MS 969 & MF 119

Papers of Randolph Yule Mathew


The Library Director’s permission is required to access this collection. A reasonable portion may be copied for private study and research, but the Depositor’s permission is required for quotation. [Access code: A2 B2]

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Date range: 1872-1973

Extent: .09 metres (1 box) + 1 microfilm

This collection consists of a biography of Presbyterian minister, anthropologist and poet, John Mathew, by his son, Randolph Yule Mathew. There are also correspondence, poems by John Mathew, a notebook on Manumbar Station, where John Mathew lived for six years, and other papers.

The material consists of photocopies and a microfilm made from originals in the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, or loaned to the AIATSIS Library by Dr R.Y. Mathew in September 1977.

The related ‘Papers of John Mathew’ can be found at MS 950 and John Mathew's ‘Papers on linguistics’ can be found at MS 999.

For a complete listing of material by or about John Mathew, held by the Institute, consult the Institute’s Mura® online catalogue. To access any audiovisual material contact the Audiovisual Archives.

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John Mathew, Presbyterian Minister and anthropologist, was born on 31 May 1949 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was educated at Kidd’s School, Aberdeen and at the Insch Free Churches School where he was a pupil teacher from 1862-64. In 1887 he married Wilhelmina (Minnie) Scott and they had a daughter and four sons.

Mathew migrated to Queensland with a brother and a sister to live with his uncle John Mortimer on his station, Manumbar, on the Burnett River in 1864. He became familiar with the language and culture of the Kabi and Wakka peoples while working for six years on the property as stockman, book keeper and storeman.

Mathew had been a gold digger for two years and a teacher for four years (1872-76) when he moved to Victoria. He matriculated and graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Arts in 1884 and a Master of Arts in 1886, having also worked as a tutor and station manager for some periods between 1876 and 1886. He was awarded a scholarship in mental and moral philosophy in 1885. Having undertaken the full theology course at Ormond College (1884-86), Mathew was inducted to the Presbyterian parish of Ballan in 1887. In 1889 Mathew moved to Coburg where he was the minister until he retired in 1923.

A home chaplain during World War 1, Mathew was elected Moderator at the Victorian Assembly in 1911 and was Moderator General of Australia from 1922-24. He was a council member of Presbyterian Ladies', Scotch and Ormond (chairman 1910-1926) Colleges, founder and office bearer of the Melbourne College of Divinity, advisory council member of Coburg High School and member of the Royal Society of Victoria and the Australian Literature Society (president 1915-20) and served on the anthropological committee of the Australian National Research Council.

For his scholarship, Mathew was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity by the University of St Andrews in 1892 and a Bachelor of Divinity ad eund. and a Doctor of Divinity from the Melbourne College of Divinity in 1924.

Maintaining a lifelong interest in Aboriginal ethnography, Mathew published two books and numerous papers and articles between 1879 and 1928. He won the prize and medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales for an essay ‘The Australian Aborigines’ which was the basis of his publication Eaglehawk and Crow (1899). Two Representative tribes of Queensland was published in 1910 after a visit (1906) to the Kabi and Wakka people living on Barambah Government Aboriginal Station in Queensland.

Mathew died in Coburg on 11 March 1929.

The National Library of Australia also holds a typescript copy of this biography and related papers at NLA MS 4507 as does the State Library of Victoria.


Australian dictionary of biography, vol. 10, 1891-1939, p. 440-441

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‘John Mathew, 1848-1929’, by R. Y. Mathew. A typescript manuscript of a biography of John Mathew by his son, Randolph Yule Mathew, 1973


Poems by John Mathew, 19 June 1873 to 12 March 1877. The poems were begun at Dalby, Queensland and were continued at Mount Rothwell, Little River, Victoria


Letter to John Mathew from uncle, John Mortimer, Manumbar Station, 1 October 1875, 20 December 1978, 21 November 1881 and 3 November 1883


Letters from John Mathew to uncle, John Mortimer, draft 7 January 1879


Letter from Edward Easton, Forest Vale, to John Mortimer, 18 November 1874


Letters to John Mathew from cousin, George W. Anderson, Manumbar Station. Eight letters dated between August 1875 to 1895


Letters to John Mathew from James Stevens, Taromeo, 8 March, 29 March and 18 April, 1907


Letters to John Mathew from his mother, Wairoa, New Zealand, 20 July 1872, 22 March 1975 (incomplete) and 9 August 1876


Letters to John Mathew from his sister Margaret, Wairoa, New Zealand, 19 July 1872, 18 August 1884 and 10 August 1889


Letter to John Mathew from his uncle, Alexander Mortimer, 21 May 1976


Letters to R.Y. Mathew from uncle Alec Mathew, Geelong, on John Mathew and his life at Manumbar, 19 June and 7 August 1929


Letter to R.Y. Mathew from Mabel M[ortimer] Armstrong, Oakville, Ontario on the Mortimer Family, 22 May 1968


Examination certificate (Education Office, Brisbane, 5 March 1874) and testimonial (Department of Public Instruction, Brisbane, 5 April 1876)


The Australian Literature Society programmes c. 1903-29, and ‘Annual report’, 1920



‘Australian literature’, by A.G. Stephens, The Commonwealth, 1901, 1: 32-36


Notebook, Manumbar Station, 1867-69. [Microfilm. Held at MF 119]

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Finding Aid updated November 2004