VERDON, Sir George Frederic (1834-1896)


VERDON, Sir George Frederic (1834-1896)
politician and public man
son of the Rev. Edward Verdon, was born at Bury, Lancaster, England, on 21 January 1834. He was educated at Rossall School, and when 17 years of age emigrated to Melbourne. Obtaining a position in the office of Grice Sumner and Company he afterwards went into business at Williamstown, and began his public career as a member of the local municipal council. He was chairman of a conference of municipal delegates and soon afterwards published in 1858 a pamphlet on The Present and Future of Municipal Government in Victoria. He was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Williamstown in 1859, and in November 1860 joined the Heales (q.v.) ministry as treasurer. He resigned with the ministry in November 1861 but in June 1863 became treasurer in the McCulloch (q.v.) ministry which remained in office until May 1868. During the parliamentary recess in 1866 Verdon was sent to England to bring the question of the defences of Victoria before the English authorities. He succeeded in obtaining £100,000 towards the cost of a warship, the Cerberus, and the Nelson was given to Victoria as a training-ship. Verdon also floated a loan for public works, and obtained sanction for the establishment of a branch of the royal mint at Melbourne. After his return he suggested the advisability of the colony having a representative in London, and in 1868 the office of agent-general was created, and Verdon was appointed to the position for a period of four years. He made a most favourable impression in London, he had been given the companionship of the bath in 1866, and in 1872 he was created K.C.M.G. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1870. On his giving up the agent-generalship he accepted the position of colonial inspector and general manager of the English Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank, Melbourne.
Up to this period Verdon had had a remarkable career. To have been treasurer of Victoria at the age of 26, its London representative at 34, a fellow of the Royal Society at 36, and K.C.M.G. at 38 suggests that as a young man he must have had extraordinary ability and personality. Important as his new position was one can scarcely escape a suggestion of anti-climax. He held it for 19 years, and retired on account of ill-health in April 1891. He was interested in science, art and literature, as a young man he had been an honorary assistant in the Melbourne observatory, and when treasurer he saw that it was properly equipped; he collected objects of art, and became a trustee of the public library, museums and national gallery of Victoria in 1872, was elected vice-president in 1880, and president in 1883. He held this position until his death and showed much interest in the various collections. He died at Melbourne on 13 September 1896. He married in 1861 Annie, daughter of John Armstrong, who died in 1889, and was survived by three sons.
Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891; The Argus, Melbourne, 14 September 1896; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; E. La T. Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library, 1856-1906.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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