Robert Barr Smith

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Robert Barr Smith

Birthplace: Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: November 20, 1915 (91)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Smith, D.D. M.D. and Marjory Smith
Husband of Joanna Lang Smith
Father of Tom Elder Barr Smith and Joanna Fitzgerald Barr Hawker

Managed by: Private User
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About Robert Barr Smith

Robert Barr Smith

Robert Barr Smith (1824-1915), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 4 February 1824 at Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland, son of Rev. Dr Robert Smith, Church of Scotland minister, and his wife Marjory, née Barr. Educated at the University of Glasgow, he worked in commerce before migrating to Melbourne in 1854 as partner in Hamilton, Smith & Co. Next year he went to Adelaide, and replaced George Elder in the mercantile and pastoral firm of Elder & Co. In 1856 he married Elder's sister Joanna, and in 1863 he and Thomas Elder became sole partners in Elder Smith & Co.

The firm pioneered the opening of outback South Australia, including the fencing of properties and sinking of bores. It also held pastoral leases in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. In 1859 it financed the Wallaroo and Moonta Copper mines which, after initial loss, brought large returns. Elder Smith & Co. also had interests in the Adelaide Steamtug and Adelaide Steamship companies. It was incorporated in 1882 with a nominal capital of £200,000, Elder and Barr Smith between them holding two-thirds of the shares, and next year they established a London office. Barr Smith was a major shareholder in Elder's Trustee and Executor Co., founded in 1910. He was also director of the Beltana, Mutooroo, and Momba Pastoral companies, the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Co., the Adelaide Steamship Co., the South Australian Gas Co., the Mercantile Marine and Fire Insurance Co. of South Australia, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the English Scottish and Australian Bank, the Mortgage Company of South Australia and the South Australian Co. He also helped to found the Bank of Adelaide.

Modest and unassuming by nature, Smith could not be persuaded into active politics, although he supported the free-trade advocates at the time of the founding of the Commonwealth. Greatly respected, both by the business world and his friends, he was said to have refused a knighthood. A keen patron of the turf, he often attended race meetings and bred and raced his own horses. He died of senile decay at his residence in Angas Street on 20 November 1915. His estate was sworn for probate at £1,799,500, the largest in South Australia until then; of this, more than £40,000 was left to charities. His funeral, though a private one, was attended by the premier, representatives of the university, prominent citizens, and leaders of Adelaide society. He was survived by his wife, three of his seven daughters and one of his six sons.


  • benefactor (general)
  • company director
  • grazier (unspecified)
  • shipowner

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Robert Barr Smith's Timeline

February 4, 1824
Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
December 8, 1863
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
November 20, 1915
Age 91
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia