Lawrence Grayson

Lawrence and Lawrence William Grayson

Lawrence Grayson was born in 1839 at Charlton on Medlock, Manchester. In October 1859 he arrived in South Australia and was employed by the railways for the next 21 years, eventually becoming leading foreman. While working on the railways Lawrence got to know William Shakespeare and through him his sister Mary Ann. When Lawrence was 24 and Mary Ann 23 they were married at the Congregational Chapel in Freeman Street Adelaide on 3 December 1863. They would eventually have 5 sons and 4 daughters.

After his 21 years at the railways Lawrence became involved with the Union Engineering Company of Adelaide, of which he was manager until 1913, and then Chairman. Lawrence was also interested in mining as he took out a mineral lease in 21 September 1887. He was also one of the originators of the Eight Hour movement. He served as a member of the Council of the South Australian School of Mines from 1890 until his death in 1916.

Lawrence became a Deacon and Secretary of the Stow Memorial Church and for more than 30 years Superintendent of the Halifax Street Congregational Sunday School. He even was a Member of Parliament for a few years. While in parliament he was a strong supporter of the development of mining and served on the Boards of the Public Library, Museum and Institute. Lawrence died on 7 October 1916, age 77 and Mary Ann on 27 November 1917, age 76.

Their second child and first son Lawrence William was born on 5 April 1866. After attending Prince Alfred College, Lawrence William served his apprenticeship with the Union Engineering Company of Adelaide, and attended night classes at the Adelaide School of Design, to pass examinations in mechanical drawing and machine design. Like his father, he showed an early interest in mining as well and applied for a mineral lease on 22 March 1889.

On completion of his articles in 1889, he had fulfilled the academic requirements for Year 1 at the SASM when it was established in 1889. In the same period he was a prominent member of the Adelaide Rowing Club. He gained a scholarship to study at the SASM in 1890-1 for Years 2 and 3 for the Associateship in Mining Engineering.

Lawrence William Grayson, ASASM, MAIME was now the first Tertiary-educated professional engineer from South Australia, the first to gain the Diploma of Associate of the South Australian School of Mines (SASM), and the first mining engineer to gain an academic qualification in Australia.

He soon embarked on a period of almost constant travelling. One of his first destinations was Tasmania where he joined the Mount Balstrop Central Silver Mining Co at Zeehan. In 1892 Lawrence William obtained a position at Broken Hill, under Herman Henry Schlapp, metallurgist at the Broken Hill Proprietary mine. In 1893 he became a member of the Australian Institute of Mining Engineers, founded at Broken Hill. At night he still found time to teach drawing and machinery design at the Mechanics Institute.

On 25 April 1894 Lawrence William married Helen May Stockdale at All Saints Church Hindmarsh. Helen was born in May 1867 at Robe. Their first child, Edna Mary, was born on 11 February 1895 while he was manager of the Government Cyanide Works at Blumberg, (Birdwood).

That same year he represented Adelaide interests at the West Australian Goldfields and was manager of the Grayson Syndicate. His next appointment took him to Kalgoorlie where he became metallurgist on the Associated Gold Mines, and in 1897 designed a large ore treatment plant. In 1898 his second child and first son, Lawrence Robert was born. From here it was back to New South Wales where he became acting manager of the Block 10 mine at Broken Hill in 1900 and laid down a scheme for an electric power plant for the mine. Daughter Gwen was born in 1900. Later that year he moved to Melbourne to set up as a consulting mining engineer and metallurgist. In 1901 he became consulting engineer for the Long Tunnel Gold Mining Company at Walhalla and also became the proud father of child number 4, a son they called Reginald.

The story of the Long Tunnel mine from the commencement of World War 1 demonstrated significant developments, particularly in the engineering design. The construction of an incline shaft, an engineering feat of great significance, resulted from the talents of three men: Lawrence William Grayson, the consulting engineer, Albert Craven, the engineering surveyor, and John Finlayson, the mining manager. The idea for the incline shaft came from Grayson.

In September 1902 he was back in Melbourne as a patent application in the Victorian Government Gazette had him at Ludston Chambers, 352 Collins St, Melbourne. In 1903 he reported on the Mount Lyell Blocks mine in Tasmania. He was also a director of the Star and Thomson GM Company at Walhalla during 1904 and 1905.

They were living at Balwyn when daughter Freda was born in 1905. By this time, in his capacity as a consulting engineer, he had become Managing Director of the Gladstone Tin Developing Company, a Melbourne based company with dredging operation on the Ringarooma River, Tasmania. Another engagement was for preparation of a report on the mine plant and machinery of the Lord Nelson Gold Mining Co at St Arnaud in Victoria, with the object of modernising the methods and economising the costs.

In 1909 son Alan was born at Sandringham. At the end of 1909 Lawrence William was engaged to report on Sloane’s and Scotchman’s Mine at Stawell, but mining was in decline by then in Victoria, as were consulting engagements. He was still in consulting practice in Melbourne in 1913,

By 1915 the family had moved to Port Augusta, South Australia, where Grayson founded and managed the Crystal Salt Co Limited, situated at the head of Spencer Gulf. This turned out a little more difficult than consulting work. In June 1915 his men went on strike for better wages. When approached by C.L. Gray of the AWU, Grayson stated that he rather preferred to close the works and pay off the men.

This must have done the trick as the men went back to work after gaining some small concessions. The most important being that while working in the water they would be paid 11 shillings a day. They were also promised that a boarding house would be build at the salt works to save time and money on travelling to and from work.

While at Port Augusta he and his family became involved in the local community and on 4 December 1915 he was elected Councillor of the Phillips Ward of Port Augusta West and Mayor in 1916. In May 1916 he obtained permission from the Council to build stables on the land leased by Crystal Salt. This was the last of the preliminary work and in August Grayson advertised for drivers with good Scoop Horses for 2 or 3 months to harvest the salt. In November he wanted carpenters, labourers and 2 boys.

As part of the War effort daughter Gwen, now 16, took part in an evening’s entertainment at which she sang several songs. The evening proved a great success and resulted in £6.10 being handed to the Port Augusta West Red Cross Society. His wife often helped with packing Trench Comforts.

The year 1917 turned out to be an eventful but also successful year. In January Grayson needed more salt workers and was prepared to pay 11 shillings and sixpence for good workers. A few weeks later he offered 12 shillings. In March he advertised for tenders to supply 40 tons of wheaton chaff, for the horses, and also a boarding house keeper. Best of all was that the SS Barwon took 1000 tons of salt for shipment to Sydney. In May the SS Yarra loaded 1200 tons of salt for Sydney.

Not so good news was the fact that the Commonwealth Salt Company, with works at Edithburgh, Kangaroo Island and Sydney, planned to open salt refining works at Port Augusta to process salt harvested from Lake Hart. In June the Commonwealth Salt Refining Company started work in Young and Gordon’s wharf store and hoped to produce 40 tons a day when in full swing.

Not to be outdone Grayson decided to build an up to date salt refinery as well. It would be a two storey, 40 metre by 15 metres concrete construction. Once again he needed more labour, particularly a blacksmith and carpenter.

Early 1918 more labourers and salt scrapers were needed but there was also another strike at the salt works. This time it was over the water supply, sanitary arrangements and some other minor matters. During the year the company became Ocean Salt Ltd. In May the Grayson family left Port Augusta and settled at Point Price on Yorke Peninsula to work the salt deposits there and formed the Gulf Salt Company. He left in 1923 when the salt works were transferred to Ocean Salt Ltd.

The family then moved to Adelaide until 1925, when they moved to Moonta, the old copper mining town on Yorke Peninsula, where mining had ceased in 1923. Lawrence William Grayson died there on 23 January 1930 at the age of 64. His wife Helen died at Port Augusta on 7 December 1938, age 71. His son Lawrence Robert died at Price on 10 September 1931, aged 33. He was very much liked by the workers at Price who put this tribute on his grave at Winulta.


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