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Sir Robert Harvey
Robert Harvey, son of tailor Samuel Harvey and his wife Elizabeth Northey, was born in the parish of St Clement Truro on 2 October 1847. At age 14 he was apprenticed to Francis Dingey’s Foundry at Truro and in about 1867 he obtained a position at the Williams' Perran Foundry where he worked as an improver for three years and a journeyman for one.  In 1872 he was chosen to accompany a steam engine to the Tocopilla copper mines of Gwennap immigrants Samuel Lean and John Jose of Lean, Jose and Co. in Bolivia under a three year contract for £12 a month in the first year rising to £15 per month by the third.  

In 1875 Harvey moved to Iquique where he became an authority on nitrate production in the Peruvian Province of Tarapacá and one of the leading salitreros in the Pacific Littoral. Known as ‘el gringo colorado’, he was appointed the chief engineer of the Oficinâ Rimac Saltpetre manufactory with a salary of £40 per month, and was soon after appointed to superintend the construction of new nitrate works. In 1876 following the nationalisation of the nitrate industry, Harvey became nitrate engineer and Inspector General of the Province of Tarapacá with a salary of £1,500 per year. 

During the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), Tarapacá was overrun by the Chileans who captured Harvey at the Battle of San Francisco and imprisoned him at Iquique. His knowledge of the Peruvian nitrate industry undoubtedly saved his life and he was offered his old post by the Chileans. Following the Chilean's decision to return the nitrate works to the private sector, Harvey entered into partnership with Colonel John North (the Nitrate King), becoming in 1881 the managing partner of their firm, J.T.North and Harvey. Harvey's position as Inspector General undoubtedly gave him unique inside information and together they brought up the best nitrate properties at rock bottom prices; in 1883 Harvey returned to Britain to set up the Liverpool Nitrate Company and the Colorado Nitrate Company. 

The following year he returned to Iquique to superintend the construction of the Liverpool Nitrate Company's works 'Ramirez', an enterprise that gave such satisfactory results that the shareholders presented him with a service of plate at the Adelphi Hotel Liverpool that cost £1,500.  He was awarded the Telford Premium in 1882 for his paper on the manufacture of iodine (a by-product of nitrate of soda).

In addition Harvey set up the San Pablo Nitrate Company, the San Jorge Nitrate Company and the the San Donato Nitrate Company with other British investors, serving as Director of many of these companies. He was one of the leading lights in Chile, serving as Director of the Nitrates Railways Ltd. and of the Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Ltd., the Chairman of the Tarapacá Waterworks Company, first President of the English Club in Iquique, the Director of the gas company there, and was associated with the Anglo South American Bank and silver mining at Tarapacá. 

He returned to Cornwall in 1885, a millionaire by today's standards, and brought the Trenoweth Estate for about £13,000. In neighbouring Devon he purchased numerous properties in the Totnes area for about £100,000 and he also had a London residence at 13 St James Square. He invested considerable money in the Cornish tourist industry, forming a partnership with dynamic Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail and fellow return migrants from Chile, George Hicks and John Jose

Harvey served as High Sheriff of Devon in 1897 and the following year held the same office for Cornwall and was a magistrate in both counties. A liveryman of the City of London and the Merchant Taylor's Company, he unsuccessfully ran as a MP for Truro and then for Devonport (1892) and wa
s knighted in 1901. The following year he held the Presidency of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, presenting the enigmatic Pozo Stone covered in Amerindian petroglyphs and a portrait of the Cornish giant, Anthony Payne, to the Royal Cornwall Museum. He was also a generous benefactor to the Royal Cornwall Infirmary.

He married Miss Alida Maria Godefroy, a Lady from a prominent Franco-Peruvian family, at Iquique on 26 June 1881 for whom he erected a tower and a peal of 14 bells at Buckland Abbey after her death. An Anglican, he died in Falmouth
in 1930 in the presence of his son, Major Samuel Emile Harvey, Unionist MP for the Totnes division. Bell ringers at Kenwyn Church Cornwall, where his family had worshipped for generations, rang muffled peals on the bells that he had had recast in 1905 in memory of his parents, late wife and other members of his family.

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