Royal Reels: Gambling


This political postcard is a prelude to not one but three bitterly fought Federal election battles over a three-year period from March 1901 to March 1904 in the Electorate of Melbourne between the above-mentioned rivals. The postcard reads:

Federal House of Representatives
Melbourne Electorate
Sir Malcolm D. McEacharn
Respectfully Solicits Your
Polling Day: Friday, 29th March, 1901,
From 8 o’clock a.m. to 7 p.m.
At St. James’ School, 349 Bourke St. West, Melbourne        (Fig. 1)

The 1901 election was the first Federation of Australia election held, between two men, which produced the following results:

Sir Malcolm McEacharn4985 (60%),
Dr. William Maloney3212 (39%),
Informal66 ( 1%),

and Sir Malcolm was declared elected.

In the election of December 1903, the results were considerably different for Sir Malcolm had won by a narrow lead:

Sir Malcolm McEacharn7756 (49.5%),
Dr. William Maloney7679 (49.0%),
Informal219 ( 1.4%),

but the election was declared void by the Court of Disputed Returns on a technicality. This ruling came about as follows: Maloney filed a petition ‘praying for a declaration that McEacharn was not duly elected, and that he, the petitioner, was duly elected, or, in the alternative, for a declaration that the election was void’ mainly on the grounds of irregularities and illegal procedures in the conduct of the election, particularly in relation to postal votes.

William also alleged that Sir Malcolm was incapable of being lawfully elected a member of the House of Representatives, as at the time of the election, Sir Malcolm was Honorary Consul for the Empire of Japan, and as such ‘under an acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to such a foreign power’.

A by-election was held in March 1904 between the same two candidates and the results were as follows:

Dr. William Maloney8667 (52%),
Sir Malcolm McEacharn7808 (47%),
Informal225 ( 1%).

`Sir Malcolm then abandoned politics, his seat on the City of Melbourne Council (of which he had been Mayor), his command in the Victorian Scottish Regiment (which he had helped to found), and his adopted land of Australia, returning to his native Scotland in 1905. He died suddenly at the age of 58 of heart failure in Cannes, France on 10 March 1910, survived by a wife, two daughters and a son, as well as an estate probated at over £200,000.

Dr. Maloney after winning the by-election in 1904, held the seat until just before his death in 1940 at the age of 86. Altogether, Dr. William Maloney served in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives for fifty one years. Both men are shown in Figure 2.

Both William Robert Maloney (1854-1940) and Malcolm Donald McEacharn (1852-1910) have received extensive coverage in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography site, and the following short excerpts are provided as background to their 3 year electoral fight.

Maloney was Australian-born (West Melbourne) of uncertain paternal parentage and underprivileged; medically qualified at St. Mary’s Hospital, London; adopted a bohemian style; a life-long man of the people, both in the practice of medicine and politics, who supported women’s suffrage, a strong Labour man; a butt of the Press, seeming too extreme, eccentric and indeed rash; he fell foul of the local branch of the British Medical Association, partly due to his support of abortion; he was often regarded as a light-weight politician, never a serious contender for ministerial rank, in spite of his half century of parliamentary life, at Victorian and Federal level; he gave away much of his income, essentially as a ‘social worker’ for care of children, the elderly, the unemployed and returned soldiers; accorded a State funeral at 86 at the request of P.M. Robert Menzies, with an eulogy by former Governor General Sir Isaac Isaacs – ‘no one deserved more the grateful memory of Australians’.

McEachern was London born of Scottish origin, lost his father due to a shipwreck at an early age; in his early 20’s built a successful ship-broking business, settled in Queensland ca. 1880, and he accrued personal wealth in many and varied businesses; in 1893 he entered Melbourne politics as a city councillor, becoming Mayor (1897-99) which was ‘a passport to knighthood’ (1900), and Lord Mayor in 1903; he entered Federal politics listed as a member of the Protectionist party, where his main support came from business men and property owners; during his campaign he expressed his strong opposition to women’s suffrage; he abandoned politics after one defeat which was widely regarded as a mistake; his life was privileged by dint of business acumen, always looking out for ‘the main chance’; he was vain and obsessively neat; he left Australia in 1905, and his life was cut short at 58.

Could these 2 men, brief political rivals for 3 years, have been more different in background from birth to death, in regards to work experience, political ideals and the need to acquire wealth?

Categories: Political