Captain ‘Old King’ Cole: from Port Phillip Pioneer to Victorian Patriarch.  -  a talk by John Botham. 
John Botham spent a career in the RAF and with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority before developing an interest in early Victorian history. He assisted with the production of La Trobe’s Jolimont, A walk round my garden (2006) and worked tirelessly thereafter to develop an understanding amongst government and the public of the heritage importance of the La Trobe’s Cottage.
Our photo shows John enjoying a pre-lunch drink with Ian Pohl and Noel McInnes. 
John told us that Captain George Ward Cole arrived in Melbourne in 1840 following a career in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, including the sacking of Washington, and in the merchant marine. He was prominent in early Melbourne society, marrying into the McCrae family and building one of the first houses in Brighton, St Ninian’s, where Edward La Trobe Bateman worked on the garden.
Cole built the first private wharf on the bank of the Yarra, known as Cole’s Wharf and developed shipping facilities in Port Phillip, providing sea transport both locally and to other colonies. He was however the victim of sovereign risk, when changing govermnments imposed different rules and wharfage costs. He conducted a long campaign for compensation, or for the government to buy the wharf, but it was not until 1868 that the government bought his wharf for £19,000, a fraction of the initial construction costs and the lost income due to governments changing the rules. 
 He served on the Legislative Council for 20 years. 
Although Cole had seven children, none married and his memory died out with them. John Botham’s talk gave us the opportunity to rediscover this virtually forgotten patriarch of early Melbourne.
We heard  the story of  his life in early Melbourne, his entrepreneurial activities and work as a respected politician in amazing dertail.
You can read the full story by John Botham at