Alexander Edward;   McNaught, John J;   Wears, W. E. L.
There is a brief note on Monash himself.

More People: [Page 2] [Page 3]

William Julius Baltzer (1859-1948)

As effective chief design engineer of Carter Gummow & Co of Sydney, and its descendent companies, Baltzer acted as a technical expert to Monash & Anderson and to RCMPC from 1897 onwards, providing constant advice on the practice and theory of reinforced concrete. He was especially involved in their early Monier arch bridges, and it is likely that he took design responsibility for the Anderson St (Morell) Bridge (see story). He also advised on the design of water tanks, pipes, and buildings and acted as a sounding board, as Monash worked out his ideas on the subject. On a visit to Melbourne in January 1903, he introduced Monash to the French and German texts from which JM learnt the theory of reinforced concrete and much of his knowledge of practice. Baltzer's last major involvement appears to have been in 1907 over the design of the Hindmarsh Railway Bridge, but he was still giving occasional advice as late as 1912.

Don Fraser provided a summary of Baltzer's early contribution in his 1985 paper. Trained in Germany, Baltzer joined the Sewerage Construction Branch of the NSW Public Works Department in 1885 as a draughtsman/engineer, but was retrenched "with great regret" during the economic depression of the early 1890s. Around 1890 he visited a relative in Germany who was Professor at the Technical School, Berlin and toured the country inspecting and photographing Monier arch bridges. He returned to Sydney with the promise of technical back-up from Wayss & Co, German patentees of the Monier system, and secured the Australian rights with J. Carter and D. J. Snodgrass. Baltzer then joined Carter Gummow & Co. and went on to design two aqueducts at Annandale, near Sydney, and the Anderson Street Bridge in Melbourne (amongst others).

The source for most of the information about Baltzer's early contribution is the Report of a Royal Commission Inquiry into allegations that Carter Gummow & Co had received favoured treatment from the NSW PWD.

Baltzer's Memorial of Naturalization can be viewed on the web site of the National Archives of Australia by searching for Baltzer Wilhelm. It is dated "Adelaide, 2nd January 1884" and says he had lived in SA for 2 days, c/- Mr Weidenbach, Rundle St, Adelaide, and was "desirous of becoming a permanent settler". He describes himself as a native of Nassau, Germany, and his age as 24. His occupation is given as Architect. He took the Oath of Allegiance on 23rd January 1884.

The German web site Structurae states that Baltzer was born in 1858 or 1860 in Diez, Rheinland-Pfalz. Nassau is a town downstream from Diez on the Lahn River and about 15 km from Koblenz. However, it was also the name of the Duchy in which Diez was situated [Peter Benkendorff].

An early error concerning Baltzer's first name appeared in several of our publications.

See Bruce Fairhall's family website for more information on WJB.


Catani, Carlo Giorgio Domenico Enrico (1852-1918)

Catani, Reinforced Concrete and Monash

Catani was born in Florence. After studying civil engineering at the Technical Institute he gained experience in railway construction; then migrated to New Zealand in 1876. Unable to find work, he came to Melbourne, where he was appointed to the Department of Lands and Survey. Two years later he was transferred to the Public Works Department. He was naturalised in 1892. Promoted to head of his section, he was responsible for the draining of the Koo-Wee-Rup swamp, completed in 1897, and a new township was named after him. His next major project was the widening and improvement of the Yarra River in Melbourne above Princes Bridge [source: ADB Online]. The Anderson St (later 'Morell') Bridge [story] was an integral part of this project, and his enthusiastic support for Carter & Gummow's proposal to build it using the Monier system eventually brought him into professional contact with Monash. It has been suggested [I cannot remember where] that Catani saw Monier arch bridges on the railways in Italy. This would certainly explain his readiness to promote reinforced concrete in Victoria - an important factor in Monash's success.

Short of exercising the royal prerogative, Catani was obliged to work through M&A if he wanted to see patented Monier arches built; and after JM had beaten off a 1904-6 challenge to his domination of normal r.c. construction in Victoria, Catani must have found it convenient to continue working through RCMPC. The impression that emerges from our research notes is of a close and normally cordial working relationship. Under the title 'Engineer for Roads & Bridges', Catani generally kept JM's firms informed of upcoming projects where he thought that a reinforced concrete arch, or later a r.c. girder bridge, might have a competitive advantage. JM dropped Catani's name when he wrote to local authorities asking permission to submit an alternative tender to the conventional timber or steel designs prepared by their Engineers. Monash, and later his assistants, visited the PWD offices to "wait on Mr Catani", as JM described it, to fast-track PWD approval of designs, specifications and contracts between JM's firms and local authorities. When municipal engineers began to take this for granted, and send their proposals direct to Monash to take to Catani, he was obliged to tell them of Catani's annoyance and insistence on correct procedure.

Catani may be seen in a photograph of dignitaries assembled for the testing of the Anderson St (Morell) Bridge (front row, 2nd from left.)

Catani in our research notes

Catani first appears in our notes in a letter dated 5 Nov 1897 in which JTNA tells JM (in Perth) that Catani and PWD chief Davidson have promised Gummow the contract for the Anderson St Bridge if he can build it for £5000. Thereafter Catani was heavily involved in negotiations, in improving the design, and in getting senior engineers and politicians 'on side'. JTNA described his manner as "almost embarrassingly cordial". Catani made sure the cost of the alternative steel bridge designed by the PWD was slightly higher than that of the Monier version, but it is evident from correspondence between Monash and Anderson that both Davidson and Catani kept the interests of the PWD clearly in mind, inviting competing tenders in steel to oppose JTNA's attempts to talk the Monier price up.

In May 1898, Catani advised the PWD that a stone arch should be built at Wheeler's Bridge. This was an expensive option which made the proposal to use Monier arches seem all the more reasonable, though it may have reflected the ambitions of the Councillors. After the opening ceremony, Mr Peacock MP said "the shire had found a really good friend in Mr Catani, who had strongly urged this particular kind of bridge", while the Shire Engineer said "the credit must be given to Mr Catani for having the bridge built on the Monier principle". Again, however, Catani pressured M&A during early negotiations to keep the price down. This pattern was repeated for the Fyansford bridge project.

However, it was not all plain sailing. Catani failed to persuade the Harbors & Rivers Dept to accept M&A's Monier design for the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse, and they were careful not to embarrass him by trying to press the matter through other channels. Catani seems to have doubted the suitability of Monier arches for the Tambo River Bridge project, and M&A found themselves building the PWD timber design as regular contractors. Strict interpretation of the specification by PWD inspectors on the job, and problems in getting good quality timber, placed Catani in a difficult position and resulted in some friction with M&A.

Catani naturally played a part in investigating the collapse of Kings Bridge Bendigo, reaching different conclusions from those of Monash and Baltzer. In fact, Monash asked Professor Kernot to contradict Catani's statements about the fracture, because he thought them "likely to be detrimental". In July 1901, Monash described Catani as being "in a very gloomy frame of mind" after the discovery of cracks in the northern abutment of the Morell Bridge. He appealed to Baltzer to come to Melbourne to reassure Catani, noting the latter's fears could "seriously militate against his using the Monier Principle in future, and as you are aware, much of the work which we have performed in this State has come to us through Mr Catani". In Sept 1901, as the Tambo bridge neared completion, Catani insisted that a dip in the deck over Pier 4 be corrected. M&A told their staff this was "most unfair" of him at such a late stage, but "there are good reasons why we should not quarrel with the Department". In February 1902, Catani gave the Monier Pipe Co. its first significant order for pipes, to be delivered to Koo Wee Rup. That year also marked the start of Monash's battle to persuade the City Engineer for Ballarat to accept a Monier bridge at Grant St over the Yarrawee Channel. Catani's support was in this case insufficient to overcome the hostility of the city engineer and councillors to the system.

Catani's name is absent from our notes in 1904. [I have not investigated the reason.] In 1905 he again appears suggesting Monier projects to Municipal Engineers. By this time a PWD scheme to drain swampy areas of Elsternwick and Elwood was well under way and the two major canals required regular bridging. Despite an unfortunate experience with his first reinforced concrete girder bridge at Stawell St, Ballarat, Monash was quick to offer the system, and Catani readily took it up. He wrote to JM, in connection with the projected Elsternwick bridge that he had been unable to see the Premier, Mr Bent, but had seen the local Council's consulting engineer (one of the Coane family, see ADB) "who is to enquire into matter and if he feels satisfied that your design is the most suitable he will recommend the acceptance of your tender, however, I suggested to that gentleman that you might alter the reinforcements to suit his ideas and it would be well I think if you had a personal interview with him".

After thus supporting the introduction of r.c. girder bridges, Catani was in constant touch with RCMPC and Municipal engineers, suggesting reinforced concrete rather than timber on the grounds that its long life and low maintenance costs more than compensated for its higher initial cost. An example is provided by a letter to JM in September 1907: "The Stratford people want to put a wooden bridge, single track, at Waterford 150' long, 3 spans of 50' each and they talk of £10 per foot. The foundations on rock on the surface. I think 5 spans of 30' could be substituted." Catani supplied essential details of availability of materials and local prices. At all times, he took a close interest in the planning and design of the bridges; in some cases insisting that Councils provide more spans for waterway clearance, or that RCMPC increase the amount of reinforcement.

In 1914 JM explained the formal procedure to the Shire Secretary for Kerang. "The Department is a great stickler for form, and would, I am afraid, not recognise our approaching them unless you first of all formally notified them that the Council had accepted our tender, and submitted the tender for their approval. If you will kindly do this forthwith, and notify them that a representative of this company will call on them under your authority to discuss the matter and, at the same time, advise me that this has been done, I shall gladly undertake to wait upon Mr Catani or Mr Clarke and get the matter put through for you quickly. I am sure they will not act on my instigation alone, and will require to have our original tender papers before them, fully submitted by you through the proper channels. It is only a matter of form, but it is best to conform to their wishes in this respect, as it smooths the way for their approval."

Earlier, while Monash was on his overseas tour of 1910, Catani had made a significant input into RCMPC's design of the Janevale Bridge. Monash's assistant, P. T. Fairway, wrote to the Shire Engineer, G. S. Read, that he had been at the PWD on other business and taken the opportunity to discuss Janevale unofficially, pointing out the need to start the river work before winter. Catani was "very cooperative" and went into the design "pretty closely" with Fairway. He suggested some modifications that PTF promised to incorporate. Catani then promised speedy approval. When RCMPC's tender had been accepted by the two Councils involved, Fairway had to write to Catani asking him to return the detailed drawings so that RCMPC could give them to Read, so that Read could officially give them to Catani!

Despite this easy-going cooperation in technical matters, Catani insisted that while councils could spend their own money as they wished, any project that received financial support from the State government must be open to tender, and allow for alternative designs in other materials. Monash, for his part, declined invitations from Catani to quote for the Sorrento sea wall in 1907 and a dam at Mt Buffalo in 1908, and showed little interest in his proposals for an ornamental arch bridge at St Kilda and a Pavilion at Albert Park in 1910.

Catani is known as a colourful character. In 1905 he had evidently teased Shire Engineer J. N. Muntz who had approached Monash for a Monier Arch bridge near Ballan. JM told Muntz: "I think Mr Catani's objections were only a bit of side, and one of the funny little ways he has got". When JM learned that the Engineer at Benalla had told Catani about cracks in the new bridge, Monash warned him that Catani was "inclined to take such erratic views". Catani was amongst those who wanted the Janevale bridge re-tested after cracks developed there also (1912).

Catani's last major project was the reclamation of the foreshore of St Kilda where the Gardens are named after him and a bust is included at the foot of the memorial clock tower on the esplanade. He lost a son in WW1, killed in action in 1916. [Australian Dictionary of Biography]


Percy T. Fairway: Career with RCMPC prior to 1915

Summary by A. Holgate

PTF first appears in the RCMPC records in June 1906 as Engineer for the Municipality of Prahran. He joined RCMPC as from 1 April 1908, presumably having been head-hunted by Monash. On 5 April JM wrote him a sheet of instructions for drawing the Hindmarsh-Thebarton Tramway Bridge. PTF was soon heavily involved in the design of bridges, buildings and tanks including the Melbourne Abattoirs, Condell's Building, the Central Telephone Exchange, Preston Reservoir No.3, Benalla Bridge, Bank's Warehouse, Albany Chambers, Hamilton Bridge and the Alliance Buildings.

In 1909 he took a fortnight's leave to be married on 11 August. Monash warned the Adelaide office: "make sure you can manage without me" for the period. On 6 Dec 1909 JM sent another warning: PTF was ill with appendicitis, so Adelaide would have to manage without JM for 2 or 3 weeks. In March 1910 JM left for an overseas trip which would last until November. He notified Adelaide that he had left power of attorney with Gibson and that PTF was his "principal assistant and representative". PTF ran the engineering side of the business in JM's absence, sending regular reports by mail. In October 1909 JM asked an architect if he would "drop a hint" as to whether RCMPC had been successful tenderer for a contract "either to Mr Gibson, or to Mr Fairway my senior assistant, who is discreet and entirely in my confidence; and who is thoroughly in touch with the tender submitted by us".

As the years progressed, PTF worked on an impressive quantity and range of projects, gradually concentrating on design and contract administration of building projects, while J A Laing worked mostly on bridges, tanks and drainage schemes. Towards 1914 the number of calculations initialled by PTF dwindles, suggesting an increasingly executive role. As Monash was drawn into preparations for war, PTF largely took over direction of engineering work.

Individual engineers can be placed on a spectrum ranging from the 'back-room boy' (or girl) to the 'front-of-house' engineer who drums up business. Our impression of PTF is that he was positioned more to the 'back-room' end of the spectrum than Monash. It is interesting that when Monash was overseas in 1910, PTF designed a Monier arch (Porepunkah) in which the spandrel walls were of structural reinforced concrete rather than the brick used in Monash's earlier Monier arches.

Percy Fairway's career after 1914

James Spence, PTF's grandson, has researched and written this account of PTF's continued involvement with Monash and RCMPC during and after WW1.

PTF who had joined RC&MPC in 1908 in a senior engineering role was to become part of a team led by John Monash (JM) that introduced reinforced concrete as a structural technique.

When Monash left for Europe and WW1 in late 1914 PTF took over the role of Superintending Engineer from him. Together with John Gibson, Managing Director, John Laing, Design Engineer, Alex Lynch, Works Manager and his son A E Lynch, Works Foreman they continued to run a successful reinforced concrete construction and pipe making business.

Reinforced concrete construction was well established and there were now many builders and contractors using reinforced concrete.

Multi-storied buildings were appearing and PTF was pricing the reinforced concrete component of building works. Fewer bridges were being constructed, competition was fierce and margins for tendered works were thin. WW1 was obviously a challenging time for both PTF and the Company.

Although away at the war, Monash wanted to be kept informed of company business and finances. Gibson was reluctant to accommodate him and so it fell to PTF, without Gibson's knowledge, to provide the information. Despite concern over the business situation Gibson wrote to Monash that he "cannot speak too highly of Mr. Fairway's splendid work and his loyalty to us - but for him the business could not have been carried out." He noted however that PTF was having a short spell due to the strain.

Despite the stress of the times and the pressures on all involved in the business, PTF was able to maintain a positive outlook.

About to return to Australia Monash thanked PTF for his support telling him, "It has placed me under such an obligation to you as I feel will be difficult properly to recognise in the future".

In 1920 back from the war Monash, together with PTF, entered a design in the competition held for the replacement of the Church Street Bridge. They prepared an eight page submission, including justification for a single arch bridge - the competition had asked for three arches - and an additional eight pages of design calculations and estimates.

They were unsuccessful. RC&MPC however won the tender for the construction of the Bridge. The biggest challenge came in October 1923 following the Yarra River flooding with a "raging torrent" carrying away much of the scaffolding.

By taking on the position of Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SEC) in 1921 and ending his financial ties with the company, Monash did not end his association with RC&MPC. Always promoting reinforced concrete as a superior construction material he was clearly more confident with PTF and RC&MPC when it came to reinforced concrete design and construction than with others, leading to him engaging the company in this role.

With the State Electricity Commission Building (1920-22) Monash insisted on reinforced concrete as the structural element, and employing RC&MPC to design and manage the construction - despite some public questioning of the process. Later with the RACV Building (1923-26) and the National War Memorial (1927-34), Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, Monash saw the proposed designs as too conservative when it came to the use of reinforced concrete leading him to seek PTF's advice and assistance in providing a reinforced concrete alternative.

In 1922 the Concrete Constructions Company - the concrete pipe making arm of the business that had been set up in 1914 - was sold to Hume Pipe Co. In a listing of staff by Gibson in 1917 PTF was included in the CCCo. as "acting as Engineer" suggesting his only involvement was in providing any relevant technical advice.

The South Australian Reinforced Concrete Construction Co which had been set up in 1906 was by 1922 also becoming unviable. The experienced superintending engineer Mr Jenkinson who had resigned was considered irreplaceable and therefore it was decided to wind up the business. By April 1924 Gibson was also saying "We have found that in open completion, confining ourselves entirely to reinforced concrete, we are unable to compete with the general contractors who undertake the whole work." By mid 1925 Monash was still asking Gibson about the status of the closure.

The construction of the Capitol Building and Theatre required the design of a large 65' beam in order to support the gallery. PTF sought the advice of Monash. His response, in part, looked at the situation in terms of bridge girders and included sketches suggesting reinforcing locations. He also suggested looking at precedents and whether they might support what he was advising. PTF replied that having a solution to the problem "was welcomed by Mr Griffin (Walter Burley) as giving him an Architectural effect which was desirable".

PTF's acknowledged expertise in concrete structures was called on following the British Australasian Tobacco (BAT) Building (1925-26) collapse with his company engaged to manage the reconstruction. PTF was nominated by Monash to sit on the enquiry panel, however, this was impossible due to his appointment to carry out the reconstruction work.

By 1923-24 RC&MPC were quoting or tendering on the reinforced concrete component of multi-storey buildings and warehouses, together with water tanks, small bridge replacements - old timber with reinforced concrete - and chimneys in rural towns. The larger projects seemed to be eluding them - often due to projects not proceeding.

Between 1927 and 1929 the company tendered for a number of building projects in Adelaide. The competition was intense and they were unsuccessful in many cases.

Where appropriate the company tendered or quoted in conjunction with Webber and Williams Carpenters & Builders Norwood South Australia (W&W) with the company sub- contracting out the reinforced concrete works.

PTF used his experience in building the Church Street Bridge to assist Mr. Neave, Adelaide City Engineers Office, on the design of their proposed new Adelaide Bridge. This involvement didn't help in the tender process with RC&MPC coming fourth. It was the only bridge contract amongst all the firm's building projects in Adelaide.

National War Memorial (1927-1933) Monash was a major force behind the building of the National War Memorial in Melbourne.

Again Monash saw an opportunity with the design of the dome to substitute reinforced concrete for steel and concrete and sought out PTF for some help. PTF responded "…very pleased to cooperate … and any designing or estimating done by us is entirely honorary". RC&MPC got the tender to construct the dome.

In March 1928 PTF wrote to Monash, "It is difficult for Alex (Lynch) and myself to express our gratitude to you for placing us in such a splendid position". It appeared Monash had set up a financial arrangement that would support them and the business into the future. Perhaps this was Monash honouring the words he had written on his return from the war.

John Gibson died in 1929. He had retired from the company the year before. Sir John Monash died in 1931 at the age of 66 before the National War Memorial opened in 1934.

By 1932 due to the world depression, unemployment was increasing and in a letter earlier that year reference is made to the slowing conditions and lack of work. PTF replied to a professional gentleman applying for work that there was "not a great deal of work in hand and therefore not in a position to increase staff".

PTF, still in his role as Superintending Engineer and Director, died in December 1932 aged 62.

PTF was initially part of a team that had been led by Monash in introducing reinforced concrete as a structural system. Following Monash's departure PTF became the Supervising Engineer and a Director of the company. Undoubtedly a gifted engineer, PTF became well versed in employing the new construction technique. RC&MPC proved to be a successful civil engineering company - in what was a very competitive industry and during often difficult economic circumstances.

PTF and Monash were to maintain an ongoing personal and professional association. In 1926 Monash asked PTF to advise him on the reinforcement for his new concrete car wash at his home "Iona". Monash wrote, "I am getting a bit rusty on these matters".

After PTF's death W H Hanson, who had joined the firm around 1919 when John Laing left, took over as Superintending Engineer.

Alex Lynch took over as Managing Director with the death of John Gibson, and his son A E Lynch took over from his father as Managing Director from 1950 to 1957 when the company was wound up.

Key people in PTF's time at RC&MPC.
From left: A E Lynch, PTF, John Gibson, and Alex E Lynch. Extreme right: J A Laing.
(To the left of Laing is John Romanis who was Town Clerk at the time PTF left Prahran in 1908.)
Photo: City of Prahran Annual Report 1923-24, page 20.


John Gibson

Serle describes Gibson as "a tall, strikingly handsome Scot" who had joined David Mitchell in 1890. Gibson's main roles in Monash's engineering pre-WW1 were first as representative of Mitchell, who provided financial backing for JM's firms; as Manager of the Monier Pipe Factory; and finally as Managing Director of RCMPC. The relationship became so close that they can almost be thought of as partners in enterprise. Gibson was consulted by JM on every significant decision and often journeyed with him on technical, as well as business matters. He was a member of the select group that accompanied Monash on his Mount Buller trips (Serle p.172). In 1912 Monash introduced Gibson to his brother-in-law as "my very intimate friend and business partner, and principal colleague for many years". Judging from the technical correspondence, Serle may have gone too far in writing that "Monash's relation with the industrial chemist John Gibson was the key to his success" (p.164), but it was certainly a major component.

Serle says the pair first came into contact through Monash & Anderson's scheme to sell clay from Moorooduc on commission. Gibson was involved as industrial chemist and manager of David Mitchell's cement works. He first appears in our research notes in a letter dated 2 October 1897. Monash was appearing for Baxter & Saddler in arbitration of their claims for payments from the Queensland Railways and it seems he had consulted Gibson regarding the quality control B&S had applied to the cement they used. Further contact occurred when M&A required cement for their early Monier arch bridges, sourced partly from Taylor at Fyansford and partly from Mitchell's works in Richmond.

With moves towards the end of 1901 to establish the Monier Pipe Company with Mitchell as major shareholder and on land supplied by him, Gibson expressed displeasure at M&A's continued use of Taylor's cement. Gibson held 190 of the 1000 shares in MPC and was both Manager and Managing Director. (His address at the time was 'Highbury Grove, Kew'.)

In January 1903, after the court refused M&A's claims for excess payments for the Fyansford Bridge, and Monash was desperate for funds to keep M&A going, he directed his appeal to Mitchell through a lengthy letter to Gibson. When Baltzer came to Melbourne later that month, the trio conferred in the evening at Gibson's home. In September 1903, Monash and Gibson began to explore the possibility of establishing a Monier Pipe factory in South Australia, proposing to buy the rights from Gummow. Meanwhile, Gibson continued his routine duties such as managing the factory and conducting chemical and strength tests on cement, pipes and other pre-cast components. He worked on developing a quick-setting cement for use on the Koondrook bridge project.

I have not pinned down the date of the agreement to merge M&A with MPC, but negotiations commenced as early as April 1905, and JM mentions the effective merger of operations as occurring on 27 May. In 1906 Gibson was a party to talks between Gummow, JM and W A Robertson of the Ferro-Concrete Co. of Australasia Ltd, about its rivalry with the Monier firms and its intention to break into Victoria. In April 1906, JM consulted Gibson about revaluing RCMPC shares and in February 1907 about the desirability of restructuring the firm.

In June 1906 the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co was formed. Gibson was one of the five shareholders, contributing £200, and also a Director. He appears to have taken a 'hands-on' approach to administration, paying many visits to Adelaide in coming years, also dealing with political fallout from the problems with the Glenelg Breakwater.

The warmth of Gibson's feelings for JM are evident in a letter of 1907 after JM had discharged his debts to people such as Mitchell, Gummow and Taylor who had provided capital or deferred collection of moneys owing: "It has been a long and trying fight but the honourable manner in which you have discharged the liabilities of your late firm has earned for you the esteem and respect of those who are acquainted with the circumstances of the case" (Serle p.164).

In 1908 Gibson's chemical knowledge was required to resolve problems with chemical attack on cement in the walls of silos at Sparrovale in Victoria, which had been used for storage of silage. The same year, Monash wrote of the brown coal deposits of the Latrobe Valley: "my friend Gibson, who has studied the subject very fully, assures me that the only way in which our deposits - which are generally of low grade, and distant from rails - can be worked commercially, is by some industry setting itself up on the field and using the deposits as fuel, on the spot. He thinks that, as an ordinary article of commerce, our brown coal could not compete in the market with sea-borne black coal and other fuels".

In February 1909 JM wrote to Gibson: "Please favor me by accepting enclosed cheque of £250 as an attempt to express in a tangible form my sense of the many obligations I am under to you, in the assistance you have so generously given in re-building my shattered fortunes. In seeking for some rational basis, I have adopted your suggestion of using the hypothesis that you have assisted in the administration of my business as a member of the staff, and from this point of view I, quite arbitrarily, place upon same a value of £500 per annum. Again, from the partnership point of view this annual rate represents about 25% of my clear profits from Engineering Commission, after deducting office and living expenses. Trusting this will be satisfactory to you."

Gibson continued to function as a Managing Director, appointing employees, keeping track of company finances (on the basis of cost statements provided by the engineering side), chasing payments from tardy clients, negotiating with unsatisfied customers, issuing cheques, sending off tenders, managing the Pipe Factory, fielding questions on cement and concrete technology, and discussing issues large and small with Monash.

When JM made his overseas tour from March to November 1910, Gibson took over full responsibility for the direction of RCMPC and SARC, assisted of course by Fairway on technical matters and cost control. In May he represented the firm at the ceremonial opening of the Benalla Bridge. He helped Fairway grapple for new orders from architects and government engineers, and rowed with Taylor over alleged copying of RCMPC's designs for pipes.

In November 1911, Monash made notes on a possible restructure of the company following a meeting at Gibson's home (now in Studley Avenue, Kew). Gibson's shares would be boosted from 5130 to 8730, while Mitchell's and Monash's would be reduced from 10800 to 8730. A note by JM of the same date reads "Gibson dissatisfied. Indispensable, Can't get on without. I agree to increase his holdings … Alternative - bust up." (These are the sort of notes JM would write for himself when preparing to argue a case. Serle was intrigued by this proposal - see his pp.178-9, 1st edn.)

In 1912 it was Gibson's turn to travel overseas, leaving Melbourne on 12 March and arriving in Sydney (from Vancouver) probably on 23 November. JM took over Gibson's duties while he was away and was irked by the routine side of business matters. He also looked after Gibson's personal interests.

On his return, Gibson continued to be heavily involved in SARC matters as much as those of RCMPC - everything from concrete quality to business strategy. In 1914 JM told the architect Nahum Barnett: "Our Mr Gibson, during his recent trip, made special visits to the cement works in Germany and Denmark, and discussed with the makers certain particulars in regard to Australian supplies. Our continuous tests very conclusively proved that these cements are much superior to and more reliable than the British makes, and, as our works are always guaranteed by us we must necessarily safeguard ourselves by using the materials which we know to be the best". In April 1914 Gibson was involved in initial negotiations with Hume Bros of Adelaide regarding "the taking up of your pipe making process in Victoria".

Following JM's departure for the war, Gibson wrote to him regularly, keeping him up to date with business conditions in Australia and within the firm, and news of acquaintances. Gibson's younger brother Robert was chairman of the Commonwealth Bank in the 1930s.

For notes on Gibson's early career, see the entry in the 'Bright Sparcs' website.


H. Gordon Jenkinson

Jenkinson first appears in our research notes in November 1905 as a student at the University of Melbourne. Monash acted as Honorary Co-examiner to staff of the Faculty of Engineering and in mid-1906, recommending a 70% exam mark for HGJ, wrote "Jenkinson shows study and thought and the ability to express himself, and he knows what he means to express". In 1907 HGJ wrote to Monash that he would like to take a week off after his honours exams and start work on Monday, 25 March. The same year he worked on the Kithers Building (SA), the Central Telephone Exchange, the Rupanyup Silos and the Glanville Wharf (SA). In 1908 his tasks included flues at the Spencer St Power Station, a water tank for the British Australasian Tobacco Co's factory, the Hamilton, Collins and Benalla bridges, the Preston No.2 Reservoir, and the Commercial Bank, Launceston.

In 1909 HGJ moved to Launceston, Tasmania, to supervise construction of the reinforced concrete floors of the Commercial Bank building. There seems to have been at least one earlier trip, but his detailed cost summaries commence in early June. Monash was so impressed that he sent HGJ's final 'Works Analysis' to the Adelaide office as an example of "what is practicable under proper organisation". Monash hoped to maximise profits on the forthcoming Ballan Dam project by putting HGJ on site to direct operations. However, the engineer in charge of the Adelaide office expressed a wish to resign, so HGJ was given the opportunity to take over. He resigned from RCMPC as from 31 October 1909 and moved to Adelaide, working alongside the incumbent and gradually taking over projects until he stepped into the official position as Resident Engineer of the SARC Co. on 1 January 1910. His salary was £17-10-0 ($A35) per month. (At the end of 1908 labourers in Adelaide were paid 8/6 per day, or about £2-10-0 ($A5) for a six-day week.)

From then on, what I know of HGJ's story is the story of the SARC Co. In November 1913, HGJ asked for equity in the company on the grounds that he was receiving little support from the administrative officers and was effectively in "sole charge, both from a business as well as a professional aspect of the undertakings of the Company". His salary by this time was £360 per annum, which he felt was not in keeping with his responsibilities.

In 1935 HGJ was President of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. His Presidential Address, entitled 'Some Introspective Observations on the Status of Professional Engineers' appeared in the 1935 Proceedings, pp.127-33.


Alexander (Alec) Lynch

My recollection of a conversation with Lynch's grandson, Alexander G Lynch (no notes taken at the time) is that his grandfather met J T N Anderson in northern England when JTNA was working on a drainage scheme; that Alex came to Australia to work as maintenance manager at the Fyansford Woollen Mills; that he had worked with Monash on the Outer Circle Railway; and that Alex 'bumped into' JTNA when the latter was supervising the Fyansford Bridge project. Alex rejected JTNA's offer of work, because of loyalty to the owner of the Mills; but when the latter sold up and returned to England, Alex approached M&A.

An 'A Lynch' first appears in our research notes in a letter dated 12 January 1900, asking foreman Christensen for a job as a carpenter on Wheeler's Bridge. A G Timmins, who was temporarily in charge of the project, replied that he could give Lynch 'a start'. Wages would be "8/6 [per day] to start and 9/- if you prove satisfactory". On 1 March, M&A sent a telegram to Lynch (at Garden St, East Geelong) offering him work at Wheeler's. The pay sheet for 24 March shows him as a carpenter. In June 1901 he appears at Barber's Creek bridge to supervise the placing of concrete on falsework prepared by the general contractor. In September he is foreman on the Woolert bridge. In October 1901, he started on the Scott's Ck culvert at Springfield. His address about this time was 96 Yarra St, Abbotsford.

In January 1902, Lynch started as foreman of the Pipe Factory. In November he was sent to Sydney to study the latest pipe-making techniques at Gummow Forrest & Co's factory. Monash placed increasing reliance on him and JM's diary of 5 March 1903 records "evening at home with Lynch and Jack Anderson". From 1904 Lynch begins to move around as a roving Works Manager, overseeing the pipe factory and individual projects scattered throughout Victoria; moving in for hands-on supervision of critical operations such as concrete casting and removal of temporary supports. These projects included the first essays into building construction: the Carlton Brewery malt tanks, and covers for large street drains in Melbourne. Lynch was depended on to carry out reconaissances for projects prior to tendering, to investigate locations and ground conditions, the quality of local building materials, the availability of labour, carters and suppliers, and - very important - postal arrangements. As business expanded, he also filled the role of chief trouble-shooter. By 1907, he was sufficiently confident to question the design of Staughton's Bridge, though a check of computations ordered by Monash led to no changes.

From then until the end of our study period (1914) the picture is one of steadily increasing activity and responsibility for Lynch. This is illustrated by his 1912 report on reconnaissance for RCMPC's bid for the Geelong Sewage Aqueduct and negotiations with Chief Engineer McKay; and by his 1913 report on negotiations with Shire Engineer Short over the exact siting of the Cremona Bridge. In 1914, he was making on-site decisions about the size of foundations and piers for the Thornton Bridge.

Monash and other directors of the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co tried desperately to find someone of equal stature to fill a similar role in SARC. Many of the difficulties experienced by that firm stemmed from their inability to do so. We fortuitously sighted a 1917 reference to 'Mr Lynch MCE', indicating that by that time he had been awarded a Master of Civil Engineering degree.

In the restructure of RCMPC proposed in November 1911, Lynch was allocated 271 shares worth £81. According to Mr A G Lynch he gradually increased his holdings and by 1932, following the death of Fairway, had gained control of the company, becoming Managing Director from 1933-1949.

Like Catani, Lynch lost a son in WW1. Thomas N. Lynch served at Gallipoli, survived the sinking of a ship he was travelling on, and then fought in France where he died of wounds at Pozières.

As a result of the practical nature of Alex's contribution to RCMPC before WW1, the archival collections of letters and drawings contain few of his artefacts. Thus, his hand-written notes on Thomas, for the Australian Roll of Honour, have all the more impact.

Prior to 2014, I located a facsimile of these notes on the website of the Australian War Memorial and provided a link to it. That link is no longer valid, and I have been unable to find the facsimile (Dec 2020).


Alexander Edward Lynch

Alexander Edward was a son of Alex Lynch. He first appears in our research notes in April 1910 as foreman on a small project - a reinforced concrete floor for the Butter Factory at Lake Boga. Then there is a break until April 1913 when he appears as foreman of the Strathallan Bridges No.1, No.2, and No.3. Similar jobs follow on Broadhurst Creek Bridge, water towers at Rochester, Echuca and Tongala, and the Wattle Street Bridge in Bendigo (all 1914). After JM's time with RCMPC, Alex Edward was in charge of the construction of the Church St Bridge over the Yarra (1923). His son told me that Alex Edward followed his father Alec as Managing Director of RCMPC from 1950-1957. In 1952 A E Lynch featured in a broadcast on ABC Radio entitled 'Monash, Close-up of a Leader', arranged and introduced by John Thompson.

Reference: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1952. ABC Radio Archives, tape 72/10/483. An edited version appears in Thompson, John. 'On Lips of Living Men', Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1962.


John J. McNaught

McNaught first appears in our research notes in February 1895. A letter offered him 4/- per week as long as his handwriting was satisfactory. Next day, a letter to his father at 64 Nicholson St, South Yarra promised that if he passed a four-week trial period, M&A would keep him on and pay his monthly ticket.

In March 1898, A G Timmins wrote to Monash (in Perth) that "Johnny has a holiday today as his mother was burnt out of house and home last night at midnight". In October he wrote: "Johnny - his brother shot a ramrod through his [own] skull and 4½" into his brain. Two doctors worked on him for an hour this morning. He is now progressing fairly well."

Other letters show McNaught taking increasing responsibility: in charge of despatch of mail, copying specifications for tenders, and typing (1901). In May 1902, he evidently applied for another job, as JTNA wrote him a reference describing him as "our stenographer", and saying McNaught's doctor had recommended he should not continue with close clerical work of the type required at M&A. However in June, when Monash decided to work at home for the day to deal with urgent work, he told McNaught to "bring papers and notebook for dictation". In February 1903, JM noted in his diary "evening at office with John getting accounts in order", and a little later, McNaught was authorised to collect dues on behalf of M&A. At the end of 1904 he was awarded a gratuity of £2.

Thereafter, McNaught seems to have run the office, the main evidence being messages relayed between clients and senior staff. (But see e.g. Barham-Koondrook Bridge.) On one occasion in 1906 he told JM he had sent an estimate to a client and "I showed him the literature you lent me and he was more enthusiastic. I will try to make him more so". At the end of 1915 Gibson, writing to JM, mentioned that McNaught was still with the firm.


W Ernest L Wears

W E L Wears first appears in our research notes in September 1894, when JM asks for a meeting to gauge the potential of a projected mine. In January 1895, JM's diary shows he suggested a future partnership, and later "More business in which Wears is a great help. In evening I visit Wears and meet his wife". In mid 1895 he is described by M&A as "a friend of ours" and "our Mr Wears". However, an entry in JM's diary for 2 July reads "I hear from Anderson, who is on his way to Walhalla of the treachery of Wears and the Otis Co" and on 6 July "Row with Wears". [I have not investigated this problem.] In January 1898, JTNA told JM he wanted to bring Wears back into the partnership with one third of the profits, despite what JTNA saw as his poor performance in M&A's Mooraduc Clay venture. In March, notes appear showing that Wears is active, but then JM tells JTNA that he did not reach agreement with Wears, and now thinks they can only use him as a commission agent.

Wears appears in our notes again in September 1906, when Gibson writes appointing him RCMPC's representative "in the matter of securing business in architectural reinforced concrete constructions in Victoria", especially in Melbourne and, if called on, in other fields of reinforced concrete; and in the sale of 'portable' [i.e. precast] work. He is not to engage in competition, and will receive a fee of 1.25% of all architectural reinforced concrete carried out in Victoria, but a minimum of £250 per annum. His commission is to cover all his expenses - travelling, etc. Following this, Wears appears regularly in dealings with architectural firms and other clients in Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania (the latter mainly the Commercial Bank, Launceston).

From 1907, his letters often come from 'Wormald Bros & Wears, Fire Protection, Construction & Sanitary Engineers'. This connection led to orders for elevated water tanks for sprinkler systems in factories and municipal water supply.

In 1910, JM wrote to "Lieut Col The Honorable N J Moore, Premier of Western Australia", introducing Wears as "closely associated with me in business and socially for many years", and saying he would "esteem it a personal favor if you can do anything to facilitate Mr Wears' business and private interests during his visit to your State". To an officer of the WA Railways he described Wears as his "very esteemed friend".

From the middle of 1910, Wears seems to have concentrated on his work with Wormald Bros & Wears (judging from the RCMPC records) although he still fed an occasional job opportunity to them and remained a close friend of Monash.

A note JM wrote following an evening Wears spent at Iona is addressed to "Dear Ernest". Wears' private letters to JM, even regarding business matters, tend to flippancy and show a school-boy sense of humour. Scotch College became "Scotch Whiskey College", and one of the letters is headed "To his Excellency, Major the Hon John Monash AGA, AB, DO[?], MEN, VD, MICE, MCE, LLB, MOUSE, RATZ, alias Jack Armstrong of Beechworth." Serle notes that Wears often lunched with JM and was a member of the select group that went on his excursions to Mount Buffalo. Wears was closely involved, with Monash, in the Imperial Boy Scouts movement.

VD was a Victorian military award. The initials MICE, meaning Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, were perhaps the chief cause of the hilarity.

John Monash

For information about Monash himself on this website, refer to the Introduction to the JM portion, the Overview of his career and the Paper on his contribution to Australian engineering.
Elsewhere, a concise biography is provided by ADB Online and a thorough-going account by Geoffrey Serle. Though he is concerned mainly with 'Monash as Military Commander', Peter Pedersen provides a review of Monash's life prior to WW1, and comments on the relationship between his engineering and military careers.