…the best asset was probably the clear running waters of the Sugarloaf or Running Creek…
In 1857 John Archibald Macfarlane purchased the lease for the ‘Running Creek’ station, at the foot of the Plenty Ranges, from McLean and Lewis. Improvements on the run at this time consisted of ‘a few shepherds’ huts and a stockyard’. The best asset was probably the clear running waters of the Sugarloaf or Running Creek, which descends the picturesque valley from above Mason’s Falls to join the Arthurs Creek below the junction with the Deep Creek. The Macfarlanes came from Ardchattan on the shores of Loch Etive in Argyllshire, to the northeast of Oban in the Scottish Highlands. The homestead was renamed ‘Ardchattan’ as ‘the country reminded them strongly of the Highlands’.
John and Elizabeth Macfarlane arrived in Australia in the Marco Polo in 1853. They established Brighton Park School, a private school in Wellington Street, Brighton, which was conducted along Utopian lines until about 1875. During this time Ardchattan was largely a holiday retreat in the charge of Patrick Hickey and his wife Ellen. Merle Macfarlane, born in 1902, recorded that ‘Patrick had been a gardener at Brighton and his wife the cook. They afterwards bought a place of their own’, at Hickey’s Corner, now the crossroads at Doreen. ‘Through the Hickeys many of their Irish friends and relatives settled in the district’. Bill Payne in ‘The Quiet Hills’ records the tradition that for a time Hickey’s Store, at the north eastern corner of the crossroads, was the local ‘watering hole’ for ‘mountain dew’ or poteen distilled on the Sugarloaf.
Under the Duffy Land Act of 1862, leases in the Arthurs Creek district were cancelled. The lands were surveyed and thrown open for selection. The Macfarlanes retained part of the former Running Creek Station including the Ardchattan homestead block. Members of the family including John A., James Alexander (Alick), Mary Elizabeth (Bessie) and John Horton Macfarlane, as well as Patrick Hickey, were able to select nearby land. In about 1875, John and Elizabeth with their six children, four sons and two daughters, moved to Ardchattan to live. John A. Macfarlane died at Ardchattan, Running Creek Station, on July 25, 1876, at the age of 66 years. His wife Elizabeth died at Camperdown in 1899 at the age of 84 years.
A mob of wild horses known as The Flyers frequented the foothills of the Plenty Ranges above Ardchattan. After coming down the spur between the Arthurs and Running Creeks, the horses stopped to drink from a clear pool with a rocky bottom. The pool, known as The Flyer’s Hole, was located not far from the site of the ‘Charnwood’ homestead on the lower reaches of the Running Creek. Some of the first farm horses used by the Draper family came from this mob.
Following the death of his father, James Alexander (J.A. or Alick)) took over the running of Ardchattan. He was an original member of the Arthurs Creek Fruit Growers’ Association when it was formed in May 1890. In 1894 he married Adela Barton (Ada) Reid, eldest daughter of William Reid of Hazel Glen. The couple had five children, two sons and three daughters. Ken Macfarlane, born in 1899, remembered Ardchattan as ‘a farm mainly embracing an orchard – apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries, etc. There were also the usual horses, cattle and a few sheep and pigs’… ‘Bush fires were not uncommon in the summer, they would start in the mountains and the north winds would tend to blow them down on to our property.’
For many years the homestead built near the Running Creek, was regarded as the finest in the district. In 1917, W. Smithers Gadd JP, Secretary of the Early Pioneers’ Association, referred to ‘…Mr. James Alexander Macfarlane, of that beautiful property known as Ardchattan, situated in the Streamville district. The red roof of his beautiful homestead stands out prominently when seen from the top of the Plenty Ranges’.
Bessie Macfarlane, eldest daughter of John A. and Elizabeth Macfarlane, died at Ardchattan in 1919 at the age of 73 years. James Alexander (J.A. or Alick) died on December 5, 1922 at the age of 71 years. Both were buried in the family grave at the Hazel Glen (Arthurs Creek) Cemetery. Ada, wife of Alick Macfarlane, died in 1956 at the age of 95.
The Ardchattan Estate, ‘comprising 334 acres of rich flats, and good agricultural and grazing land’ was advertised for sale by public auction at Scott’s Hotel, Melbourne on 23 November 1922.
A clearing sale was held at Ardchattan prior to the final sale of the Macfarlane’s Running Creek properties. My grandfather James Draper, an avid reader, purchased a fine bookcase at this clearing sale. The old homestead no longer exists, but the view along the Running Creek valley towards the timbered slopes of the Sugarloaf and the Kinglake National Park is still one of the finest in the district.
Source : Notes from the Macfarlane family provided by Barbara Hall, granddaughter of Alick and Ada Macfarlane.