One of the few advantages Flinders derived from his almost seven years of captivity at Isle de France was that it gave him time to work on his masterpiece, A Voyage to Terra Australis. But he didn’t get to enjoy the fame it brought him; it was published on the day he died. A copy was placed in his arms as he lay on his deathbed, but by then he had lost consciousness.
The other book for which Flinders is best known is Trim: being the story of a Brave Seafaring Cat, about his ship’s cat, the first feline to circumnavigate Australia. There are several public statues of this animal around Australia and England, each accompanying a statue of his master.
Moylan was a blacksmith and a carter, but is remembered primarily as a pioneering farmer in the modern suburb of Plumpton. His 800-hectare Mount Kororoit Farm was in his family throughout the nineteenth century and was well known for its superb flock of 2,500 sheep.
Moylan’s homestead, stables and shearing shed are still standing, but most significant is the more than 30 kilometres of dry stone wall that his family built from the volcanic rocks produced in Kororoit’s last eruption. These walls are all heritage listed.
Bligh and his partner Thomas Harbottle were so successful as wine and spirit merchants that Harbottle went back to England to open a branch of the firm in London while Bligh opened branches in Sydney and Brisbane and established vineyards near Albury.
The business outlived them both and was carried on by Bligh’s son who was the first president of the Wine and Spirit Association of NSW, the forerunner of today’s Drinks Association.
The son of a prosperous engineer and industrialist, Degraves came from Van Diemen’s Land to Port Phillip with big plans and the money to put them into action. He built his first flour mill in Flinders Lane, then others in central Victoria. He was also a leading merchant with a three-storey warehouse on an acre at the Corner of Flinders and Russell Streets, and smaller warehouses scattered around the colony in towns connected to Melbourne by railway. He was able to use his position as a parliamentarian to have branch lines built to his stores, which earned him much resentment from less influential businessmen.
But his main interest was grazing sheep and cattle, and he owned or leased vast tracts of land in Victoria, South Australia and the Riverina. He was one of the richest men in Australia.
In politics he was an anti-democratic reactionary, but he could not prevent the land reforms of the 1860s, and after these were enacted his fortune was much reduced.
Scott owned several hotels but the one he was most famous for was Scott’s Hotel, “the city home of country people”. It was the gathering place for wealthy pastoralists and racehorse owners and the Melbourne residence of visiting English cricket teams and Dame Nellie Melba’s favourite hotel.
Monahan used the Queen’s Arms Hotel as his base but he owned several other hotels in the city. He eventually became one of Melbourne’s largest landowners with a great amount of property in St Kilda, South Melbourne and Port Melbourne. Despite his enormous wealth Monahan didn’t think big – he collected his rents himself, and he served behind his bars, and he never used credit, only cash. He had been a medical orderly in his youth, and proceeding from this personal experience he chose the Melbourne Hospital as the one community organisation to get involved in.
Ramsden was a stonemason and many of his buildings are still standing, particularly in East Melbourne and Clifton Hill where he made his home. He was a very hard worker and a businessman with an eye for an opportunity, and this led him to build and operate a flour mill in Carlton.
It was another entrepreneur who planned to build the first paper mill in Victoria, but he died shortly after the machinery arrived from England and before he had set anything up. Ramsden was able to buy all this plant at a bargain price, and with Melbourne’s growing appetite for paper he was allowed to establish his new mill on the south bank of the Yarra River just below Princes Bridge on easy terms; otherwise he might not have even got into the business which has a continuing and powerful influence on the present.
He also had a large pastoral property in the Western District.
William was known as the Sailor King because as the third son of George III he was not expected to inherit the crown and at the age of thirteen he was put into the Royal Navy. He was at the Battle of Cape St Vincent and served in North America and the Caribbean. At twenty-five years of age he was promoted to admiral and retired from active service. At the same time he was created Duke of Clarence and St Andrews and Earl of Munster, and he began attending the House of Lords. In 1830 he succeeded his brother as king and was for the most part a practical and businesslike monarch.
The great event of his reign was the Reform Crisis in which the inequities of Britain’s antiquated electoral system were at issue. The Reform Bill stalled in Parliament due to the obstruction of its most conservative elements, and it was passed only after William threatened to create a sufficient number of new peers who would support it through the House of Lords.
Samuel was a general merchant but is most remembered as a jeweller. He was in a partnership with Solomon Blanckensee of Bristol in England, and pieces of silverware bearing the company’s hallmark are highly valued as antiques today.
Ryrie went to the Yarra Valley to graze cattle, but the most enduring effect he had there was to plant the first vineyard in Victoria at Yering Station. He was a friend of the Macarthur family of merino-breeding fame, and before he left New South Wales he took some cuttings of Palomino and Pinot Noir vines from the Macarthur farm at Camden.
Yering continues today as a famous award-winning winery.
Lingham was the younger son of an English farmer who was given a small amount of capital and his fare to the colonies. In 1837 he shipped a flock of sheep from Van Diemen’s Land to Port Phillip which he sold for a good price. He started buying and selling blocks of town land and as his profits accumulated he built the first hotel in Port Melbourne. But that early boom came to an end, and he lost everything in the depression of the 1840s.
Later he became the publican of the Travellers’ Rest Hotel in Collingwood.
MNAZILE ET CHLOE
Fleurs, bocage sonore, et mobiles roseaux
Où murmure zéphyr au murmure des eaux,
Parlez; le beau Mnazile est-il sous vos ombrages?
Il visite souvent vos paisibles rivages.
Souvent j'écoute, et l'air qui gémit dans vos bois
A mon oreille au loin vient apporter sa voix.
Onde, mère des fleurs, naïade transparente
Qui pressez mollement cette enceinte odorante,
Amenez-y Chloé, l'amour de mes regards.
Vos bords m'offrent souvent ses vestiges épars.
Souvent ma bouche vient, sous vos sombres allées,
Baiser l'herbe et les fleurs que ses pas ont foulées.
Oh! s'il pouvait savoir quel amoureux ennui
Me rend cher ce bocage où je rêve de lui!
Peut-être je devais d'un souris favorable
L'inviter, l'engager à me trouver aimable.
Si pour m'encourager quelque dieu bienfaiteur
Lui disait que son nom fait palpiter mon cœur!
J'aurais dû l'inviter, d'une voix douce et tendre,
A se laisser aimer, à m'aimer, à m'entendre.
Ah! je l'ai vu; c'est lui. Dieux! je vais lui parler!
O ma bouche, ô mes yeux! gardez de vous troubler.
Le feuillage a frémi. Quelque robe légère...
C'est elle! ô mes regards! ayez soin de vous taire.
Quoi, Mnazile est ici? Seule, errante, mes pas
Cherchaient ici le frais et ne t'y croyaient pas.
Seul, au bord de ces flots que le tilleul couronne
J'avais fui le soleil et n'attendais personne...
Watson built his soft goods business by buying the product of the cottage weavers of Nottinghamshire and selling it to drapers throughout England from his base in London. With a growing family to support he wished to expand overseas but was frustrated by protective tariffs in Europe and America.
But there was no tariff in Australia, so when the gold rush began in Victoria he sent two of his sons to open a branch of the company in Melbourne. Two others went to New Zealand, and another one to Canada.
All that remains of William Watson & Sons in Australia is Mandeville Hall, the mansion built by one of the sons which is now at the centre of Loreto College in Toorak.
Foxton settled in Melbourne in 1841 as a merchant and insurance broker. He was also an organiser of the debating club, which met at his offices and drew together much of early Melbourne’s intellectual and political talent. He was also a newspaper publisher and the first treasurer of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. In 1864 he moved his family to Queensland where his son became a prominent politician in the colonial and federal legislatures.
Founded in 1865, Robert Harper & Co expanded throughout Australia and New Zealand and became a public company in 1914. It was acquired by the Ralston Purina Company in 1966, and some of Harper’s original brands, such as Lighthouse Flour, can still be found on supermarket shelves today.
Harper did not write much of note but his company produced many interesting publications such as Reliable Recipes for Using Harper’s Empire Brand Self Raising Flour, and the pugnacious little pamphlet Starch Trade Slanders Refuted.
Staughton was born into a wealthy landowning family in England and he inherited a great deal of property, but by the time he was twenty-seven years old he had lost all of it through gambling. He was deeply ashamed of what he had done, but over the next twenty years he rebuilt much of his fortune as a printer and publisher. It was his wish to own vast tracts again that brought him to Victoria where real estate was relatively cheap.
With a swag of ready cash he became one of the colony’s biggest landowners, but chastened by his own youthful experience, and desirous of founding a dynasty, he stipulated in his will that much of this property was to remain in his family for the next 500 years.
But his descendants didn’t care for that; luckily for them one of Staughton’s sons was a Member of the Legislative assembly and he was able to arrange for an Act of Parliament to negate the hubristic condition of his father’s will.
Cocker had been an employee of the Union bank when he was induced by his brother to form a partnership and go into business as general merchants. They did a roaring trade for a while and made big plans and borrowed heavily, but at the first economic downturn the frailty of their enterprise was exposed and they quickly became insolvent.
After this brief commercial adventure Cocker went back to living quietly and working for other people.
Swanston joined the army of the East India Company as a sixteen-year-old lieutenant and went on to pursue a very active military career. He was involved in crushing the Travencore Rebellion while still in his teens, and at twenty-one he was part of the expedition that forced Mauritius to surrender. He was given the task of making a military survey of the island, gathering all the information about its defences that had been the reason why the French had held Flinders captive for so long.
Swanston was an indefatigable horseman and on one occasion he went from Istanbul to Baghdad in forty-eight days of hard riding. He later recruited a thousand Indians into a cavalry regiment which he led into several battles, and was himself badly wounded three times.
But the fighting in India eventually ceased and the Napoleonic Wars ended, and there was no further need for worn-out warriors like Swanston. He lost his command but as consolation was made an army paymaster in Madras. Here he gained the knowledge of finance that would lead to him exerting a huge influence on the development of Tasmania and Victoria.
Rutledge came from Ireland to Sydney with very little but a great amount of energy. He built up a business as a merchant and in a few years bought a pastoral property near Queanbeyan. He later overlanded his flock to the Port Phillip District and founded Kilmore, although he was too restless to settle there.
He eventually made his home at Port Fairy where he was again a merchant, exporting wool and gold and importing various goods using his own ships and wharf. He also continued as a large grazier and was responsible for bringing many other Irish immigrants to the area.
Beaney was a highly controversial surgeon, partly because of the outspoken way that he addressed Melbourne’s venereal disease problem, but also because he came from a working class background, and many of his colleagues disdained him as a crass parvenu.
He was also a prolific writer of books and pamphlets, many of which were addressed to the lay public on the undiscussable subject of STDs. These included:
Spermatorrhœa in its Physiological, Medical, & Legal Aspects
The Generative System and its Functions in Health and Disease
Syphilis : its Nature & Diffusion Popularly Considered
Constitutional Syphilis : being a practical illustration of the disease in its secondary and tertiary phases
But he also penned works on a variety of medical subjects, some for the general public and others aimed at a professional readership. Among these were:
Original Contributions to the Practice of Conservative Surgery : being a selection from the surgical cases occurring in the practice of James G. Beaney
Clinical Lecture on Diseases of the Hip-joint
Clinical Lecture on Stricture of the Urethra
The History and Progress of Surgery : an address, delivered to the medical students of the Melbourne Hospital, on the occasion of the prizes in the class of operative surgery
Surgical Diagnosis : a lecture, delivered to the medical students of the Melbourne Hospital, at the inauguration of the second session
Contributions to Practical Surgery, Pathological, Therapeutic, and Operative
Vaccination and its Dangers
Also very interesting is Dr Beaney’s Vindication, an account he had written of a court case in which he had been accused of causing the death of Mary Lewis, a barmaid at the Terminus Hotel in St Kilda, in performing an abortion on her. His main accusers were a ‘clique’ consisting of Drs Tracy, Pugh, Rudall and Barker.
Following this he also wrote two pamphlets reflecting on rivalry within the medical profession:
Doctors Differ : a lecture delivered at the Melbourne Athenæum
The "Argus" & Mr. J.G. Beaney, F.R.C.S.E
James Ford Strachan
Strachan was a merchant and woolbroker who arrived in Van Diemensland from Scotland in 1832. He crossed the strait to Port Phillip in 1836 and set up business buying wool and providing finance to those who grew it. He erected the first brick building in Melbourne but soon moved to Geelong to be closer to the Western District where his company fostered the nineteenth century expansion of the pastoral industry.
Strachan & Co long outlived its founder and survived into the 1970s, eventually to be merged into Elders Limited.
The son of a Spanish restaurateur and hotelier, Morell was born in Carlton but spent most of his childhood in Spain. He was back in Melbourne in his teens, and following in his father’s footsteps he went into the hotel trade. He was very successful in this and expanded into insurance, finance, the Queensland pastoral industry, cinemas and most enduringly, he was the founder of the brewery in Abbotsford that was absorbed into CUB, of which he was a director. Of all the breweries that united to form CUB, it is only Morell’s that is still in operation.
Boulton was an accountant who was a director of Servex Industries and the managing director of Ediphone Pty Ltd. He was a Melbourne City Councillor for twelve years, and for much of that time he was chairman of the health committee. He took a great interest in the welfare of women and children, and he led the way in establishing over twenty crèches and kindergartens in the city and inner suburbs.
As well as a malthouse in Flinders Lane, Throssell owned a brewery in Prahran. Both of these are gone, but another of his buildings, Throstle’s Stores, is still standing in Hardware Lane and is heritage listed.
Throssell was quite an expert on food technology and he brought back much valuable information after he travelled through the United States studying cold storage and refrigerated transport.
Collins was a Royal Marine officer who was the first Judge-Advocate of New South Wales. As the colony’s chief legal officer he formally inaugurated government in Australia when on 7th February 1788 he read out the relevant act, commission and letters patent at Sydney Cove. He was then responsible for the entire legal establishment of the colony.
Collins was a good natured man who might have been a parson. He didn’t love military life or New South Wales but he saw that he was indispensable to its administration, and partly out of loyalty to Arthur Phillip he stayed for eight years. When he returned to England he was disappoint by the government’s ingratitude for all of the work he had done, and in an attempt to make some money he wrote An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, the most detailed history of the place written until then.
The book was based on the journal that he kept and much of it is just a record of daily events, but its dryness is relieved by occasional anecdotes about convicts or guards or Aborigines which Collins presents as parables illustrating right and wrong and from which he draws morals to be meditated on.
Everyone’s favourite archangel, Michael rescued Abraham from the furnace Nimrod had thrown him into, substituted a lamb for Isaac when his father was about to sacrifice him, and wrestled with and afterwards blessed Jacob; but he is best known as the Prince of the Heavenly Host who led the loyal angels to war against Satan and the rebellious angels, defeating them and hurling them to the earth some time in the primeval past. He will also have a role at the end of time, sounding the trumpet that announces Judgement Day.
Lamb was a superior intellect and read everything that came his way, which was unfortunate because although he didn’t write anything much he was the unwilling subject of several sensational books.
His wife, Lady Caroline, embarked on a brief, intense affair with the poet Byron. She was highly strung and histrionic, and Byron quickly came to loathe her, but Caroline was obsessed with him and the two corresponded for years, sending abusive letters and poems back and forth to each other. Lamb did his best to comfort his distraught wife and to cope with the embarrassment, because the whole drama was played out publicly and included incidents such as Caroline slashing her wrists with a broken wine glass at a ball.
His humiliation reached its awful crescendo when Caroline wrote Glenarvon, a gothic novel which began the vampire genre. Here the affair was described in lurid detail and the character representing Lamb was depicted as too weak and inadequate a husband to keep his vivacious wife.
As well as that, the intellectual circle in which the Lambs moved was morbidly fascinated by their domestic afflictions, and some of its members wrote their own “silver fork” novels based on the disastrous marriage. These included Granby by Thomas Lister; Vivian Grey by Benjamin Disraeli; The Marriage of William Ash by Mrs Humphrey Ward; De Lindsey by Bulwer Lytton; and Cheveley or The Man of Honour by Lady Lytton.
The public ridicule spelt the end of Lamb’s political career.
Many years later, after Caroline’s death, he did take up politics again and even became prime minister, but his emotions had been burnt out and he didn’t care about policies or positions, it was just something to occupy his mind.
Lord John Russell
As well as a political giant Russell was a prolific author, mostly in the historical and biographical genres. His works included:
The Life of William Lord Russell, the biography of an illustrious ancestor who had been executed in 1683.
An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, from the Reign of Henry VIII to the Present Time
Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe from the Peace of Utrecht
Establishment of the Turks in Europe
The Causes of the French Revolution
Life and Times of Charles James Fox
There was also the dryly humorous Essays and Sketches of Life and Character by a Gentleman who has Left his Lodgings and a five-act, blank verse play Don Carlos, or, Persecution, which concerns a struggle for religious liberty in Spain.
Finally there was The Nun of Arrouca, the story of a love affair between an English soldier and a Portuguese nun during the Napoleonic Wars. The romance is thwarted by the Inquisition and in the end the heroine and hero die. It is mostly laboured and earnest but there are some racy bits, such as when Pembroke discovers Sister Catherine praying in church and they exchange their first kiss.
George was an economist who was best known for his advocacy of a ‘single tax’ system, in which all taxes would be replaced by a tax on the unimproved value of land. He was an American who travelled widely, including to Sydney in his youth when he was a sailor. He later settled into the profession of journalist and newspaper editor.
His theories had many adherents in the early twentieth century although his influence has since waned. His self-published book Progress and Poverty at one time outsold all other books in the United States except for the Bible. Victoria’s land tax system was derived from his ideas, and a Henry George Club, once located in George Parade, continues in Melbourne. The board game Monopoly was invented to demonstrate his view of how things worked.
His other books include:
The Land Question
Protection or Free Trade
A Perplexed Philosopher
The Science of Political Economy
Our Land and Land Policy
The Condition of Labor
Frederick James Sargood
Sargood was a draper who had the good luck to establish his business just before the gold rush erupted in Victoria and brought an enormous increase in wealth and a huge influx of people who all needed to be clothed. He made his fortune by opening branches and supplying storekeepers on the gold fields.
His wealth financed a dynasty and both he and his son were Members of the Victorian Parliament. His son, Frederick Thomas Sargood, built the famous mansion at Ripponlea.
Monash was most famously the general who led the AIF to victory in the last battles of the First World War, breaking the Hindenburg line and the German will to fight on. He had been an engineer before the war, and following it he was the manager of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University. He was also a gifted musician and mathematician and the author of The Australian Victories in France in 1918, a large and comprehensive book which he wrote in little more than a month in 1919. The other literary work for which he is remembered is a pamphlet he wrote just before the war, 100 Hints for Company Commanders, which became a basic training document.
Duke of Wellington
Wellesley arrived in India as a 29 year old colonel in command of the 33rd Regiment, and he played a prominent role in the fourth Anglo-Mysore War in which Britain conquered the ancient Kingdom of Mysore.
His first battle was a night raid on a village, but it didn’t go well. The defenders were waiting for him, and his regiment was repulsed with muskets and rockets and got lost in a grove, several of his men being killed or captured. The siege of the capital Seringapatam went better, and he took possession of the royal palace and personally checked the sultan’s pulse to make sure he was dead. In the wake of victory his troops fell to pillaging the city and he was able to restore order only by having some flogged or hanged. He was rewarded for all this by being made the Governor of Mysore, and he took up residence in the palace once all the bodies had been tidied away.
Thomas Spring Rice
Spring Rice was born into a family of large landowners in Ireland. They were part of the ruling Protestant Ascendancy, although they had joined this elite only a couple of generations before Spring Rice’s birth by converting from Catholicism.
Unlike many members of the landowning Ascendancy Spring Rice actually lived in Ireland, and he witnessed at first hand the devastation caused by the Great Famine. He did what he could to ameliorate the plight of the tenants of his estates, and this almost bankrupted him. There is a monument to his honour in a public park in Limerick, although it was erected by appreciative entrepreneurs, not survivors of the Famine.
Pink was a labourer in London when he was convicted of stealing some cloth and transported to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years. He was a troublesome convict and made at least one attempt to escape. Eventually his sentence expired and in 1841 he took advantage of his freedom to leave the island for the young settlement of Melbourne. Here he made a very good living as a confectioner, and in 1852, at the peak of the gold rush when so many were flooding into Victoria to seek their fortunes, he was well enough off to sell up and return to England.
Donaldson came to Sydney as a representative of his father’s firm and soon established himself among the colonial elite as a leading merchant and a substantial grazier with 34,000 sheep on 100,000 hectares of pasture. Through an agent he also invested heavily in Melbourne city and suburban property.
He was the first premier of New South Wales, although his government was so fractious and intractable that it lasted less than three months.
Donaldson had travelled widely when young, and shortly before he died he published Mexico Thirty Years Ago, as Described in a Series of Private Letters, by a Youth.
Westwood was a carpenter who was convicted of burglary and condemned to hang, but his sentence was commuted to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land for fourteen years. He was a pebble, which was what those prisoners were called who the system couldn’t break no matter how much punishment it dished out. He spent time at the isolated and extremely harsh penal station at Macquarie Harbour, which took the worst and most incorrigible convicts and where parts of Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of His Natural Life were set.
Later when he had only a few weeks left to serve he was rather dubiously convicted of stealing some wood and given another three years.
At the expiration of his sentence he crossed the strait to Port Phillip and worked as a carpenter. In 1841 he opened a hotel, and in time he built and owned six houses in Bourke Street, a factory in Fitzroy and other property in Richmond and Oakleigh. He was very tough, and in his sixties he was still capable of beating up a tenant who wanted to argue about the rent.
Oliver was a builder who arrived in Melbourne in 1839 and through the 40s built and rented out shops and houses in the city including a row known as Oliver's Cottages behind the Duke of Wellington Hotel. He was a hard man who once evicted a dying woman from one of his tenements. A jury couldn't convict him of anything but called him ‘most inhuman and brutal’.
The last building he erected was the Windsor Hotel at the St Kilda Junction which he ran as publican from 1854. This served as a base for him to be elected a Prahran Councillor in 1856. The local water company of St Kilda had a large tank next door to the hotel and made the mistake of fencing it off. This blocked an approach to the pub and Oliver was so infuriated that he hired a gang of men to tear down the fence and also cut down a gum tree on the company's property, then chop up the lot and sell it for firewood. A sensational court case followed that gripped Melbourne for a while and divided opinion. On this occasion Oliver was convicted, but the firewood money more than paid his fine.
Higson was a saddler, as were both father and grandfather before him. He arrived in Melbourne from England with his wife and children in 1885 and founded Higson & Sons, manufacturers and importers of leather goods with an office and warehouse in Flinders Lane. The business was sold in the 1950s but a few Higson & Sons items can still be found from time to time, like vintage hat boxes and luggage cases, and these are much sought after collectibles.
Chester worked for over thirty years for grocer Germain Nicholson who had established himself well before the gold rush and had branch stores across Melbourne and throughout Victoria. He had begun as a boy sweeping the floors, but when Nicholson retired Chester, along with another long term employee Jacob Fletcher, bought the business. It outlived both partners and was still trading after the Second World War. There are not many traces of it left, but a Cookery Book compliments of Fletcher, Chester & Co issued by the company in the 1920s gives over a hundred pages of delicious interwar recipes.
A pastoralist and explorer, Batman is generally regarded as the founder of Melbourne. In 1835, without government assistance or approval, he crossed the strait from Van Diemen’s Land to the wilderness of Port Phillip as the field agent of a private company in search of pasture for the shareholders' flocks and herds. He made a “treaty” with the Aborigines which the government refused to recognise, seeing it as a device to cheat both the Aborigines and the Crown. A complicated, charismatic man, he was both an inspired visionary and a narrow, self-interested frontier bully.
For much of Melbourne’s history he was seen as a romantic hero, but that characterization has been reassessed in recent years. Rohan Wilson’s magnificent 2011 novel The Roving Party depicts him as a thug exploiting his convict servants and ruthlessly hunting down and massacring Aborigines. His repute is so far fallen that in 2019 the Australian Electoral Division of Batman was renamed after an Aboriginal community leader and activist.
Gosch owned a transport company that began as a collection of horse-drawn wagons and evolved into a fleet of motor trucks. The horses were kept in the paddock that bears his name, while Gosch lived in Melrose St, Cremorne. He was very involved in the local community, although he never succeeded in getting elected to the Richmond council — there were mutterings of corruption and vote tampering. He was, however, a Vice President of the Richmond Football Club in 1924-1937 and a Life Member from 1929.
Howitt was a leading medical doctor in early Melbourne and one of the first members appointed to the Medical Board of Victoria. He also served on the Council of the University of Melbourne and on the Medical School Committee, but his scientific interests extended beyond medicine. He was one of the founders of the Royal Society of Victoria, making special contributions to the fields of entomology and botany. Before he left Britain he had published The Nottinghamshire Flora: containing the flowering plants, ferns, mosses, Heptaticæ, lichens, Characeae and algæ, while in Victoria a genus of blue-flowered mallow was named Howittia in his honour.
Benson arrived in Victoria in 1852 and opened an ironmonger store in Collingwood. This was during the gold rush, and his business did very well supplying materials for the building boom that occurred with the rapid expansion of the population.
In the following decade when the economy slowed to something more normal Benson founded Victoria’s first building society, the Metropolitan Permanent, to help ordinary people buy their homes. It was very popular, and when the economy took off again in the boom of the 1880s it became the Metropolitan Bank. This did exceptionally well, until it was wiped out in the crash of the 1890s.
Benson was the founder of the suburb of Belgrave which was named after a house that he built there. He had another house named Belgrave in Malvern East where he was president of the Shire of Gardiner and later president of the Shire of Malvern.
Duke of Portland
The 3rd Duke of Portland holds the distinction of having served as prime minister twice with the longest gap between stints in the top job.
He was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783 when he was a compromise figurehead leader of a government composed of more formidable politicians in an unstable coalition.
Twenty-four years later he was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1807-1809 when he was again a figurehead, although for a different bundle of factions. During the intervening years the American and French Revolutions had taken place, the world had changed beyond recognition, and Portland had gone from a man in his prime to one on the brink of death.
McGrath arrived in Melbourne from Ireland in the 1840s and made a living cutting timber until he set up as a publican in 1850. Most of the town was built of wood and it kept catching fire, and finding that running a hotel was a very troublesome business he gave it up to become the captain of a fire brigade.
There were several in Melbourne in those days. The one McGrath led was the city council’s, while others were funded by insurance companies. These often co-operated, but they viewed each other as rivals and would occasionally come to blows outside a burning building to settle who would put the blaze out.
McIlwraith began his plumbing business in the back of his home in Collingwood in the 1850s and in time became one of Australia’s wealthiest men as a manufacturer and shipowner. The company he founded long outlived him and was subsumed into McIlwraith-Davey Industries in 1978, which was acquired by Email Ltd in 1885, which in turn was swallowed up by Texas based MRC Global Inc.
McIlwraith left no important writings but just before it disappeared his company published Water and Gas and a Scotsman from Ayr: the History of John McIlwraith Industries Limited 1853-1977.