Racing Victoria’s John Wren exhibition

The Good Ol’ Age has alerted me to the fact that from 7 September 2006, the Victorian Racing Museum in Federation Square is holding an exhibition about John Wren, pictured, at one time Australia’s richest man. Born in Collingwood in 1871, he died in Fitzroy in 1953 aged 82, having lived across the river in Kew, in what is now Xavier’s junior school, Burke Hall (then Studley House), a man who would have been an avid reader of Abbotsford Blog (but not its reviews of pubs and bars, for he was a teetotaller) had he only lived to see the day. He had toured the virtuosic violinist Fritz Kreisler, set up an opera company, owned The Criterion restaurant opposite St Paul’s, built a racecourse in Richmond, supposedly given two million pounds to charity over 5 years, bet his life savings on a legendary Melbourne Cup winner, Carbine, owned the 1904 Caulfied Cup winner, Murmur, built a public pool on the Yarra at Abbotsford, preferred the Collingwood Football Club to the Melbourne Club, and promoted boxing and cycling. What else he did besides is a matter of some controversy, though he did get right up the nose of my relative, Bill Judkins (one of Keith Dunstan’s favourite wowsers). The Judster was a Methodist lay preacher who, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, saw “Wren, drink, gambling and Catholicism all combined into one terrible evil.” Short, bandy and sharp-featured, the Wrenster and the Judster were apparently frequently mistaken for one another to their mutual embarrassment. Continue reading “Racing Victoria’s John Wren exhibition”