For a very short three-year period, the mansion in Studley park-road designed by Edward Kilburn for George Ramsden in 1888 was to know its greatest fame. Previously known as ‘Coonoor’ and ‘Byram’, its new owner, the shipping magnate and founding member of the first Australian Parliament, Sir Malcolm McEacharn (1852-1910) was to rename the house ‘Goathland’.

Later writers and historians have sometimes been confused by the name, especially given McEacharn’s use of the name Goathland for his mansion in Alma Road, St. Kilda (also now demolished). The latter was an Italianate mansion; quite different to the elaborate brick and tile fantasy of the Kew Goathland.

In writing about the McEacharn period (1902-1911) it is hard to know where to start, as there are so many newspaper reports to choose from. McEacharn and his wife were frequent entertainers and the daily press reported social events at the house with the kind of alacrity currently reserved for reporting about celebrity or royalty, although entirely without innuendo.

For readers interested in the background to McEacharn’s life, the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry by David Dunstan provides a detailed overview of his commercial and political career.

In this first entry, let us just clarify a few introductory details. First to remind ourselves that McEacharn had actually bought the mansion from Elizabeth Ramsden in August 1901 [1]. The first report in the press of his occupancy does not occur until November 1902 when he is reported as hosting a dinner for a Mr. W. Siddeley [2] who was ‘retiring from active work in the shipping world’. At the dinner, in Goathland’s enormous dining room, the guests were drawn from the most prominent ‘shipping men to do him honour’ [3]. They must have sat at the magnificent pollard oak full dining table, on chairs covered in morocco as waiters brought the food to the table on the matching oak dinner wagon [4].

And then, no sooner is he entertaining in full flight than he is off to Japan for a number of months for business.

[1] The Argus, 23 August 1901, p.4.
[2] There are a number of photographs of W. Siddeley in the State Library of Victoria Collection. On the back of one, he is identified as the manager of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company.
[3] The Argus, 22 November 1902, p.15.
[4] The Argus, 26 July 1911, p.2.

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