Mark, James (1831-1893)

Born in 1831 at Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.

In 1774, the town’s golf club made history by admitting and encouraging women players, a daring step for those days. James Mark brought this go ahead spirit to North Melbourne.

Coming to Victoria in 1854, he tried his luck on the Bendigo goldfields. Disillusioned, he opened a business in Melbourne with fair success.

In 1864 he took over the George Hotel in Victoria Street, which was licensed in 1854. By 1873 he owned it.

For centuries there were “George” pubs in England, named after the patron saint. During the reigns of the Georges (1714-1834) the King superseded the Saint, and there was a rash of “George” pubs. Hence the name of our hotel.

In 1865, Mark became a councillor in Hotham and for the two years 1868-9 was mayor. He proved a catfish in the council tank.

One result was the annexation of the Flemington bank to the town of Hotham. This gave the council control of the area.

The embankment at the approach to Flemington Bridge was cut away, thus diverting the drainage of Royal Park, which previously ran through Hotham into the Moonee Ponds Creek.

Mark’s persistent agitating carried, by five votes to four, a proposal to raise a loan for permanent public works. The four dissentients left the meeting. A bare quorum remained.

Mark then proposed that a part of the loan be ear-marked for a town hall. The other four disagreed. Mark left the meeting, and there was no quorum. He returned only when the others promised to agree.

Thus began a move which gave North Melbourne its town hall in June, 1876, focal centre of a vigorous and elegant social life for many years.

Mark took a lively interest in all sport and generously encouraged local clubs. He strongly supported charities, especially the Benevolent Asylum, just up the street from his hotel, which he ran until 1881.

So, North Melbourne has its Mark Street.(1)

(1) Northern Advertiser, 10/2/1972. Blanchard collection, “What’s in a Name” at North Melbourne Library.
(2) Argus 17/4/1893. Family Notices page 1.