Mathew Barber Miller
Mathew Barber Miller was born at Newton Stewart, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1817. He always spelled his first name with one ‘T’. County Tyrone contains large quantities of sandstone and marble and it is thought the man from whom Mathew learned his occupation must have been a master of his craft. Mathew Miller was born to his trade. His father William Miller was a stonemason and his mother Jane Miller (nee Mason) was probably the daughter of a stonemason as many surnames were derived from occupations. Mathew Miller arrived in Australia in 1840 as a free immigrant on the steamship Clyde. He was 22 years of age. Accompanying him were his 21 year old wife Anne who left behind her parents James and Mary Pinkerton never to see them again? Ann was to be reunited with some of her brothers and their families later. Also on board the Clyde were Samuel, John and Margery Dunbar from the village of Ardstraw also in County Tyrone. Both the Dunbar and Miller family names were to become familiar to the residents of Scone. They have had a continuous presence in the district for more than a century since arriving in the colony in the mid-nineteenth century. It appears that both the Miller and Dunbar families came to Scone shortly after arrival. Samuel Dunbar was a bricklayer and worked with Mathew Miller on many of his buildings until his death by drowning in 1864 at the age of 46. Both Samuel and his wife Elizabeth are buried in St. Luke’s Churchyard.
Mathew Miller was said to have worked in 1846-1847 on the Hill Street section of St Luke’s Church of England Schoolhouse, now part of the Scone Grammar School reopened in 1990. Mathew Miller was also associated with an architect Mortimer William Lewis (Junior) who was Clerk of the Works at Maitland and later Newcastle. This association was undoubtedly of considerable value to Miller, not only in obtaining suitable and profitable contracts, but in acquiring greater knowledge of design and construction. Mathew Miller’s first major construction was the original Court House in Kingdon Street. First tenders were called dated 28 February 1848 and closing date of 3 April 1848. Notices appeared in the Government Gazettes of 29 February 1848, 7 March 1848, 14 March 1848, 21 March 1848 and 28 March 1848 calling for persons willing to Contract for the erection of a Court House in Scone. The successful contractors were John Laurence, carpenter, and Mathew Miller, stone mason, both of Scone, with a tender of £390. Their sureties were George Grey, blacksmith of Scone and James Phillips of Kareen. Soon after signing the contract Laurence pulled out and Mathew Miller built the Court House on his own. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser reported on 13 June 1849 that the new Court House at Scone was nearly completed and it was expected that the bench would take possession by the end of the month. “It is a fine building, and the workmanship appears good, and justice done by the contract.” A letter dated October 3, 1849, stated that Mathew Miller had completed the building and would be glad to receive the balance of payment due to him, “as I am a por man” (sic.). Although he was invited to make repairs to the lock-up in 1850 he must have had other commitments as he acted as guarantor to a carpenter, James Graham, who undertook the task instead. In 1853 when the walls of the Chief Constable’s cottage adjoining the Court House were in danger of collapse, “under a spread roof”, Mathew Miller did the necessary repairs. The steady increase in population in the Upper Hunter and the shortage of skilled labour provided plenty of work for the competent stone mason and his builder Samuel Dunbar.