This climate necessitated a hands-on approach to managing the business. Once the Melbourne branch was established, McArthur and Falconer had the grounds around the premises cleared to give McArthur’s guard dogs (shipped over from the UK) clear run. For weeks McArthur and Falconer slept with the bank’s cash chest between their beds.
McArthur also played a key role in expanding the bank’s presence across the state and opening branches on the Victorian goldfields.
After opening a branch in Portland, Victoria, McArthur opted to return to travel by sea. On the return journey, the ship’s captain, who had undertaken to call for them on his return from Adelaide, at the last moment demanded a surcharge of GBP 150.
Rather than wasting precious capital, McArthur responded by buying horses and rode the arduous and rugged 250 miles across country to Melbourne.
It was only once the gold rush had died down McArthur could enjoy some of the prosperity he played a key role in establishing.
Like many of today’s tech leaders, McArthur was a patron of the arts and the McArthur Gallery of the National Gallery of Victoria is named after him.
He was also a keen cricket player – playing in the first ever recorded game of cricket in Victoria and captaining the Melbourne Cricket Club.
Meanwhile, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the business he helped to establish endures to this day.
James Wilson is a bluenotes contributor