The newly published Thematic Environmental History [1] is an invaluable source of information about the City of Boroondara. It covers many more areas and topics than those described in previous histories of Kew, taking as its starting point the nine themes outlined by Heritage Victoria [2].

It is with interest therefore that one turns to the the History’s second theme – ‘2.0 Peopling Victoria’s Places and Landscapes’. Within this theme, ‘2.6 Maintaining distinctive cultures’ contains a sub-section ‘2.6.1 Links to homelands – Consuls and consulates’ which lists and describes some of the significant consulates in the study area [3]. The only consuls residing in Kew that are mentioned are the Consuls for Peru, Alfred Pfaff (1896-1900), and Carl Ludwig Pinschoff (1900-1914). Pinschoff was also the Consul for Austria-Hungary. The consulate/s were located at ‘Waverley’ (later Studley Hall; now Burke Hall [Xavier Preparatory School]) in Studley Park Road. The other consuls mentioned resided in other parts of what is now the City of Boroondara.

It came as a distinct surprise therefore, when researching the period of Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s ownership of Goathland [ie Coonoor-Byram-Tara Hall], to find that during this period that he had been Consul for Japan, and that the location of the consulate was Goathland in Studley park-road, Kew.

The announcement of his appointment would come later. Firstly there was business for the MHR to conduct. On April 18 1903, the Australian newspapers reported the return to Melbourne after many months in Japan of Sir Malcolm and his wife, where they had been for ‘business purposes’ [4]. The reporter of an article which appeared in the Hobart Mercury was later on the day of Sir Malcolm’s return to go out to Goathland in Kew and ask him questions about Japan. These focused on British and Australian investments in the Tokyo tramways system. They also touched on sensitive topics such as the White Australia Policy and the ‘Corean crisis’. Ever the business man, McEacharn steered the questions back to the 1903 Osaka Exhibition that he had attended, where he was ‘… present at a review of 15,000 troops by the Empress, and was considerably impressed …’ [5]. The Brisbane Courier focused on less substantial issues when it reported some weeks later that the McEacharns had ‘… brought back more valuable objects of art from the land of the chrysanthemum and fans, to further beautify their charming Kew home, Goathlands [sic]; …’ [6].

In May 1903, Goathland was to reach its finest moment with the arrival of the Japanese fleet in Melbourne, and the entertainment of the Admiral and his officers at McEacharn’s mansion. The Argus was to write a detailed report about the festivities, an edited version of which is included here.

Yesterday morning Rear Admiral Kamimura, attended by Flag-Commander Moriyama, and accompanied by Sir Malcolm McEacharn paid a visit to the law courts. … A military review will be held on Saturday afternoon in Albert Park when the officers and men of the Japanese warships will be present to witness the evolutions of the troops. …

At Goathland, Studley-Park Road Kew, Lady McEacharn, wife of the consul for Japan was at home to a numerous party of invited guests to meet the Japanese officials from half-past 3 to 6 yesterday afternoon. Rear Admiral Kamimura and his staff arrived early in the afternoon and all the officers and midshipmen of the three warships now in port were present. Their arrival caused quite a flutter of excitement in the quiet suburb of Kew and a large crowd of onlookers lined the footpaths outside Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s garden gates to see the foreigners go in and come out. Many of the Japanese made their way from the port to Kew in the trains, and their confusion over what to them was the very complicated financial method of paying fares and receiving transfers and fare-box tickets was a source of sympathetic amusement to local passengers.

The house and grounds were thrown open to Lady McEacharn’s guests and although rain threatened it fortunately held off and the trim lawns and floral beds of Goathland were seen at their best by those who strolled about the gardens. It was rather a pity that the haze obscured the view of Melbourne, which from Studley-park hill is one of the best. Now that our Japanese visitors have been to so many entertainments here it is noticeable how very much at home they appear. The national good manners, which are world- renowned lead them to be quite at their ease, and they chat to acquaintances with the greatest amiability.
Lady McEacharn received indoors, and the visitors passed through the room to the drawingroom, where a concert was held, and to the diningroom and breakfastroom where refreshments were served under the direction of Mrs. J. H. Williams.

On the lawn the band of the flagship, by kind permission of the admiral, played both Japanese and European airs. The squadron band wears correct scarlet, and plays from music scored in European notation, which gives a strangely unfamiliar sound to the Japanese national anthem usually played on the samsen and koto, and it surely was the climax of cosmopolitanism when the Japanese performed Offenbach and Bizet. What seemed to amuse the visitors immensely was some Highland dancing by girls and boys, in Scotch dress, on the lawn, and the wild skirl of the pipes was evidently a new sensation.

As in all the entertainments of the week, the Japanese themselves were the chief attraction. Every item of their uniform was explained by them with great pride. The quaint five-leaved brass buttons which adorn their caps and coat sleeves represent the the cherry “brossom” as they pronounce it, for Japanese always lisp at the letter “l”. It was amusing to see them clustering … around the table with aerated waters in the diningroom and drinking their favourite lemonade with an enjoyment which the British naval officer would be far from sharing.

At Goathland is a fine collection of Japanese art works. The big bronze Buddhist temple lanterns in the garden were much admired, also the dwarf trees in pots, some of the trees being over a century old, a dwarf maple showing its autumn tints only a few inches high and a “matsu” (pine tree) being two of the best. The exquisitely worked “kakemonos” on the walls, and the cabinets of lacquer and ironwood, richly carved, showed great taste in the national art of Japan.

Lady McEacharn wore myrtle green cloth, with vest of billowy white chiffon, collar and cuffs of white silk embroidered with Japanese needlework in various tones of green; toque of Parma violets. Miss McEacharn wore pink frieze, with velvet of a darker shade, and collar of Venetian point. The guests were representative of the social and mercantile circles, and numbered about four hundred. The musical programme was under the direction of Madame Kellermann. Madame Albertine Gay and M. Boffard sang. [7]


Order of the Rising Sun, 2nd Class

Two years later, in April 1905, The Aukland Star reported that ‘The Mikado of Japan has conferred honours upon several several prominent Australians, in connection with the visit of the Japanese squadron, under Admiral Kamimura, to Australian ports in 1903’. Sir Edmund Barton, who had been Prime Minister in 1903 received the ‘First Order of the Rising Sun’; McEacharn, the ‘Second Order’. Rear-Admiral Fanshawe received the ‘First Order of the Sacred Treasure’. [8]

As an interesting side note, McEacharn’s appointment as consul was given the King’s approval in September 1903, some months after it had occurred in reality [9].

This was not to be the last grand party at Goathland in the McEacharn era, nor the end of all things Japanese. Of these, more will emerge in subsequent entries.

[1] Reeves S 2012, Thematic Environmental History, City of Boroondara (242 pages). The TEH can be downloaded in PDF format from the City of Boroondara website.
[2] Heritage Victoria 2009, Victoria’s Framework of Historical Themes, Heritage Council of Victoria.
[3] Reeves S 2012, Ibid, p 41-42.
[4] The Mercury [Hobart], 22 April 1903, p 6.
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Brisbane Courier, 5 May 1903, p 7.
[7] The Argus, 21 May 1903, p 5.
[8] Aukland Star, Volume XXXVI, Issue 89, 14 April 1905, p 5.
[9] London Gazette, September 19 1903.