MacPherson Robertson’s legacy is felt all over Melbourne and his legendary philanthropy touched Darebin too. Born in Ballarat, Robertson returned to Scotland with his mother as a ten year old while his father worked in Fiji. He returned to Australia in 1874 and set about continuing his career as a confectioner, having worked in a confectionary factory in Leith, Scotland. He was apprenticed to the Victorian Confectionary Company but soon started his own business, making lollies in his parents’ home in Fitzroy. MacRobertson’s boomed and by 1925 boasted turnover of £2,000,000, with Robertson being one of Melbourne’s richest men.
His charity work was peerless at the time, highlighted by a £100,000 donation during the height of the depression in 1933. The money built a herbarium in the Botanical Gardens, a bridge across the Yarra at Grange Road, South Yarra and a girls’ high school. The latter two were named after him and all three projects helped stem the massive unemployment problem of the day.
Robertson’s connection to Darebin came from a gesture in 1913 when ‘Mac’, as he was known, set aside the use of the grounds of his villa, ‘Carmalia’, in Station Street Fairfield, for use as a recreational area. He invited local residents to form a club, the Fairfield Bowling, Croquet and Tennis Club, with Robertson installed as the club’s inaugural president.
The club was opened on the 8th of February 1913 and continued on at ‘Carmalia’ until 1921 when the old club was disbanded and the Fairfield Bowling Club Company was formed, moving to its current premises in Gillies St. Robertson had been made club patron in 1920 and his family held shares in the Fairfield Bowling Club Company from its formation in 1921 until 1943 when they were donated back to the club.
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
Webb, Alan. (n.d.) Fairfield Bowling Club: Club History. Unpublished manuscript.