A love story. The final chapter.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we find another handsome young chap, Edward, enjoying a summer holiday in the seaside town of Lorne, where Betty and  Edgar had  met all those years before.

Perhaps Lorne is the Lourdes of love matches because there Edward met a gorgeous girl called Johanna who was also on holidays and they too, shortly after meeting, began  their very own love affair.

After knowing each other for a little bit, Edward took Jo out for dinner and they began, as you do, to ask about each other’s backgrounds.

“Where are your family from” Edward asked Jo. “Oh, you wouldn’t know it” Jo replied. “A tiny little town in the country called Minyip”.

*a moment of stunned silence*

“I do know it actually”, Ed replied. “That’s where my family is from.”

*more moments of stunned silence*.

They were both more than a little shocked by the coincidence.’

And what a coincidence. Next day Jo was straight on the phone to her mum asking whether she knew of the Waller family from Minyip. Of course she did. Everyone knew everyone.

Jo’s mum recounted how they were great old family friends, how Ed’s father had even  briefly gone out with one of Jo’s aunties and  how later on Jo’s uncle had held Ed’s dad’s buck’s party (he didn’t end up with Jo’s aunt – which is somewhat of a relief for the purposes of this story!) in his shearing shed. Later on Jo and Ed also heard the now famous family story of their respective grandfathers; those two great mates and their eponymous sheepdogs: Edgar and Dave.

It was a little later again that they discovered, in yet another beautiful coincidence, that Ed’s grandparents Betty and Edgar had also met in the seaside town of Lorne.

And so they lived awhile and loved a lot and then they decided to be married.

So where would be the perfect spot to hold a wedding forged between two families with such a long and rich story of friendship and love? A wedding between two people whose bond is so steeped in history that it seems somehow destined and yet, on the odds of probability, is so unlikely. I mean, what are the odds of these two people a) meeting b) meeting in Lorne and c) falling in love and marrying?

If I had to guess, I’d say roughly about the same odds as a Hollywood silent movie star moving to a tiny town in rural Australia with a gentleman farmer and living happily ever after.

In a perfect world, they would get married at Mooramong, Scobie and Claire Mackinnon (the aforementioned silent movie star’s ) beautiful property and the setting in which they played out their great love;  a place that is not only stunningly beautiful but somewhere that echoes in every corner with the spirit of a great love.

A place where a moving ceremony,

included an unexpected guest who was quite possibly egged on by the spirit of that life-long adorer of animals, Claire Mackinnon.

A place where after the ceremony, their guests sipped sangria around a stunning pool and garden

then ducked through a little arched wooden doorway

to another exquisite garden

until, enticed by this promise,

they arrived, just as twilight fell, at a magical room set amongst majestic silver gums.

Well, sometimes it is a perfect world.

Ed’s parents have lived on and managed Mooramong for over a decade. It’s only a few kilometers from the farm where Edward grew up. This whole area is the place Edward feels most connected to of anywhere on earth.

As I stood , some 70 years after Claire and Scobie’s story began and some 60 after Betty and Edgar’s to witness Ed and Jo declare their love and eternal committment, it felt inordinately and quintessentially right.  Their love was always destined to be great and enduring, but with the loving threads of  Betty and Edgar, Betty and Dave and Scobie and Claire already woven so closely and intricately through and around Ed and Jo’s own story well that, I think,  can’t help but make for something quite extraordinary.

So how did I come to be at this wonderful wedding?  Well in case it isn’t clear, Betty (Edgar’s wife) was my (and Edward’s) beloved grandmother and is the Betty whom Edgar twirled around the dance floor in St Kilda and for whom this blog and indeed my whole business is named. The other Betty (there were a lot back then) and Dave are Jo’s grandparents.

So Edward is my cousin. But he is much more than that to me. I think of him as a brother and of the gorgeous Jo as a sister.

My aunt and uncle, Ed’s parents, manage Mooramong. That includes a large working farm (over 10,000 hectares) and all outbuildings and residences including of course, Claire and Scobie’s homestead the interior of which really does have to be seen to be believed. It is simply amazing. And because it was bequeathed  “as is” to the National Trust of Australia on Claire’s death, it is literally as though Claire and Scobie have both just popped out for a walk and will be back at any moment.

Their boots stand ready for riding and half-empty bottles of expensive cosmetics and perfumes (shipped in from New York) stand on Claire’s dressing room table.  Beside them are the headbands and other floral adornments Claire loved to sport in her hair. There are grand rooms, spectacular rooms and simple but fascinating rooms like the kitchen with its enormous Aga stove. But most moving of all for me was Claire’s shower cap, still hanging on a hook beside her shower. Such a humble, somehow human thing.

I’m so privileged to have been able to witness Ed and Jo’s marriage this weekend just gone. I think the thought of these three wonderful interwoven love stories will comfort and inspire me my entire life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing them.

A love story. Part 2.

The year is 1918. In the tiny country town of Skipton in the Western District of Victoria, Australia, the townsfolk are all aflutter becaue the wealthiest gentleman farmer in the district, Scobie McKinnon, is returning home from an extended trip overseas to his property, Mooramong, with a bride.

So who was the girl who had finally turned the head of the quiet and handsome Scobie, the Western District’s most eligible bachelor? Surely no ordinary gal.

Well, they never expected she’d be ordinary. But never in a million years suspected she would be quite so extraordinary.

Scobie had fallen in love with and married one of Hollywood’s most well-known silent movie stars. She was a veritable siren of the 1920s silent-movie genre.  And she was coming to live in that tiny country town. From Hollywood. Hollywood. From Hollywood to Skipton. It could scarce be believed.

Claire Adams appeared in  over 40 silent movies in many of which she starred alongside some of the genre’s leading men.

And now she lived in Skipton. However, far from what you might expect Claire did not pine for her former glamorous life but rather threw herself into her new life and love and with her inimitable style, grace and sense of fun, brought a touch of Hollywood to the Australian bush.

Her first order of business was to transform the main residence on Scobie’s property into an exquisite, hacienda-style haven. She also arranged for the building of what was, at the time, the largest privately owned pool in the Southern hemisphere. A 1920’s art deco-style delight, Scobie and Claire’s pool glittered and shone like an  oasis in the hot Australian bush and they hosted countless parties beside it.

(Photo by ajft on Flickr)

As often as they entertained Hollywood stars and associated movie bigwigs who made the long voyage from the US to see how Claire had transformed this pocket of sun-parched Australian land into her own personal jazz folly, they also hosted locals. Some elderly people in Skipton still recall the dizzying glamour of not just the glittering pool and parties but also Claire’s magnetic presence. She simply oozed Hollywood style.

But this never prevented her throwing her heart and soul into every aspect of Mooramong, which she adored. She beautified it, helped to protect it literally with her own hands when a shocking bushfire threatened one terrible summer and cared tenderly for all the animals on it.

As well as the farm dogs, Claire adopted countless stray dogs, often having them shipped down from the city by train from the Lort Smith Animal Hospital of which she was a patron and vice-president. She could never ever stand to see an animal in distress or left behind. So it’s no surprise that despite all the handsome leading men she appeared beside on film she is said always to have maintained that Rin Tin Tin was her favourite!

Scobie was, at heart,  a farmer and despite having enough money to never need work a day in his life, he immersed himself passionately in every aspect of the management of his property. Like all sheep farmers he readily accepted that the expendability of individual animals was a sometimes brutal necessity. Claire, however, was committed to each individual ovine soul.

Video footage shows her kneeling next to a  prostrate sheep which she has covered with a blanket and water bottles and which she is petting maternally. Goodness knows what ailed it but you can just imagine what the hardened farm hands on the property, not to mention Scobie himself, made of that. And yet they indulged her. With pleasure. Because who could resist such a charming woman, doing such caring work? No one.

In a move that somewhat scandalised the staid Skipton community of the time, gossips had a field day discussing rumours of a green leather cocktail bar that took up an entire room in the lovebirds home. The rumours were true and  Claire and Scobie introduced the phenomenon  of the “cocktail hour’ to the probably willing but necessarily outwardly scandalised, hard-working rural community.

You would be forgiven for thinking that a love like this – a love between two people whose worlds could not be further apart – might be destined for failure but it was, in fact, the very opposite. Gregarious, beautiful Claire (who was, her birth certificate attests, at least a decade older than her husband) and handsome, reserved Scobie enjoyed a love story that few do. They adored each other all their lives.

At their request their ashes were buried together under a headstone tucked back from the manicured lawn that surrounds the pool that was  the scene of so much fun during their lives.

The reason we know so much about Claire and Scobie is because Claire used part of her substantial personal fortune (inherited when her former husband, a Hollywood movie director many years older than she, died)  to purchase video cameras and film – a thing almost entirely unheard of for a private person back then.

Claire, thankfully for us,  never lost her love of film nor her theatrical bent and she documented countless hours of her own and Scobie’s life in film. These reels sat undiscovered in metal tins for decades until a cameraman and film buff shooting something in the Mooramong  homestead came across them and, curious,  began to investigate. Above and beyond all the good times and glamour, the reels revealed their singular love story.

Thanks to the generous philanthropic bequests they left on their deaths, the spirit of Claire and Scobie  still pervades every corner of Mooramong. Claire’s perfumes still sit on her dressing table. Their gramophone stands, needle poised, ready to play the next jazz record.

At Claire’s direction Mooramong was bequeathed to the National Trust of Australia to be maintained as a flora and fauna park. Other generous bequests were made to animal welfare. Nor was the local community forgotten. As well bequests to friends and family, Scobie and Claire left an annual bequest of $20,000 to the tiny Skipton Primary School. Many Australian primary schools feature a picture of The Queen in a prominent position. Skipton Primary has a large photo of Claire and Scobie and to this day every child at the school can tell you their story.

Part 3, the final chapter, coming soon.

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In case you didn’t click on the link above, you MUST (yep, it’s an order) watch this trailer of the documentary movie: Mooramong – Private Hollywood (found on IMBD.com) and released by Caneva Media Productions in 2009. It was Caneva Media Productions that collated the reels of film that were discovered and this documentary brings Claire and Scobie as well as Mooramong and its surrounds back to life in the most wonderful way. It’s utterly gorgeous. Sigh.

Photos watermarked with (c) 2009 CMP are used with permission from and thanks to Caneva Media Productions.

Unless otherwise credited, other photos of Claire from allstarpics.net