A native of Edinburgh, Robert Grieve is thought to have migrated to Australia in 1852. Immigration records show two possible candidates arrived in Victoria around that time: one R. Grieve in October 1852, on board the Revenue; and a Robert Grieve in May 1853, on board the Wacousta. The latter's vessel had come from a British port, whereas the former's had come from a foreign port, making the 1853 arrival a better fit with the available information. John Hope's research indicates that Grieve was actually from Leith, the port town adjoining Edinburgh, and that he was born on July 15 1829.
Grieve is thought to have worked for Dunn and Bayne in Eaglehawk from October 1853, managing that branch of their business from its opening. After some time he opened his own general store out of a canvas tent. When the land was subdivided into a township, he bought a block and built a substantial store there. In August 1862 a Robert Grieve was one of the ten men who signed a petition, published in the Bendigo Advertiser, calling for a public meeting to discuss the constitution of a municipality at Eaglehawk. Jonathan Hogdson, one of the owners of the two Hodgson Brothers general stores around Bendigo, was also listed on the petition.
In 1862 Grieve was one of the many business men in the Castlemaine area to purchase tokens from Thomas Stokes. His tokens bore the details of his business, and on the reverse the Australian Arms with the motto 'Advance Victoria.'
Around 1865 he sold the business to his brother Thomas and moved to Melbourne. Thomas kept the store until the Western Australian gold rushes of the 1890s.
When he arrived in Melbourne, Robert Grieve opened a store on the corner of Park and Ferrars Streets in South Melbourne. His manager was James Herschell. Between arriving in Melbourne and his retirement from active business in 1880, Grieve did well and opened several stores in the suburbs of South and Port Melbourne, making him one of the largest businessmen in that district. According to Gardner, by 1911 the chain of businesses belonged to James Herschell.
Robert Grieve died of old age, in Brighton. In addition to his own business, Grieve was described as 'a very shrewd and clever business man, whose advice was sought and valued, and for some years he acted on the directorate [of] several companies, notably the Northcote Brick Company (Gardner, 1911).
Gardner, F. (1911). "Trade Tokens and the Firms who Issued Them", The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 31 May, p. 13.
Hope, John (2005). 'R. Greive', unpublished manuscript, 4 pages.
Sandhurst, Castlemaine, & Echuca Directory for 1865-1866 (State Library of Victoria collection).Advertisement. The Bendigo Advertiser, 2 August 1862, p. 1.
Sharples, J. (1993). "Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens", Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia. Vol. 7, December, p. 23.