Sir Robert Philp was a successful businessman who served as Premier of the State of Queensland twice. He was a personal friend of John Moffat, and wrote the following obituary and testimonial published in the Sunday issue of The Daily Mail, Brisbane, July 8, 1918. The article was widely republished in other newspapers including The Northern Herald and The Cairns Post.

Portrait of John Moffat in The Daily Mail Brisbane, July 1918.

John Moffat: One of the Nation Builders

By Sir Robert Philp

Mr. John Moffat, who passed away at Toowoomba on Friday, June 28, at the age of 77 years, was the most notable figure in the mining history of Queensland in 1862, the same year in which I arrived in Brisbane.

Though he was eleven years my senior, we bacame fast friends subsequently. Mr Moffat, who had for some years been resident at Sydney with his wife and two daughters, was on a visit to Queensland, accompanied by Mrs. Moffat. In Brisbane they were the guests of Lady Philp and myself.

John Moffat's assets on arriving in Queensland consisted only of a stout heart. He had a delicate constitution which happily became stronger in the fine climate and free, open life of the Queensland bush.

He suffered also from weak sight, which necessitated his wearing very strong glasses. His first employment in Queensland was at Mount Abundant, near Roma where he worked on a sheep station.

He had to come to Brisbane to get glasses, and accepting employment with Messrs. J. and G. Harris, he remained with them for some years. Whilst in this employ he went into business as a member of the firm of Love and Moffat, grocers, Stanley Street, South Brisbane.

Like many another of the great spirits of those days, he was a man of tireless energy, and after working hard for his employers all day he would work for himself at night.

When tin was discovered at Stanthorpe in the year 1870 Mr. Moffat made for the new settlement, where he at once started in business as a storekeeper. He became interested in the tin discoveries, and in a short time he relinquished storekeeping. He then statred a tin smelting works just across the border in New South Wales, at a place called Tent Hill. He made a great success of this; in fact, it was the first successful smelter in Australia, one which had been previously started at Bulimba, near Brisbane, having been a failure.

It was all stream tin found at Stanthorpe, yielding up to 70 and 75 per cent. pure metal.

Beginning of Herberton - "Some years later tin was discovered at Herberton by a party consisting of Messrs Newell, Jack, Joss and Brandon. Messrs. Jack and Newell were friends of Mr. Moffat, who became interested in the find, went to Herberton, and bought out the interests of Messrs. Joss and Jack for £5,000 each thus securing a half share in the property for a total of £10,000.

As nearly all the tin in the Herberton district was lode tin it became necessasry to have a crushing mill. Mr. Moffat promptly erected a crusher, the first in the district. He became interested in a number of other mines in the district, of which he was indeed the father and the benefactor.

Any prospector who wanted a helping hand alsays went to John Moffat. If he wanted someone to back him while he was prospecting, John Moffat was the man: if he wanted someone to help him develop his show, he knew he could rely on John Moffat. A group of mines was eventually discovered near Irvinebank which spot he then made his headquarters. Here he erected stamper batteries for crushing the ore, and also smelters. He made a big success of this also.

Pioneer of Chillagoe - Mr. Moffat became so much a part of the base metal industry and mining generally that everyone went to him to avail themselves of his rare knowledge, judgement and financial assistance. He erected silver and lead smelters at Mt. Albion, at Glen Linedale (named in honor of Mrs. Moffat, who had been Miss Linedale prior to her marriage), and he erected a battery at California Creek.

Mr. Moffat was the first man to develop the Chillagoe properties. When these were taken over by the Chillagoe Company he took in payment only sufficient cash to reimburse him for some of the money he was actually out of pocket by his development work, the balance of the purchase price being in shares.

The smelters, the railway, everything in fact that is Chillagoe, owe their existence to the tireless energy and profound optimism of John Moffat. He opened up the Mt. Mulligan coal deposits, built the railway to Mount Molloy and the line to Mt. Garnet, erected the smelters at those mines, was a shareholder in the O.K. Copper Mines, got out the prospectus of Mt. Elliott, near Cloncurry, and erected the smelters there.

Mr. Moffat was interested in tin mining at Port Darwin, he had men out working tin and copper shows in the Northern Territory, and for years he worked copper, silver and lead at Gilberton. Either John Moffat himself or the men he backed have worked in every district and every State, even to the most remote confines, prospecting, digging, and developing. His interests were not bounded by the sea even, for over the Straits and into New Guinea he sent his representatives.

Seeking Petroleum - Realising what an enormous advantage it would be if petroleum could be discovered, Mr. Moffat brought an expert from America at his own expense, and spent a lot of money prospecting for oil. This expert went all over Queensland, and is at present engaged boring for petroleum in South Australia.

There was no running around to the Government seeking for the expenditure of the taxpayers' money in the case of John Moffat. He made fortunes by his foresight, his knowledge and his energies, and he spent them freely in the development of further ventures - so freely, in fact, that he was by no means a wealthy man when he passed away. He backed his ventures with his own money; when they succeeded everyone concerned benefited; when they failed he stood the loss alone.

He was undoubtedly the most enterprising man I have known, and a man of great ingenuity, particularly in regard to machinery. He was the inventor of the Moffat-Virtue sheep-shearing machine. In order to push this machine throughout Australia he founded the Federal Sheep Shearing Co., in which he invested large sums of money. He either built or supervised the building of all his mining and smelting plants in various parts of Queensland.

An expert geologist, metalurgist and engineer, there seemed to be nothing about mining on which he could not be regarded as an authority.

He was a life-long student of his favorite subject, and indeed, he could be said to be widely read on all subjects. I have always said of John Moffat: "He knows something about everything." He was an admirer of Carlyle; in fact, I remember seeing him frequently reading "Sartor Resartus," probably fifty years ago.

A Mission in Life - "One of the first things John Moffat did when he went into a new district was to make dams. He realised the great importance of an adequate water supply for all mining operations, and the dams he built have been invaluable to Herberton, Irvinebank, Mount Albion, California Creek and other places. He dammed up a beautiful sheet of water in front of his home at Irvinebank, where he and his good wife kept open house. I have been present there when they had as many as thirty visitors at the one time. It was like a big hotel, excepting that everything was free.

Though he always declared that he was too busy to take an interest in public affairs, Mr. Moffat was nevertheless quite an orator, and to those who heard him for the first time it was quite a revelation when John Moffat got up to make a speech at some social or business gathering.

Simple in his habits of life, modest and retiring always, John Moffat hated affectation. He believed he had a mission in life, and that was to help develop the resources of the land he loved. How truly he accomplished that mission will be recognised by all who know anything of his career, and will be testified to by hundreds of people scattered throughout North Queensland. Some lasting monument should certainly be erected to the memory of John Moffat, and preferably it should be in the great North, which owes so much to him.