eNewsletter September 2017

RAA Liaison Letter 2017 – Autumn Edition 39 The Mount Schanck Trophy – An Essay Lieutenant Colonel Con Lucey ED, RFD (Retd) Introduction The Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy was inaugurated to acknowledge the most efficient Field Artillery Battery in the Commonwealth Militia. Winners were to be determined annually by the measure of their efficiency in all aspects of training. While units still vie for this prestigious award, it is now subject to modified conditions. A Mr William John Turner Clarke of Melbourne formalised the offer of a perpetual trophy to the Minister of Defence by letter in June 1912. What started out as a casual quest to determine the origins of the Trophy has morphed into a narrative based on an apparent misspelling and the identity of the donor. The donor has been identified as the then owner of Mount Schanck Station in South Australia and the spelling variation has been resolved but not solved. There are three elements to this story of the Trophy; a legendary family named; Clarke, the lavish Victorian estate named ‘Rupertswood’ and the owner of a South Australian estate named after a volcanic cone, Mount Schanck (later Schank). The William John Turner Clarke who donated the trophy was a third generation member of the celebrated Clarke family and it is that family where this essay on the Trophy commences. The Clarke Clan The doyen of this Australian Clarke family was the remarkable William (‘Big’) John Turner Clarke (1805-1874). It is on record that a ‘WJT’ Clarke presented the Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy in 1912. However, this William John Turner, an offspring of 'Big' William Clarke, can certainly be discounted as the donor as he died in 1897. His father, ‘Big’ William was born in 1805 in Somerset, England. He married Eliza Dowling, and in 1829, they immigrated to Van Diemen's Land. For the duration of the voyage, William travelled in the hold of the ship, caring for the stock he had purchased with Eliza's dowry. William and his wife Eliza had three sons William John Turner (1831-1897), Thomas Bigges (1832-1878) and Joseph (1834-1895) and seven daughters. Manning Clark declares, that ‘Big’ Clarke ‘made his fortune selling stolen cattle’ and by ‘the 1870’s owned one hundred and twenty thousand acres in Victoria… and was…worth two and a half million pounds.’ His sobriquet was no passing jest for Clarke was so huge that, in his declining years, ‘it took four men to carry him from his carriage into a house’. 1 In some circles, he was known as ‘Moneyed’ Clarke, for his ‘ruthless land hunger…consummate ability in pursuit of fortune…[and] ‘parsimonious habits'’. 2 In 1836, he departed Van Dieman’s Land for Port Philip and after initially selecting land at Ballarat decided to locate closer to Melbourne. In 1850, his interest focused on Sunbury, north- west of Melbourne. The problem was that it was not freehold land and was inconveniently occupied by squatters. The Jackson brothers who came across to the Port Phillip District in 1835 were squatting on this land. However, the squatters had made a fatal error by not registered their claim. Cunningly, Clarke negotiated with the government and handed over a measure of gold for the 31,000 acres (12 500 ha). He then bought a further 36,000 acres (14 500 ha) and promptly evicted the squatters. ‘Big’ Clarke then conveniently occupied Jackson's two-roomed cottage, which was subsequently developed by the family as it grew into a 12-room homestead. 1 Manning Clark, A Short History of Australia , 2 nd rev.ed. , (New York: Mentor, 1980), 145. 2 Hugh Anderson, “Clarke, William John Turner (1805- 1874),” http://www.abd.online anu.edu.au/abdonline.html (accessed August 30, 2008) Rest