Mr Melbourne

Mr Melbourne

Mr MelbourneA reader posed an interesting question: is there a "Mr Melbourne"?

In our view, Mr Melbourne would be a Melburnian (born here), passionate and knowledgeable about the city of Melbourne.

While he was alive, Ron Walker was widely regarded as Mr Melbourne as he was truly a proud passionate Melburnian making it his life's work to make Melbourne a better place.

Other than Ron..

Max Hitchins is known as Mr Melbourne Cup. His system for picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup has worked for 25 out of the last 30 years.

Harry Melbourne (Freddo Frog creator) can lay claim to be the real Mr Melbourne because it's his real name. Sadly, he passed away on January 29, 2007.

Mr Melbourne

It really is true that one person's trash is another person's treasure. After Graeme, of Reservoir, told us he'd seen a Mr Melbourne figure nearly 50 years ago in a Lakes Entrance shopfront, we found the statue's new mystery owner.

The statue of the long-forgotten cartoon character from The Sun News-Pictorial now takes pride of place in the dining room of Aaron Watts, of Traralgon, after a 10-year quest by his mum.

Christine Watts, also from Traralgon, spent many Christmas holidays with her grandparents at Lakes Entrance from about 1956.

"I often visited a general store in the main street with my grandmother and this is where I first saw the Mr Melbourne statue," she says.

Over the years, the statue swapped location from shop to shop, and Christine asked different owners if she could buy the statue.

"The answer was always ‘we would never sell' ," she says.

"The shop changed hands in about 1979. On holidays now with my own family, I went and asked if they would sell the plaster statue. The young girl serving me said ‘no' .

"A man came from behind the counter and said, ‘Everything is for sale at a price.' We decided on a suitable price, and I walked out the door with my prize. I was so excited.

"I could hear the young girl say, ‘Dad, I can't believe you sold our statue.' She was really angry with him."

Surprisingly, Christine, pictured here on the day she bought the statue, didn't know about the cartoon until after she bought it.

But after years in the antique trade, she has learned the statue is quite rare.

"I've dealt in antiques all my life and I've never seen another Mr Melbourne," she says.

This article by JEN KELLY is from the June 9, 2020 issue of The Herald Sun Digital Edition.
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more.. Mr Melbourne

It seems Mr Melbourne is quite well travelled. Our recent articles on The Sun News-Pictorial cartoon character led to several readers coming forward with information on our city's 20th-century celebrity.

Jane and Mario Pinzone, of Bairnsdale, used to own the Welshpool Hotel in South Gippsland where a statue of Mr Melbourne took pride of place behind the bar.

"Apparently way back 70 years ago, the Welshpool stationmaster gave Mr Melbourne to the then publican because he said it looked like him," says Jane.

"Unfortunately Mr Melbourne is no longer with us. He was knocked off the shelf a few years ago and smashed into a thousand pieces.

"So disappointing ... he was an icon of the pub for over 40 years."

Bronwyn Starick, of Bendigo, has two of the plaster figures.

"My father (Deryck Lawes) had a menswear shop in Jeparit, in the Wimmera, from after World War II until the late 1970s and Mr Melbourne was in his shop for as long as I can remember," she says.

"I never asked where he got it from. I also have another one but I don't know anything about him."

Karyn Neilson and her husband, Allen, have found their Mr Melbourne rather useful. "He has been used as a hatstand for my husband's Akubra for many years. We did not know any history of him till he appeared in In Black & White," says Karyn, from Ballendella, near Rochester. "Allen got him from a shed cleanout back in the '70s. "We had always wondered about his origins." Gary Moore, who lives in Portarlington, has a cast-concrete Mr Melbourne that he says was in hiding for several decades.

Bev Brown, of Heidelberg, is a great niece of Harry Mitchell, who drew Mr Melbourne from 1939-64 (he was created by Jimmy Bancks in 1925).

"Harry was my grandmother's brother," says Bev. "My mum (Olive Caldwell) was very proud of her uncle."

This article by JEN KELLY is from the June 18, 2020 issue of The Herald Sun Digital Edition.
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