A rare trophy with a history dating back to the late 1870s has been returned to its rightful home at the Ballarat Yacht Club.
The silver wine pitcher, decorated with a relief of women dancing, had been awarded to the wealthy Ballarat entrepreneur William Bailey in 1878.
Ballarat Yacht Club historian and archivist Quinton Wilkinson says it is the oldest trophy the club now holds, and dates to the club’s foundation.
The finely engraved inscription on the neck of the jug reads the trophy was ‘the Gift of the Mayor H Leggo Esq’. It was awarded to Bailey on October 24, 1878 for winning the regatta on Lake Wendouree in his cutter Vagabond.
William Bailey had bought Vagabond from its owner, a Mr Edwards of Princess Ridge, for 80 guineas in December 1877 after seeing it race on Lake Wendouree.
Weighing three-and-a-half tons, it was originally an Albert Park Lake racer brought to Ballarat by train and then carted up Sturt Street by horse and waggon in front of cheering crowds.
Bailey was a keen sailor and owned other cutters named Viola and Catherine. A very wealthy man, he built his impressive mansion on the corner of Drummond and Mair streets. It is now part of St John of God Hospital.
William Bailey was born in 1827 in Wellington, Somersetshire, and came to Australia in 1848.
He landed at Melbourne and was employed at a wine and spirit merchants. However he remained only a short time, and had a stay of eight months at Ampitheatre Station, Lexton. He was then made manager at Mt Cook Station, Werribee.
He left Mt Cook Station in 1851, having been bitten, like so many others, by gold fever. After initially being involved in mining he entered into partnership with Wilson Brothers in the operation of general stores.
Bailey returned to mining with the Staffordshire Reef Company near Smythesdale, where he remained for three years as manager before accepting a similar position with the Egerton Mining Company where he stayed for 12 years.
It was here that he derived his nickname. The mine was owned by the renowned Learmonth family. Bailey was a loyal manager and when the Learmonths decided to sell the mine he arranged the sale.
As a reward the Learmonth’s paid him a five per cent commission on the sale, amounting to a huge 675 pounds. Bailey was apparently so moved by this action that ‘tears coursed down his cheeks as he mumbled choked words of gratitude’. His detractors referred to him as ‘Weeping Bailey' from that time on.
William Bailey also purchased western district properties and other mines. Bailey and his wife Emily had eight children between 1861 and 1876.
According to Ballarat and Vicinity (1894) at that time there were five sons and one daughter still living, and Bailey was considered one of the wealthiest gentleman of the county. He built his mansion, (Bailey’s Mansion) complete with tower, on the corner of Drummond and Mair streets. It was designed by architects Caselli and Figgis and was completed in 1883. It is now part of St John’s Hospital
Mr Wilkinson says the trophy was discovered in a Hampton antique shop in the 2000s. It was purchased later by Ballarat Yacht Club treasurer Brian Canny and his wife Anna, who had tracked it it down.
They donated the now restored jug to the club.
Quinton Wilkinson says the trophy is just one of many awarded to members over the decades he would like to see return to the club. He says the Beaurepaire Cup is another that has reappeared in recent times; however trophies and cups awarded by the Berry, Tunbridge, Seward, John, Faull, McPherson, Flemming, Bath and other prominent Ballarat families have eluded him so far.
He says if anyone has any trophies or other Ballarat Yacht Club memorabilia they think is of interest, they are welcome to contact him on 0417011821.