LYELL (Street; Little Lyell Street: 19/7/1895) 

Andrew Lyell, Councillor; MLA for Emerald Hill.

Andrew Lyell (1836-1897) was born at Newburgh, Fife, Scotland, son of James Lyell, linen manufacturer. Educated at Abdie Grange School near Newburgh, he arrived at Melbourne in the Penola on 1 January 1853. He worked for Henry Langlands, ironfounder, and in 1855 joined Langlands, Buick & Co, warehousemen. In 1861 the firm became Buick, Christie & Lyell, retail drapers and importers, with branches throughout Victoria. After five successful years, Lyell became a trade assignee with Gowan and in 1875 Ackroyd & Danky took over the accountancy and assignee side of the business, with Lyell’s firm devoting itself to the public loans and large estates in which English investors were interested. He was also a large landowner in the north-east and Loddon plains. In 1881 Lyell & Gowan merged into the Mercantile Finance and Guarantee Co Ltd, of which Lyell was manager and a director until 1888. By 1892 its successor, the Mercantile Finance Guarantee & Trustee Co, was bankrupt, and ironically Lyell and WL Baillieu were assigned to liquidate the existing companies.

In 1888 with partners, Lyell opened offices in Melbourne, Sydney and London. The company had its own steamers and investments in timber, slate and tin in Tasmania. In all his private business he had conspicuous success and was recognized as `the best accountant Melbourne ever had’.

In Emerald Hill Lyell had been a municipal councillor in 1865-67 and in 1877-80 he represented that seat as a free trader in the Legislative Assembly. His lucid pamphlet, Emerald Hill Election: Political Views of Mr. Andrew Lyell, revealed him as a follower of Bentham and JS Mill. He was opposed to the sale of crown lands, payment of members and excessive government expenditure. In the assembly he displayed marked debating ability, especially on financial subjects. In the political crisis in 1878 over payment of members, he was entrusted by the assembly to negotiate with the council and reached a successful compromise.

Lyell became known in the 1880s as the `prince of negotiators’ especially in conciliating. Lyell’s capacity for work was enormous. He cheerfully devoted much time to public affairs and in both public and private business won repute for integrity which was then almost unrivalled. He visited Britain in 1861, 1868, 1873 and 1896 primarily for his health and he died in Melbourne. He was twice married: first, in 1859 to Charlotte, nee Owens, who bore him two sons and seven daughters; and second, to Janet, nee Hamilton.

References: Miles; ADB #5 1851-1890, K – Q

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