HIGGINS, Sir John Michael (1862-1937)


HIGGINS, Sir John Michael (1862-1937)
business man and metallurgist
son of E. S. Higgins, was born at Castlemaine, Victoria, on 9 December 1862. He was educated at a school at Bendigo, and afterwards studied metallurgy and chemistry at the Bendigo school of mines. He was indentured to Mr Garside, a chemist at Bendigo, and afterwards had a pharmacy business of his own, which he sold to become an analyst in a New South Wales mine. He later became metallurgical chemist to the Australian Smelting Company at Dry Creek, South Australia, and when these works closed down, practised as a consulting metallurgist. He also acquired interests in the wool industry and had land in Queensland and New South Wales. This led to his making a study of wool and he became an expert in its technology. When the 1914-18 war began Higgins placed his knowledge at the disposal of the government, and was appointed honorary metallurgical adviser. He represented the government on the Zinc Producers' Association and on the Copper Producers' Association, and also founded the Australian Metal Exchange. After the Imperial government bought the Australian wool clip in 1916, Higgins became chairman and governing director of the central wool committee, and after the war he was chairman of directors of the British Australian Wool Realization Association, afterwards known as Bawra, and was most successful in the management of the sale of the wool carried over at the end of the war. Higgins would not accept any salary or fee for his work as adviser to the government, but had a large salary as chairman of Bawra, half of which was distributed every year to charitable and educational institutions. He held this position until 1926, when the association went into liquidation and he became trustee for a further six years. He died at Melbourne on 6 October 1937. He married in 1889 Frances Anna, daughter of R. L. Macgrath, who died in 1932. He had no children. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1918 and G.C.M.G. in 1934.
Higgins was a quiet, unassuming man who did most valuable work for the government and the pastoral community during and after the war. He was kind and charitable, and made many typically unostentatious gifts. With his wife he on various occasions gave sums amounting to about £10,000 to the university of Melbourne, and a further considerable sum will eventually go to it under his will. Hospitals and other institutions will also benefit.
The Argus, Melbourne, 7 October and 14 December 1937; The Age, Melbourne, 7 October 1937; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1937; The Melbourne University Calendar, 1942.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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