During July 1863, Robert Eadie, a colourful and very interesting character was born in Sunbury, Victoria,
Robert Eadie was educated at both State and Technical Schools and thereafter completed his engineering studies to become a highly respected mining engineer.
Robert Eadie, a skilled craftsman and ardent cricketer travelled widely and in 1896 emigrated to South Africa together with his wife, Eliza (nee Coverlid) . They had two daughters – Amy and Alice Maud. Robert Eadie spent a large part of his working life in South Africa and during this time he became a colliery owner and was later in 1914 elected Mayor of Witbank in the Transvaal. He held this position for a period of seven years until 1922.
During the Boer War, Robert Eadie was a prominent figure, helping to hide Winston Churchill and ensure his safe return to the British lines and being acquainted with figures like Mahatma Ghandi. His wife (Eliza), supported him in whatever work he undertook and also toiled tirelessly with an army of women workers for the Red Cross during the Boer War. On the soldiers return from the war, Eliza Eadie was presented with a gold medal, suitably inscribed.
Most significant, was Robert Eadie’s contribution to our environment. It seems incredible to think that as far back as 1899 he was so aware of the preservation of our flora and fauna, which today plays such an important part in our lives. Along with Paul Kruger, he was also instrumental in the establishment of the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa.
During 1922 Robert and Eliza Eadie returned to Australia, settling in Healesville Victoria, where he continued his work as a conservationist, a notable achievement being the first person ever to keep and tame a platypus. “To be the first to accomplish such or in fact almost anything, bestows distinction”
“Splash” the platypus was reared and tamed in the first “platypussary” in the world, which was built by Robert Eadie himself. During the four years of Splash’s life he had 13 000 visitors and Robert Eadie’s work in this direction won world fame. Eadie was able to gather various information on this amazing animal and gained recognition as “an authority on the platypus”.
When “Splash” died of old age, condolences were received from conservationists all over the world. After his death, Splash occupied a prominent place in the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra.
In 1935 Eadie established “a monument to his great work by writing and publishing a book “Australia’s most Amazing Animal with Sidelights on Splash”.
Not only was Robert Eadie well known for his part he played in the taming of the platypus, but also as a pioneer of the Healesville Sanctuary where he was appointed Honorary Curator in 1932 and continued to fulfil that role until 1937. He was dedicated and committed to what he believed in and enjoyed all that the natural world held around him. He was personally responsible for the construction of the “Old Kiosk” which later became a public shelter area alongside Badger Creek. Robert Eadie and David Fleay as designers, builders and handymen, provided shelter for the animals from the wealth of the bush around them.
He retired from his position in 1937 and was entertained at a farewell dinner given in his honour at the Hotel Gracedale by the shire president, councillors and members of the Sir Colin McKenzie Sanctuary committee. Robert Eadie’s brilliant career, his remarkable work in the foundation days of the sanctuary and his historical research on Splash the platypus were extolled by the various speakers.
Mr Eadie retired with a statement of his philosophy, the words of Cecil John Rhodes, “So much to do, so little time”.
Robert Eadie, a man of courage and integrity who was decorated with an MBE for his services to the community, died, aged 86 years, at his home “Glen Eadie” in Healesville in 1949.
“Many prominent leaders of the Australian community attended his funeral to pay him their last respects he so much deserved” (quoted from Brasch (1989) “Even More Permanent Addresses”, Collins Australia/Sydney).
Robert Eadie’s granddaughter, Marion Key, resides in South Africa, where her children, Liza-Jane, Phillip and Gordon and their respective families have also settled. Marion has liaised with the Healesville Sanctuary over the years, providing them with invaluable information on both Robert Eadie and Splash., the platypus.
It is interesting to note that Robert Eadie’s grandson, Robert Eadie Barlow, emigrated from South Africa in 1978 and resides with his wife Dorothy at The Gap in Brisbane, Australia. Their four children, Judy, Douglas, Alison and Richard, their spouses and families all reside in the Brisbane area.
Robert and Dorothy have visited Healesville Sanctuary on numerous occasions over the years. During their last visit to the Sanctuary, together with their daughters, Judy Crouch and Alison Barlow, they liaised with Kevin Mason, in an effort to “rekindle” the work carried out by the late Robert Eadie. At the time they donated a plaque to Healesville Sanctuary in remembrance of Robert Eadie and his contribution to wild life and in particular, the platypus.
Judy Crouch (Robert Eadie’s great granddaughter) of Brisbane has been responsible for collating this information, her son Ryan and daughter Debra together with other family members have contributed significantly to the creation of the web site.