Robert Oatley

Robert Oatley was born in the Sydney suburb of Mosman in 1928, the son of Geoffrey Oatley and Isabel “Jean” née Brown. Oatley was a great, great grandson of British clock maker James Oatley, and a great grandson of James Oatley, Lord Mayor of Sydney and a Member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.

Oatley’s mother, Jean, died from melanoma 13 months after his birth, leaving him as an only child. Oatley’s father was employed in the wool industry, which meant spending much of his working life was spent travelling in rural New South Wales. Consequently, Oatley was raised by his mother’s sister, Muriel, the wife of Duncan A. Cameron. Oatley attended the Mosman Primary School.

Oatley’s first employment, in about 1943 and still wartime, was by the firm, Colyer Watson, owned by Rupert Alexander Colyer. His tasks included delivering letters by hand to other local businesses and to fill the company’s inkwells. Later, as Bob gained expertise and business acumen, he accompanied his employer on business trips. The Colyer Watson firm also owned a coffee division on Papua New Guinea; a division which owed money to the parent company. The task of recovering the money was handed over to the increasingly competent business employee, Robert Oatley. Oatley started out as a businessman in the 1950s trading coffee and cocoa beans from Papua New Guinea.

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