Monday, January 5, 2009


Craigellachie, in East St. Kilda, was built for my great-great-grandfather, William Pearson, in 1876, but his third and oldest surviving son used it as his family pied-a-terre in Melbourne after Mr. Pearson died in 1893.

This charming photograph shows my great-grandmother, Sophie Pearson, at the reins, accompanied (I think) by her sister, Aunt Nance Gooch. Sophie Pearson was an exceedingly able horsewoman, and driver.

These rather depressing photographs were taken by J. T. Collins in the 1950s, after the grounds had been so severely subdivided and hemmed in by modern buildings that it was no longer possible to capture a full view of the house, which was, and remains, carved up into flats.

It is something of a mystery to know how it was possible for the Pearsons’ considerable wealth to evaporate so completely between 1893 and 1920, when my grandmother married W. A. Borthwick, but old William Pearson’s extravagance with racehorses; the Depression of the 1890s; the closure of the Long Tunnel Mine in 1914; and enormous cost of the Great War, during which time Kilmany Park and Craigellachie both stood vacant, must have combined to make a huge dent in the assets of the younger William Pearson, who presumably died before he was entirely aware of the seriousness of his and his family’s situation.

Even so, the sum of 50,000 guineas was settled on Granny when she got married, and, during the Great Depression, thanks to the ascetic style of financial management at the Trustees Executors Company, Ltd., in Melbourne, earned a quarter of one percent per annum, evidently just enough to educate four children at private schools in Geelong.

As far as I am aware, W. A. Borthwick was not very good at making, or even preserving money.

Metung is all that is left.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting reading. My two sisters and I grew up there between 1977 and 1997. Quite a fantastic experience.