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

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Monash's pre-WW1 business interests

On this page:

Part 1 ~ Chronology
[¤] Introduction
[¤] Gearing up - initial studies and work experience
[¤] Monash & Anderson Partnership - Phases 1 and 2
[¤] Monier Pipe Company
[¤] Monash & Anderson Partnership - Phases 3 and 4
[¤] Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.
[¤] South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co.
[¤] Prosperity
Part 2 ~ Themes
[¤] Competitive Edge
[¤] Promotion and Marketing
[¤] Financial Support and Goodwill
[¤] Competition and Opposition
[¤] Financial Fortunes
[¤] Staffing
[¤] Outcomes

Part 1 ~ Chronology


The following is based on a talk entitled "Engineering a Business", presented in August 2008 to Engineering Heritage Victoria, a Special Interest Group of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. Many of the details are drawn from Serle.

There can be no doubt that Monash was a businessman, as well as an engineer, soldier, lawyer, etc. He enjoyed learning about and practising science and technology - but he was also very keen to make his fortune. In 1908, at the height of his commercial success, he declared: "The Civil Engineer of the future will be first and foremost the commercial directing head of engineering enterprise and industry - the scientific side of him will be merely an adjunct or subordinate function".

Gearing Up. Initial Studies and Work Experience 1882-1894.

The first part of Monash's career can be seen as a period when he was busy accumulating knowledge as a student, both in curricular and extra-curricular fields, and experience as an employee engineer and part-time soldier.


When Monash entered University in 1882, engineering students followed the BA course for three years before specialising in science and technology. A range of factors interfered with his studies, and he completed them part-time. By 1890 he had sufficient passes to qualify for the new Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, gaining Honours early in 1891. Later that year he passed the Municipal Engineer's exam and - being aware of the success of engineering lawyers in the UK - enrolled for Bachelor of Laws. In 1892 he passed the Water Engineer's exams, and in 1893 at last passed Latin, thus qualifying for Bachelor of Arts. He graduated formally in both BA and LLB in 1895.

Enrolled BAFeb 1882
BCE finalsSep 1890
BCE HonoursFeb 1891
Municipal Engineer's examAug 1891
Enrolled LLBNov 1891
Water Engineer's examJan 1892
BA finalsDec 1893
BA and LLBMar 1895

Employee Engineer

Monash's first salaried position was with contractor David Munro, mainly as a site engineer on the foundations of Princes Bridge in Melbourne. In 1888 he joined contractors Graham & Wadick to work on Melbourne's 24 km "Outer Circle" Railway. He seems to have been hired as a technical assistant, but progressively re-defined his job until he was running the site. This provided valuable experience in management. [JM's account] When the project ended, he found work assisting Anderson, his former university lecturer, with consulting; and then obtained a position with the Melbourne Harbor Trust. During this period he obtained leave to argue Graham & Wadick's claims for extra payments on the Outer Circle contract. The depression of the 1890s resulted in his retrenchment from the Trust in April 1894.

Two achievements at the Harbor Trust of which he remained proud were a transit shed at the Port of Melbourne, and a Swing Bridge [SLV photo] over the Maribyrnong River.

David Munro & Co.Nov 1885Princes Bridge etc
Graham & WadickApr 1888Outer Circle Railway
Melbourne Harbor TrustNov 1891Shed, bridge, etc., G&W Arbitration
Retrenched from MHTApr 1894 


Of course, during this time, Monash had commenced his military career. He joined the University Company of the Victorian Rifles in 1884 - and when it was disbanded, transferred to the Garrison Artillery. He passed his Captain's exams in 1889, but was not promoted until 1895.

Joined Victorian RiflesJul 1884
CorporalOct 1884
Colour-SergeantSep 1885
Joined Garrison ArtilleryMar 1887
Confirmed LieutenantNov 1887
Captain's examsJun 1889
CaptainOct 1895

The Monash & Anderson Partnership. Phase 1: 1894-1897.
Product: Professional Services.

On 19 June 1894, Monash reminded Anderson of a promise made three years earlier to enter partnership "when economic conditions improved". Conditions were not favourable, but on 27th they were fitting out their office at 49 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. Their letterhead described the firm as "Consulting Civil, Hydraulic, and Mechanical Engineers, and Surveyors; Licensed Patent Agents; Municipal Surveyors and Engineers of Water Supply". Their list of clients included Coal Companies, Water Supply and Irrigation Trusts, Contractors, and the Shire of Healesville. Activities included surveying and lobbying for mining and railway ventures; designing and building an aerial tramway in mountainous country at Walhalla; and shifting heavy mining equipment. Monash travelled to Brisbane to represent contractors Baxter & Saddler in arbitration of claims for the Bundaberg-Gladstone Railway contract, and to the Riverina and Sydney as consultant and advocate for small landholders in a dispute over water rights in the Riverina. He found time to continue his military career, being gazetted Major in April 1897.

The Monash & Anderson Partnership. Phase 2: 1897-1900.
Products: Professional Services plus Monier Arch Bridges.

In September of that year, an exhibition at the University of Melbourne featured the work of Carter Gummow & Co., a Sydney firm that held Australian rights to the Monier brand of reinforced concrete. Their Design Engineer was W J Baltzer who had brought the technology from Germany. In 1896 the firm had completed two large sewage aqueducts near Sydney using Monier arches [photo]. Anderson persuaded Gummow to appoint the Partnership as his agents in Victoria, and represented the firm in negotiations leading to the Morell Bridge contract.

At this critical time, Monash was delayed in Perth representing Baxter & Saddler in another arbitration claim, and it was Anderson who commenced marketing, design and construction of Monier arch bridges. Monash was able to return to Melbourne in July 1899, and threw himself into the Monier work. He was involved in the completion of the Fyansford and Creswick bridges, and the design and construction of eight bridges at Bendigo. The partnership paid a royalty to Carter Gummow & Co of 10% of the value of the Monier work.

In 1902, when Carter Gummow had become Gummow Forrest & Co, Monash wrote to a prospective client "It is from this Company ... that we ... acquired our knowledge of design and construction in reinforced concrete".

Construction of the Bendigo bridges would have been impossible without the financial support of David Mitchell: builder, quarry owner, cement manufacturer, and father of Dame Nellie Melba. It was made clear that in future, Monash & Anderson were to buy all their cement from him. (They had previously bought much of it from the Fyansford cement works.) Mitchell's right-hand man was John Gibson, an industrial chemist, who was to play a key role in future business ventures.

Formation of the Monier Pipe Company
Products: Reinforced concrete pipes and other precast products.

In 1901, Monash and Anderson joined with Mitchell and Gibson in the formation of the Monier Pipe Company to make precast products in Victoria under the Monier licence. Mitchell held 400 shares, and provided the real working capital. Monash and Anderson held 200 each. Gibson had 190; and the Company Secretary 10.

David Mitchell400
John Gibson190
E A Newbigin10

The Pipe Company's factory was located in Burnley Street, Richmond (Melbourne) [photos].

Initially, a royalty was paid to the Sydney firm (now Gummow Forrest & Co), but by the end of 1903, MPC had purchased the Victorian rights for £500. Profits were initially ploughed back. A first small dividend was declared in 1904. After that, the operation - subsumed into the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Company - provided a steady income.

The Monash & Anderson Partnership. Phase 3: 1900-1902.
Products: Professional Services plus Monier Arch Bridges.

The Partnership took several hard knocks in the years 1900 to 1902. The contract price for the Fyansford Bridge had been £4,500, but Anderson had convinced the Shire Engineer to authorise copious 'extras', making a total of £6,828. The client Shires offered £5,250. The partners took them to Court and initially won, but then lost on appeal. Monash estimated that legal costs and lost interest had set the partnership back by some £3,000 to £4,000.

In May 1901, the 100-foot King's Bridge in Bendigo collapsed under test. [photo] Reconstruction cost the Partnership an additional £1,000. With the future looking bleak, Anderson found a salaried post in Dunedin, New Zealand, apparently intending to extend the Partnership's operations to that country.

The Monash & Anderson Partnership. Phase 4: 1902-1905.
Products: Girder Bridges, Service Reservoirs, Parts of Buildings.

Monash attempted to rescue the position in Victoria by contracting to build a lift bridge across the Murray from Koondrook to Barham for the NSW PWD. Due to Government delays, and trouble with a cofferdam, the project made a loss of £650. Most of this was borne by Monash's backer, A G Shaw, until 1911 when JM was in a position to recompense him.

Fortunes took a turn for the better when Monash decided to invite Baltzer (Gummow's design engineer) to Melbourne in January 1903, to coach him in the theory and practice of modern reinforced concrete.

Texts introduced to Monash by Baltzer were: Wayss, Berger & Guillerme, Christophe, and Emperger.

One of the first outcomes of Monash's new interest in reinforced concrete was a proposal for a standard water tank for use by Victorian Railways [JM's drawing]. As a business proposition this was perhaps premature, given the state of knowledge in Victoria at the time, and was not taken up. However, in 1903 Monash managed to sell a reinforced concrete tank for a farm at Caldermeade, and in 1905 a service reservoir for Wunghnu (to the Shire of Numurkah Water Works Trust).

In 1904 he designed his first T-girder bridge for Stawell Street, Ballarat East. This proved to be another learning experience in both technology and management. Not deterred, Monash went on to design and build many more (successful) T-girder bridges, the first carrying St Kilda Street over the Elwood Canal. This was completed in November 1905 and is still in use today (2014).

In June 1904, Monash followed up his informal marketing of reinforced concrete by presenting a paper to the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. Building work began to trickle in - at first small jobs such as the ballroom roof at Raveloe and the portico at Chastleton - and then entire floors, as at the NMLA Offices in Ballarat.

Formation of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.
Products: Bridges, Buildings, Water Tanks and Silos, Pipelines and networks, Small Dams, etc.

In the meantime, Anderson's move to New Zealand had proved less fruitful than expected. Monash, after strenuous effort, and with the help of sympathetic backers and patient creditors, had managed to work his way through the financial crisis. In 1905, he moved to re-structure the Victorian business, excluding Anderson. Monash's shares now equalled those of David Mitchell. For his role as the company's Engineer, he was paid a commission of 5% on turnover of "outdoor" work. The journal Building stated that the working capital of RCMPC in 1908 was only £300. It claimed that preparatory to its tender for the Preston No.2 Reservoir in 1908, RCMPC "held an extraordinary meeting in order to increase its capital of £300 in 2,000 three-shilling shares to £4050 in 27,000 shares, in order to provide better evidence that it could guarantee against failure of large contracts." (Quoted by Serle.)

David Mitchell40%
John Monash40%
John Gibson19%
E A Newbigin1%

For his work as Engineer to the company, which included the upkeep of his office, Monash received 5% commission on all "outdoor" work.

He may have received also a flat £75 in addition to the commission.

Monash now made major progress in the building business. Out-of-date City Building Regulations were a hindrance, but by June 1905 he had persuaded the appeals committee (the "Building Referees") to approve construction of a six-storey office-and-apartment block at Bank Place, Melbourne. This had reinforced concrete columns, beams, floors and roof; but the external walls were still required to be in masonry. July 1905 saw the start of negotiations for the substructure of the AMLF Abattoirs at Kensington, where the City's building regulations did not apply.

In the new headquarters building for David Mitchell's Company, in Oliver's Lane Melbourne, he pushed further. The side walls were still in brick, but the facade incorporated precast concrete panels spanning between concrete pillars. Monash's calculations were a model of efficiency. His initial quote to Gibson was contained on a single page containing floor-plan, structural computations and estimate, and concluding with: "Say £250 for two floors. Say £300 with all columns". (As built, there were four floors.)

Formation of The South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company
Products: Buildings, Service Reservoirs, Bridges, Wharf, etc.

Amidst all this activity - and more - in 1906 Monash played a leading role in the formation of the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company. He held equal shares with the pastoralist, C H Angas; Manager E H Bakewell; David Mitchell; and John Gibson.

John Gibson200
David Mitchell200
C H Angas200
E H Bakewell (Managing Director)200

Monash charged a 2.5% commission on all business for his services as Consulting Engineer. For a year, he ran the business from Melbourne, through foremen. After that, he appointed a Resident Engineer in Adelaide, but continued to send daily advice and assistance with technical matters and business policy, and visited Adelaide as required.

I have not seen any evidence that Monash was closely involved with the South Australian Portland Cement Co, though Gibson made regular and frequent visits to Adelaide on behalf of this company as well as SARC.

An early, and quite remarkable project was the railway bridge over the Hindmarsh River at Victor Harbor. This introduced Monash and his team to the manufacture and driving of reinforced concrete piles. The bridge is still standing and used by a tourist railway (2014). Monash tried hard to break into the wharf business at Port Adelaide, but built only a private wharf for the Colonial Sugar Refinery at Glanville. The firm got into difficulties with construction of an innovative breakwater conceived by the Public Works Department for Glenelg. Although the Department was mostly responsible for the flawed concept (and its Chief Engineer's move sideways was perhaps a result) Monash's firm received no more commissions. Buildings proved to be a mainstay of the business, the first being Kither's Building on King William St, Adelaide. This was wholly in reinforced concrete, apart from a steel frame for the shop fronts. Another example was Bowman's Building completed early in 1910. From 1909, SARC won contracts for industrial bins and water supply reservoirs, providing another important source of income.


Meanwhile, operations in Victoria continued to grow. In addition to regular one- and two-span bridges, several significantly large bridges were built, including the Janevale Bridge at Laanecoorie and the Benalla Bridge (since widened). Further progress in the field of containers included large wheat silos at Rupanyup, and gradual development of a style of elevated service reservoir supported by a cylindrical shaft, suited to construction by semi-skilled workers. This culminated in the 34 metre, 680,000-litre Echuca tower. In the field of building, the close of Monash's effective involvement with the company was marked by the eight-storey Elizabeth House. In the meantime, of course, there had been major developments in his military career, including his move to the Intelligence Corps. He had been gazetted Lieutenant-Colonel in March 1908, and was promoted to full Colonel in 1913.

Part 2 ~ Themes

RCMPC's Competitive Edge

What gave Monash's firms their competitive edge in the early years of the 20th Century? First, there was the Monier licence for Victoria, arranged thanks to Anderson's initiative. Then there was the knowledge of design and practice in reinforced concrete transferred from Germany via W J Baltzer. These were complemented by Monash's ability to the read German and French texts, which gave him a few years' start on competitors. Equally important was his familiarity with patent law and the workings of the Patent Office. However, RCMPC's main advantage was, of course, Monash himself.

Intellectual Property

The security of intellectual property was a constant concern. Gummow repeatedly warned of industrial espionage at the factories; but Monash was more worried that government engineers and rival contractors would copy his designs. He withheld details of dimensions and reinforcement until he was sure that a contract had been won, and then urged that drawings be available to outsiders only on a "need to know" basis.

The Ferro-concrete Company of Australasia, operating mainly in New Zealand, nibbled at Victoria from 1902 onwards, causing several scares. In 1903 it attempted to undermine the Monier patent in Victoria by registering its own here. Monash successfully argued that the 'new' concepts claimed by the Ferro-Concrete Co were already to be found in the French textbooks he used for his own work. These had been seen by his staff, and hence had been 'published'. Another move by Ferro-Concrete in 1906 appears to have been resolved by an informal division of territory. Monash admitted privately on this occasion that his firm's claimed monopoly in Victoria was more a perception in the public mind than a legal fact. He should however be given credit for establishing and maintaining this perception!

A major blow was administered in 1908 by George Swinburne, Minister for Water Supply. After ordering several 'subways' from RCMPC to carry irrigation canals under natural rivers, he cut the firm out, built the subways by day-labour, and refused to pay a commission. The Government was entitled to do this under Crown prerogative, but Swinburne also contested the validity of the Monier patent.

For whatever it was worth, the patent for general Monier work in Victoria expired formally on 11 February 1910.

Promotion and Marketing.

Monash was an expert networker, and his membership of the militia added to his contacts. His more formal promotions included lectures to professional associations: the Victorian Institute of Engineers and the Royal Victorian Insitute of Architects. Newspaper articles were carefully planted, often drafted by himself. Letters to the Editor encouraged and defended the use of reinforced concrete. Office staff scanned the papers for news of forthcoming projects at State and Shire level, taking advantage of the "Municipal Intelligence" columns. Monash would then make a written approach, usually to the Engineers concerned, rather than Politicians or Councillors. In the early years, tenders normally specified timber or steel for bridges, and Monash had to request permission to submit an alternative tender for reinforced concrete. On several occasions he employed roving salesmen to canvas municipalities and businesses.

An important task was to 'educate' prospective clients of the benefits of reinforced concrete and its extensive use overseas. He provided present-value calculations to justify the higher capital cost of reinforced concrete bridges against the higher maintenance costs of timber. He also had to persuade dubious Shire Engineers that their water tanks would eventually stop leaking, thanks to the benefits of autogenous healing.

Financial Support and Goodwill

Monash & Anderson would not have survived its financial set-backs without the confidence of creditors, guarantors, and investors in Monash's ability to repay them with interest. These included:

David Mitchellspacershareholder and guarantor
Bank of Australasia overdrafts
V J Saddler employer, then guarantor
Richard Taylor (Fyansford Cement) creditor, then rival
F M Gummow mentor and creditor
A G Shaw capital for Barham-Koondrook Bridge

The introduction of reinforced concrete into Victoria owes much also to the enthusiasm of Carlo Catani of the Public Works Department of Victoria, who had seen examples of Monier construction in his native Italy; to some technically adventurous municipal engineers; and to some politicians who were keen to see the latest technology adopted in their own fiefdoms.

Competition and Opposition

Vested interests

The introduction of what was, in effect, a new industry, meant that Monash had to combat strong opposition from entrenched interests, both owners and workers. Reinforced concrete competed directly with timber, iron and steel, and also brick and earthenware in the fields of bridges, water supply, and buildings.

In addition, the Monash & Anderson partnership and RCMPC competed with Consulting Engineers and salaried Shire Engineers by offering the design of structures as well as construction. These engineers, unable to design bridges in reinforced concrete through lack of knowledge, or awe of the Monier patent, were obliged to produce designs in timber, steel and masonry so that tenders could be called. If Monash's alternative design won, they saw their own design abandoned, and lost the glory and at least a portion of their commission. Some therefore sided with local politicians and business interests in opposing the new material.

Examples of the above types of opposition may be found in our accounts of the Bendigo Bridges and the project for the Grant St Bridge in Ballarat.

The Master Builders Association was a significant opponent, objecting strongly to Monash's preferred method of obtaining work. This was to develop an idea with a Shire Engineer or Architect, offer a price competitive with other forms of construction, and then obtain the "go-ahead" without recourse to tenders. In the first few years, when clients were unfamiliar with reinforced concrete, this was the only way he could operate. But if an architect agreed to appoint RCMPC as specialist contractor for the reinforced concrete portions of a building, the Master Builder that won the overarching contract was obliged to accept RCMPC and its price, and try to fit RCMPC's work within its own schedule. A lengthy political campaign by the MBA to to counter this practice was eventually successful.

While the viewpoint of the MBA was reasonable, it is a pity that their final victory involved the contract for extensions to the Melbourne Public Library with its world-class dome. The concept for the dome, which had been developed by Monash in association with architect N G Peebles, was taken over, modified, and built by others. [Story]

The 'prime cost' system to which the MBA objected was routinely applied by architects to other specialist products and materials, besides reinforced concrete.

Competing products

Examples of the products with which M&A's and RCMPC's products competed are as follows:

Brick Arch Bridges vs Monier Arch
Timber girders and trusses vs Monier arch and Reinforced Concrete T-girders
Steel girder bridge with brick abutments (ditto)
Timber frameworks vs Reinforced Concrete frames
Steel frames vs R.C.
Load-bearing brick vs R.C.
Steel or iron service reservoir on brick tower
Steel and Timber silos
PIPES for water-supply and drainage
Earthware vs Monier reinforced pipes
Unreinforced pipes (Richard Taylor) vs Monier

Of course, M&A's and RCMPC's professional and design services, and Monash's legal skills, were also in competition with other providers.


In his review of prospects in January 1911, Monash made a list of firms he saw as his competitors. Some, such as the Builders and Contractors are obvious, others less so. They include architects Klingender & Alsop, presumably moving into design of reinforced concrete; and Owen Thomas, a consulting engineer working in the Hennebique/Mouchel tradition. Against the Indented Bars Company, Monash has noted "My designs pirated".

D J McClellandspacerSwanson BrosspacerClement Langford
Murray & Crowe Reid Bros & Russell Crawford
Owen Thomas R Taylor & Nevins Klingender & Alsop
Vincent & Cerutty Wolskel Stone of Sydney
Geelong Cement Co. Younger & Howitt Clinton Wire Mesh
Indented Bars Company "my designs pirated "

There are notable omissions: the Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia, and the Expanded Metal Co. of New York. The former was in liquidation in 1909 having overstretched itself. With the expiry of the Monier patent here in 1910, there was no longer any advantage in using expanded metal inappropriately as a substitute for major reinforcing bars.

As noted above under "Intellectual Property", the idea that the Monier patent gave M&A and RCMPC a monopoly on normal reinforced concrete construction in Victoria up to 1910 was a "perception" which Monash had done nothing to dispel.

Financial Fortunes

According to Serle, income from the Monash & Anderson Partnership was shared equally. A letter to the Commissioner of Taxes dated April 1899 states that the partners cleared £298 each in 1897 and £208 in 1898.

In the early days of the Partnership, Monash and Anderson seem to have operated under their own steam, but significant capital was required for the construction of the Monier arches. V J Saddler arranged for the Bank of Australasia to lend £500, but was unwilling to risk his own capital. By the end of 1900, the partnership was, according to Serle, "seriously over-extended". For the eight bridges at Bendigo and other projects, the Partners had to downsize their staff - and their lifestyles. Worse was to come with the financial disasters of 1901 and 1902.

In March 1903, the partners declared a loss of £1578 due to non-payment of extras on the Fyansford bridge. They reported that they had supported themselves out of previously accumulated capital, so assumed that no tax return would be necessary.

Support from Mitchell and Saddler enabled Monash to struggle on with minor construction and consulting work. Gummow and Richard Taylor (of Fyansford Cement) agreed to wait for payment of large sums, and the Bank of Australasia bore a heavy overdraft. In March 1904, Monash reported to the Taxation Department that Anderson had been absent during the whole of 1903 and had not participated in the earnings of the firm. Pipe Company profits were ploughed back until a small distribution was made late in 1904.

In 1905, one of Monash's promissory notes was dishonoured, and the Bank of Australasia forced a reduction of his overdraft, even though it was backed by Mitchell and Saddler. However, several minor construction jobs helped to make the year profitable and Monash began paying back his many debts in instalments. Total profits for the two-and-a-half years to June 1905 were roughly £3,400. From then on, his efforts began to show results. The table below shows turnover and profit for the half-years from mid-1906 to mid-1910.

RCMPC turnover and profit from May 1906 to May 1910

half-year ending:Gross TurnoverNet ProfitProfit
Nov 30/0611,599 222319.20
May 31/0711,118 10479.40
Nov 30/0713,762 167712.20
May 31/0822,865 396317.40
Nov 30/0851,176 738214.25
Nov 30/0922,354 256611.50
May 31/0935,686 21205.95
May 31/1026,165 19487.45

Totals for the four years May 1906 to November 1910 were:
Turnover £194,725; Profit £22,926

The averages per year were:
Turnover £48,681; Profit £5731; Percentage 11.75%

The graph below illustrates the variability of the book returns, but they are not an accurate reflection of activity.

The figure is a graph of the turnover and profit shown in the above table.

Two factors seem to have contributed to the sharp peak in 1908: a gradual increase in the number of projects undertaken, due to Monash's patient marketing since 1903; and the fact that a large number of these projects came to fruition in that year.

The data presented in the table and graph above was assembled by Monash in November 1910, when contemplating a re-structure of RCMPC in which Monash and Gibson would have purchased Mitchell's shares, and taken over as the major shareholders. It appears that the initiative may have come from Gibson, who was putting a great deal of effort into the running of both the Victorian and South Australian ventures (RCMPC and SARC) and may have felt he was not receiving an adequate return. (He also made a considerable input into the S.A. Portland Cement Co.)

In March 1911, Monash painted a bleak picture for RCMPC's Directors. The Monier patent had expired; new competitors were entering the fields of design and construction in reinforced concrete and of pipe manufacture; and the Company's modus operandi would no longer be viable in the face of opposition from general contractors, led by the Master Builder's Association. In April he put forward three alternatives for restructure.

Serle felt that this was a bluff by Monash, on behalf of himself and Gibson, aimed at frightening Mitchell into selling his shares. The dangers listed by Monash were real, but letters to his relatives (quoted by Serle) show that he was nevertheless quite optimistic about the Company's fortunes.

Monash's notes indicate that in December 1911 the Company had "taken out to date £32,600" and that Mitchell's 40% interest was valued at £3240. A compromise was reached in December 1911, whereby RCMPC's 27,000 shares, valued at six shillings each, were split so that Gibson, Monash and Mitchell held 8730 each (a total of 97%). Newbigin, P T Fairway, and Alex Lynch acquired 270 shares each (a total of 3%). This meant that Mitchell and Monash's shares were reduced by 2070, while Gibson acquired 3600. Monash suggested that he and Mitchell donate the minor shareholdings to Fairway and Lynch.

My research notes contain only spot figures for half-yearly profits from 1910 to 1915. Though highly variable, these average about £4000.


The staffing of Monash's engineering offices in Melbourne and Adelaide reflects the fortunes of the businesses (see bar chart below). During the years in which the Partnership with J T N Anderson was effective (1885 to 1902), a single 'draughtsman'/trainee engineer was sufficient. The position was filled first by A G Timmins, who left after 5½ years to join steel fabricators Dorman Long where his father was Australasian Manager. Timmins was followed by J S Gregory. The firm's financial difficulties made it necessary to retrench Gregory early in 1902, though for some time he was called in for small jobs on a casual basis.

Financial difficulties. The date of the collapse of King's Bridge, Bendigo is marked on the chart in red as "KB1". The legal dispute over payment of the Fyansford Bridge extras lasted for two years. The date of the final decision denying M&A payment is marked "FF ruling".

The bar chart plots the years from 1894 to 1915, and gives a visual indication of the extent of each person's service with the various firms, as explained in the text.

With Anderson's departure for New Zealand in 1902, Monash was left managing the office by himself. In 1904, he appointed H F Tisdall briefly as Resident Engineer for the Stawell Street Bridge, because he had been unable to find a competent foreman and was himself preoccupied with problems at the Barham-Koondrook Bridge.

After the re-structuring of the Partnership and the Pipe Company to form the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. (RCMPC), and as work began to flow in as a result of promotion and marketing since early 1903, Monash was able to employ S J Lindsay, then W W Harvey. He had previously employed Lindsay for a short time when surveying for the Riverina water-rights dispute. Harvey was recommended to him by a lecturer at the University, T W Fowler.

As work continued to expand, Monash appointed H G Jenkinson from the 1906/1907 crop of graduates, and J A Laing from the 1907/1908 crop. His position as an examiner at the University, assisting staff with setting and marking of exams, enabled him to identify the best graduates.

In accordance with the Southern Hemisphere academic year, students sat for their final examinations at the end of the calendar year. Candidates for Honours then sat additional exams early the following year. Typically, those selected by Monash would work in his office between the final exams and the honours exams.

Monash acquired P T Fairway from the City of Prahran in April 1908. Laing and Fairway were to become the mainstays of the Melbourne office, with Fairway taking over as Chief Engineer after Monash's departure for the War.

In 1906 the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company (SARC) was formed. For a year, Monash ran operations from the Melbourne office, giving instructions directly to the foremen. Then in April 1907, he appointed Harvey to the position of Resident Engineer in Adelaide. Early in 1909, A A Hargrave was appointed to assist Harvey, but left in 1912 to work for a rival firm. Harvey resigned, effective at the end of 1909, and Jenkinson moved from Melbourne to take over.

In 1912 T H Upton joined the Melbourne office, though he left after some 18 months to travel overseas. After serving with the British Army in WW1, he had a distinguished career as a public service engineer. C W N Sexton was appointed in 1913. He left RCMPC sometime during the War, and went on to become an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Alex Lynch, Works Manager, was not a graduate, but held a key position in the firm from at least late 1899. After the death of Fairway in 1932, Lynch took over the firm and handed it down to his son and grandsons.

Site Staff

Monash had some difficulty in finding foremen and gangers able and willing to take responsibility, schedule work, learn new skills, and work harmoniously with clients' representatives and subordinates. He shepherded them with a constant stream of instructions, advice, and exhortations; and expected daily reports in return. He gave them strong support in their clashes with others, even when he thought they were in the wrong and was at the same time privately admonishing them. It was rare when this loyalty was not returned.


With a small staff, Monash produced a surprisingly large number of projects in the period under consideration. It should be noted that in the table below, the 'bridges' range from one-span slabs to the Janevale Bridge with 10 spans of 12.8 metres. Forty-five bridges were extant in 1998. The 'building projects' ranged from residential alterations, up to multi-storey office blocks. About 30 of the buildings could be classed as 'substantial'. Container vessels ranged from the Caldermeade farm tank up to the 33.8m Echuca tower. Monash attempted to use reinforced concrete for the facing or core of a number of earth dams. Only two projects were built on water: the CSR wharf at Port Adelaide and a length of embankment along the Yarra. A number of reticulation projects were carried out, ranging from street-length drains up to suburban reticulation schemes, and a number of "subways" to carry irrigation channels under creeks. The Preston No.2 reservoir project and various Gas Works projects have been classed separately. A brief overview of the projects is presented on an accompanying page, with links to detailed accounts.

TypeBuilt  Remarks
Bridges8145 extant c1998
Building projects  152about 30 substantial
Tanks, silos5516 in S.A.
Dams, weirs6 
River and marine24 more projected
Reticulation etc.35 
Miscellaneous including Preston No.2 Reservoir
Gas Works bunkers etc.