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Robert Murdoch, Mayor, City of Eaglehawk, Victoria (1864-1927)

Medal - Visit of the Prince of Wales to Eaglehawk,1920 AD

Image: Medal - Visit of the Prince of Wales to Eaglehawk,1920 AD

Source: Museum Victoria

Robert Murdoch was born in a tent on the Eaglehawk goldfields on 18 December 1864. He was educated in Eaglehawk and became an apprentice in Muckleford. At the age of 19 he returned to Eaglehawk to start a coachbuilding and blacksmithing business.

Murdoch became a champion fireman and Captain of the Brigade. He was committed to the church and held numerous offices in the Eaglehawk West Methodist Church. A strong advocate of temperance, he was called the 'teetotal mayor' when he was elected to that office in 1903. He served as mayor of Eaglehawk 1903-04, 1910-11 and 1919-20.

Murdoch was also an Orangeman, a member of the Australian Natives' Association and a Grandmaster of the GUOOF Lodge. He was a very public-spirited man, who worked hard for local charities, took an active interest in sporting clubs, and was a Justice of the Peace.

In 1901 Murdoch and his wife Sarah were guests of the Government at Commonwealth celebrations. Murdoch included Billy Hughes amongst his friends.

In 1920 the Prince of Wales visited Australia to extend official thanks for its support during World War I. The Prince toured extensively, and his tour was one of the most popular royal visits ever. Wherever he went public holidays were declared, foundation stones laid, memorials unveiled and receptions and balls. The prince made a point of meeting ex-servicemen and women. His popularity illustrates the complexity of Australia's self-awareness at the time. He had not intended to visit Eaglehawk, however, instead focusing on the nearby urban centre of Bendigo. Eaglehawk Council members were surprised and disappointed to learn that they had not been invited to join the official procession in Bendigo. Furthermore, the Mayor of Bendigo slighted the Mayor of Eaglehawk, Robert Murdoch, in his invitation to a luncheon with the Prince by forgetting to call him 'Mayor'. One angry councillor suggested that 'Bendigo think they can do without us, but they cannot'. Nevertheless, Murdoch and his wife Sarah travelled to Bendigo to attend the luncheon, and a later Mayoral Ball which the Prince did not attend. Most of Eaglehawk's residents also decided to travel to Bendigo to see the Prince. Unfortunately, the Prince was ahead of schedule, and decided to tour Eaglehawk. The town was virtually deserted, however the few startled residents who remained managed to give him rousing cheers.

Robert Murdoch died on 25 June 1927.

References:
Wendelken, Beverley, 'A Man Dearly Beloved: The Life and Times of Robert Murdoch of Eaglehawk 1864-1927'.

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