“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:20
The Macleod Family and Mac’sfield
One would hope that the William and Ann Macleod, a devout Presbyterian family of Wallan can forgive the above bible verse being taken out of context. For it is their property named “Mac’sfield” (also known as “Mac’sfield Park”) on which the following writing proceeds. Ecclesiastes 3:20 is somewhat fitting to describe what began as dust and what has regrettably once again returned to dust.
Centuries ago, a particular 733 acres of land in Wallan was nothing more than dirt, save for some scarce trees, shrubs, weeds and a plentiful supply of rocks. And it remained so until 1852 when a native of Scotland named William Macleod, who not perturbed by the state of the land began to transform it. William was a manager for J.H Wedge, the surveyor who came from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) with the Batman association. The lure of gold brought William to Victoria and after a successful time on the fields was able to purchase several allotments in Wallan which included lots 21, 25, 33 and 80 as follows:
In 1858, William sold the southern portion (117 ½ acres) of allotment 80 (initially 217 ½ acres) to John Angus Sutherland who was tollkeeper at Old Tollbar Corner.
There is some debate regarding the correct spelling of William’s surname and if should be ‘Mc’ instead ‘Mac’. The usage of ‘McLeod’ over ‘Macleod’ is seen within newspaper articles, government records and the book “Pretty Sally’s Hill” by JW Payne. There were other McLeod families in Wallan at the same time such as Alexander McLeod of lot 16 who owned McLeod’s Hotel (also known as Ardvhrack), and also Reverend Mcleod, and it is assumed that they were related to William. However, it is not my belief that they were related and that the correct spelling of William’s surname is ‘Macleod’. This is confirmed by the naming of Mac’sfield and the usage of Macleod on a wedding invitation.
William was born on November 3rd, 1819 in Sutherlandshire Scotland. The details of his voyage to Australia are unknown. Nineteen years later in 1852 the Marco Polo sailed from Liverpool to Melbourne on her maiden voyage containing 930 Assisted government immigrants. Of these immigrants was a 14 year old Ann Hall, also from Sutherlandshire, Scotland, born on March 25th, 1838. William and Ann did not meet in their native country but they were fated to spend their lives together in Australia. They were married in Melbourne in 1855 when William was 36 years old and Ann was 17 years old. That same year William built a bluestone cottage on lot 33 in Wallan where both he and Ann were to live for the remainder of their lives. They named their property “Mac’sfield” where it was a play on words using the possessive shortening of the Macleod surname (“Mac’s”) combined with “field”; they lived on the field owned by the Macleod’s. Mac’sfield is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Maxfield within newspaper articles.
William was a successful speculator in land and eventually grew Mac’sfield into 733 acres of land between the frontage to Sydney Road and the Railway line1; the land on which the Wallara Waters and Newbridge estates in Wallan reside today, with future development planned on the former site of Mac’sfield.
William and Ann made a living off the land by farming sheep and cattle as they raised their children at their Mac’sfield. Day to day work on the farm, church, and family life occupied their time. There is little written of William Macleod in the newspapers but it does appear he was held in high regard and esteem by the following appointments:
- Trustee of the Scots Church school established in Wallan in 18572
- Trustee of the Wallan Cemetery
Land was set aside for the Wallan Cemetery on May 17th, 1857 and the trustees appointed were men who served the township well and were of the following denominations:
William Hartley Budd – Anglican
Patrick Laffy – Roman Catholic
William Macleod – Presbyterian
William passed away in 1886 at the age of 67 with his cause of death listed as “disease of the stomach”. Ann was only 48 at this time but her children were capable adults who knew how to farm. And thus Ann continued on at Mac’sfield managing the property with the assistance of her children. Their names are mentioned in the Sands & McDougall’s Directory of Victoria which record the names of some of the Residents of Wallan.
Ann passed away on May 22nd, 1925 at the age of 87 and was remembered for her generosity and benevolence.
A not so well-known fact is that that the Macleod’s were neighbours with both Ned Kelly’s grandparents and parents. Until around 1864 the Quinns lived 3 miles to the west and Kelly’s 4 miles to the south. It has been said that when Ned Kelly was a young boy he would travel on foot to Mac’sfield whilst running errands for his mother and that Ann Macleod would give him a jam sandwich.
Indeed, both Ann’s charity and her “troubled neighbours” are referenced in her memorial service which was recorded in the Kilmore Free Press newspaper on June 4th, 1925:
“…and her influence went far beyond the boundaries of the circumscribed orbit in which she lived and moved-an upright, godly-woman,who through the years took on a deeper and more charming Christian culture. It seemed to me that her mind had so acquired the habit of charity that her lips could not utter an ungenerous or ungracious sentiment. Not that she was unaware of the troubles and faults of her neighbours, but rather because she believed, to use the words of John Bunyan, that but for the grace of God she might have been as they were.”
The Macleod Children
William and Ann had 9 children as follows:
Died: March 10th, 1937
Married: Possibly not married. His obituary in 1937 mentions he resided continuously on the estate.
Died: February 11th, 1860
Married: Not married. Catherine died in her infancy and passed away aged 2 years, 2 months.
Died: January 19th, 1952
Married: Horace H Turner
Died: 16th February, 1934
Married: Possibly not married. His obituary in 1934 mentions he lived a quiet life at Mac’sfield.
Died: May 23rd, 1957
Married: James Proudfoot. James was the eldest son of James Proudfoot Snr. who was a stonemason acclaimed for building the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmore and the two-storied bluestone butter and cheese building at Walnaring.
Died: June 14th, 1935
Married: Possibly not married. Her obituary in 1935 mentions she lived all her life at Mac’sfield.
Died: April 3rd, 1944
Married: Alexander Dow Cowan
William Edward Brock (W.E.B.)
Died: May 31st, 1961
Married: Sarah Jane Hampshire (died 1916). Re-married in 1919 to Lillias Frances Dyson-Holland in 1919.
Died: March 10th, 1937
Married: Hugh Alex Buntine
After their marriages, all of the the Macleod daughters excepty Kitty (Catherine) moved away from Mac’sfield to live with their husbands. Angus, Thomas and William continued to farm and managing the property.
Thomas lived a quiet life at Mac’sfield3, as did his sister Kitty (Catherine).4
In 1883 Angus was appointed trustee of the Wallan Public Hall. He became a judge of sheep and worked for Goldsborough Mort and Company of Melbourne as their sheep buyer. He made regular trips throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and was considered one of the best judges of sheep in the country. For some years he was Councillor in the Merriang Shire.5
William (also known as William E. B Macleod or simply W.E.B. Macleod, and later in life as “Old Willie”) held multiple positions as President of various associations and became well known not only in Wallan but also throughout Melbourne and regional areas. In 1917 he was was appointed as a magistrate. In 1919 William presented an Honor Board to the Wallan School commemorate the memory of the men who had enlisted in the first World War. His mother Ann was also present at the ceremony alongside J.F Laffan of Inverlochy Castle Hotel. In 1935 he penned “Return to the Land” which was broadcast on the 3AR radio station and includes “We come from the soil just as we eventually return to it.” It somewhat uncanny that a bible verse of the same nature “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return” was used in the opening paragraph of this article without any prior knowledge of this. In 1936 he was President of the Old Boys’ and Girls’ Association of Wallan6 and in 1938 he became President of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria7. He also was President of the “Clan Macleod Society.8 In 1954 he was inducted as an Elder of the Wallan Presybyterian church and in the same year performed the ceremony for the switching on of SEC Power to Wallan9. William lived in Moonee Ponds at “Laluma”10 and was a successful stock and station agent working in his own business of “Macarthur and Macleod” located in Collins Street in Melbourne. After the death of his brothers he became the sole owner of Mac’sfield and on weekends was chauffeured to Mac’sfield in a Jaguar.
William sired one child, a daughter named Ann (presumably named after his mother). We learn more about Ann in a later section of this article.
Weddings at Mac’sfield
Mac’sfield was a well known and envied estate and thus the perfect place to hold either a wedding ceremony, reception or both. Both Annie and Margaret were married at Macsfield; Annie in 1884 and Margaret in 1893.
In 1895 the reception for Christina’s wedding was held at Macsfield “where the bride’s mother entertained upwards of fifty guests”.11 In 1905 when Flora was married, guests were subsequently “entertained at Mac’sfield.”
The Macleod Family and Wallan Presbyterian Church
The Macleod family was strongly associated with the Wallan Presbyterian Church. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1867. Located in Watson Street, the church still stands today. As we have aready seen, William was a trustee for a Presbyterian school and also represented the Presbyterian denomination as a trustee for the Wallan Cemetery. Committed to their faith, William, Ann and their children worshipped at the church each Sunday.
Flora was an organist at the church for many years.12
In 1920 Ann unveiled the World War I Soldiers Honor Roll at the Wallan Presbyterian Church and her son William assisted with the arrangements. As per the Kilmore Free Press newspaper on May 27th, 1920:
“Rev. W. Fitzgerald expressed, on behalf of the congregation, his great pleasure on receiving the honor roll so generously presented by Mrs. Macleod. He also expressed his thanks to Mr W.E. B. Macleod for his assistance and the trouble he had taken in the arrangements.”
In the same year, Kitty was a member of the Presbyterian Ladies Guild alongside members of other memorable families in the district at the time such as the Munro’s, Stockdale’s and McKendrick’s.
In 1927, in memory of their mother Ann Macleod, her children dedicated a communion table, chairs and other furnishings to the Wallan Presbyterian Church. As per the Kilmore Free Press newspaper on February 10th, 1927:
“On Sunday afternoon a special ceremony was held in the Wallan Presbyterian Church. The occasion being the dedication of a communion table, chairs and other furnishings, presented to the chruch by the sons and aughters of the late Mrs A. Macleod of ‘Mac’sfield’ Wallan, in memory of their mother.”
In 1954 a most memorable occasion was held at the Wallan Presbyterian Church where William Macleod was inducted as an Elder of the church when Dame Flora Macleod, head of the Clan Macleod was visiting Melbourne.
Doctor Ann Macleod
William MacLeod’s daughter, Ann (also known as Annie Jubilee) became a successful doctor, first beginning as a resident medical officer at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne. After completing further studies of gyneology and obstetrics in Dublin she returned to Melbourne in 1927. She married in 1933 and around this time lived in Sandringham. In her later life she moved to Mac’sfield and conducted a small practice from an office which was part of a a brick extension added to the original stone homestead in the 1950’s. Those with an ailment would visit Mac’sfield and ring a bell and Dr Ann would hand any ointments and medicines etc. out of her office window.
In some ways you may say that Ann Macleod was Wallan’s first resident Doctor. It was not until the 1980’s that there was a chemist or Doctor in the Wallan township and for non-emergency matters consultations with a Doctor in Kilmore could be arranged via phone. The Doctor also visited the Wallan Public Hall supper room once a week. A script could be collected from the chemist in Kilmore but there were also some other non-conventional methods available. Medication was also delivered to the Kilmore Water Board office which was located in the Wallan Public Hall change room. The medicine was loaded onto the Kilmore school bus and brought back to Wallan on the return trip! Medication could be collected prior to 5pm when the office closed and after this time it was delivered to Hadfields milk bar.13
On April 23rd, 1965, four years after her fathers’ passing, his daughter Ann placed Mac’sfield for auction to finalise her father’s estate; this was the first time in its history that Macsfield was placed for sale. A clearing sale was held in conjunction with the auction of the house and land which provides insight into the substantial farming operations at Mac’sfield such as the sheep and cattle, machinery and tools.
It appears that Mac’sfield was purchased by a gentleman with the surname of ‘McFarlane’ because in 1966, only 1 year after it’s initial purchase his name appears on the advertisement for its sale.
This time Mac’sfield was purchased by the Righetti family in 1968. Ivo and Alison Righetti were initially from Greta and had farmed a property there for over 20 years. Their 3 children Peter, Michael and Suzanne now attended their secondary education at Boarding schools in Melbourne so their parents bought Mac’sfield to be closer to Melbourne. Greta was the second homeplace of Ned Kelly, and where his family moved after the passing of his father, Red. Perhaps it was fate that the Righetti’s settled in Wallan and bought back some of Kelly family’s essence from Greta?
Access to Mac’sfield was gained by a private dirt road leading off the Northern Highway. But in the early 1970’s the building of the Hume Highway required taking part of the land of Mac’sfield and bisecting the road used to access the property. Consequently, to safely gain access to Mac’sfield an overpass to the Highway was built in 1973 and the section of the road from the Northern Highway to the overpass ashpalted. The road was now officially named “Mac’sfield Road”. It was also around this time that the Righetti’s subdivided parts of Mac’sfield with the land still held by themselves been given the address of 40 Mac’sfield Road.
Wallan Woolshed at Mac’sfield
In the mid 1980’s Ivo and Alison Righetti began a business venture using the newer woolshed on the property. Fifty years prior, as part of “Return to the Land” W.E.B Macleod wrote:
“Country life is the real home life. In the city one looks out in the morning with his field of vision obscuredby walls and chimneys, in many cases limited to his own back-yard, and the evening sun sets on him on the same unvaried surroundings. In the country, on the other hand, the outlook is upon broad vistas of mountain, stream and plain. The open view of the plain country, with the horizon throw back over undulated land, onlyy gives one broadness of mind as well as of vision, just-as in the mountainous districts the natural tendency is towards loftiness of vision and mind.”
And it is this spirit of rural Australia which the Righetti’s tried to capture with the opening of the “Wallan Woolshed”. It was a place “where you can see sheep being shorn and herded by sheepdogs, throw a boomerang, dance to a bush band, eat a traditional Australian meal and be regaled with tales of rural Australia”.14
The Wallan Woolshed was a hit with tourists from overseas and they arrived on coach trips each Wednesday and Saturday and were also joined by individual tourists from Melbourne and surrounding areas.15
Wallan Airfield and Dairy Farm at Mac’sfield
Ivo Righetti was a Catalina pilot in the RAAF in World War II so flying was in his blood. He renewed his flying license and created a basic landing strip for his own plane at Mac’sfield. In the 1980’s the owners of the Whittlesea airstrip decided to fold and the instructors and private pilot’s began looking for a new airstrip. A meeting took place in 1985 at the Wallan Woolshed and it was agreed that the existing airstrip would be developed and extended. Working bees were held on weekends to prepare the airstrip and sheds for aircraft storage and a portable office were also constructed.
The location for the airfield buildings was nearby the house and milking sheds of a dairy farm in former years. Situated on lots 19 and 27, it was owned by Norm Spiegelman who was of Jewish Descent. Norm was a “Collins Street” farmer who also owned another farm in Mernda. The dairy farm was bought as an investment where he employed others to run it on his behalf. Gordon and Nancy West initially ran the farm and lived in the house. They left the property in 1972 and the milking of he cows and looking after the property was then taken over by a 15 year old Ray Pollock who was given special permission to leave school to do so. Whilst the property was under the management of Ray, a number of tenants lived in the house.
Around 1977, Ivo Righetti purchased the dairy farm from Norm Spiegelman and it thus came under the landholding of Mac’sfield. After the development of the Wallan Airfield, access to it was obtained via Watson Street and over a bridge which crossed Merri Creek and then the laneway which led to the dairy farm. The laneway is still visible today. The dairy house was used by Pegasus Flying school as their office and it is said that a plane was kept in the milking shed.
The Wallan Airfield was used and enjoyed by pilots, students and plane enthusiasts for many years until it was eventually closed down in 2008 to make way for the the development of Wallara Waters estate. Many further details and pictures can be found in a seperate article detailing the Wallan Airfield.
Buildings of Mac’sfield
The advertisements for the sale of Mac’sfield in 1965 provide a description of the house and property:
“The buildings consists of a brick and stone homestead of 5 bedrooms, lounge, dining room, kitchen etc. equipped with SEC power, slow combustion stove, H.W.S (Hot Water Service), septic sewerage and telephone. There is also a good steel hayshed, machinery shed and garage, and an old woolshed. Good sheep yards and a plunge dip.”
“The homestead is a substantial brick and bluestone building of eight main rooms.”
But what exactly did the brick and stone homestead and the buildings surrounding it look like? The following floorplan provides some insight into the layout of the house. It appears that the original stone cottage only consisted of a 4 rooms, and additions were made over the years as required. A plaque depicting the house standing for 100 years and displaying the years 1852-1952 (1852-1972 on floorplan is incorrect) was laid in the concrete floor. In the 1950’s a brick extension was added to the original stone homestead. This extension was officially opened by Dame Flora Macleod, head of the Clan Macleod who was visiting from Scotland in 1954.
The following 2 pictures provided by the Righetti family begin to give us an initial view of the house at Mac’sfield.
Further images taken by the Kilmore Historical Society in 2005 provide some greater detail. The picket fence lining the driveway to the stables is looking worse for wear and the white paint has faded away. The original cottage constructed from bluestone and the glorious chimneys are clearly visible in the third and fourth photos. The bluestone has been painted over with white paint but can be clearly made out. The roof has recently been replaced. Panning around to the right (west) side of the house the additions made in 1950 and constructed of brick are visible.
The front garden of Mac’sfield was enclosed by stone walls and looking from the house it is the north-facing stone wall that Ivo and Alison Righetti are standing in front of in an earlier picture. It is most probable that the front garden of Mac’sfield with ample shade provided by the trees was used for the marriages of Annie and Margaret Macleod.
A photo most likely taken from Ivo’s plane provides a bird’s eye view of the property.
Facing the rear of Mac’sfield a site layout map created in 2005 and a corresponding satellite image from the same year provide further details of the buildings at Mac’sfield at the time. The “Wallan Woolshed” can be seen to the left on the site layout described as the ‘modern shed’ and as the long rectangular building to the left of the satellite image. The “Wallan Airfield” (not pictured) is to the North East.
Outbuildings at Mac’sfield included stables, workers quarters, a chicken enclosure and a storage shed. In addition to the “Wallan Woolshed” there was also an older timber shearing shed and a sheep plunge/dip race of which you can read more about at The Old Sheep Dip article.
The images above show the remains of Macsfield after being demolished and provide a grim contrast to the property in 2005. But how did this come to be? Alison Righetti passed away in 1994 and Ivo Righetti in 1995. The property was then passed to their children and remained under their ownership until around 2007. The township of Wallan had grown significantly over the years since the 1880’s and such a vast area of land was keenly looked upon by land developers, and it wasn’t long until they submitted an offer that was too good to refuse, resulting in what today is known as the Wallara Waters estate.
An article from the Herald Sun Newspaper on November 6th, 2008 states: “In developing Wallara Waters, Australand and Mondous Family Property Group are responding to the need to build new communities”. Australand has since changed its name to Frasers Property. Mac’sfield was now owned by land developers who had woundrous plans to develop it into a housing estate and for the first time in its history, the property was no longer known as “Mac’sfield”. In 2008 the Wallan Airfield ceased its operations.
It was as early as 2006 that a heritage study provided the following recommendation to the Mitchell Shire Council: “It is recommended Macsfield House (Macsfield Lane, Wallan) be placed on the Mitchell Shire Council Heritage Overlay. This heritage place cannot be disturbed without permission from the Mitchell Shire Council. Consultation with the Council is required in regard to the future of this site.”
In September 2007 the Kilmore Historical Society wrote to the Mitchell Shire Council to express concern about the possible destruction of Mac’sfield. In November 2009 the Council wrote to the Minister for Planning to seek heritage protection for Mac’sfield but nothing eventuated from this. In April 2011 the Kilmore Historical Society received a letter expressing concern about what the developer was doing in the area of Mac’sfield and this was passed onto the Mitchell Shire Council. As a result of a review Mac’sfield was included in the list of news sites in November 2011 that were about to be submitted to the Minister for approval to be included in the Shire’s heritage overlays for planning purposes.
But on a quiet Sunday in late October 2011, the house and surrounding buildings of Mac’sfield were demolished. Could the reason have been that it was to to avert heritage protection which would have resulted in the inability to develop the land upon which they stood? Today, and 9 years later the rubble still remains. But it does appear that all material evidence of Mac’sfield existing will soon be lost. An article from the North Central Review newspaper on November 26th, 2019 states:
“Phase Two of the Wallara Waters development plan in Wallan has been given the green light by council, on the condition that proper drainage strategies are kept in place and environmental factors are considered. The estate has a total site area of 200 hectares and abuts the Hume Freeway to the west, Hadfield Road Reservation to the south, Wallan Wastewater Treatment Plan, Newbridge Estate to the east and Wallan-Whittlesea Road to the north. Phase two comprises of 90.13 hectares, which will be used for residential purposes, drainage services, a future primary school and also unencumbered reserves. Residential subdivision will start within the estate at 40 Macsfield Road, Wallan.”
At the time of writing this article in August, 2020 development is yet to begin. And it appears that not all people (living and non-living!) are happy with the development of a housing estate and disturbance of the the land, evident by the Wallara Waters Hauntings.
Looking back on the plentiful supply of photos from the time of the Righetti family ownership it is hard to accept that Mac’sfield no longer exists. Borne from William and Ann Macleod creating a life together and forging a living from the land, Mac’sfield matured into something truly magnificent; a fertile farming property with an envied house surrounded by lush trees and gardens, and the creation of the Wallan Wallan Woolshed and the Wallan Airfield. Mac’sfield seems to have had the ability to bring out the best in people – William as a trustee of the Scots Church School and Wallan Cemetery, his wife Ann in her generous, non-judgemental and selfless acts, their children who carried on their work in the Wallan Presybyterian Church and as revered members of the communities they lived in, and finally Ivo and Alison Righetti: creators of the Wallan Wallan Woolshed and the Wallan Airfield on the property.
Truly, Mac’sfield was a hive of activity over it years – but all that remains now is the dust and dirt blown about by the cold wind of change. So, to comfort ourselves at its loss we turn our attention to laying blame. But where should the blame lie? With the Developer’s of the Wallara Waters estate motivated by money? Is it the Mitchell Shire Council for not acting quickly enough? Is it the Minister for Planning who rejected the proposal for heritage protection? Is it the Righetti children for selling the property? Or is it with the wider community in neglecting to take an interest in such properties sooner and failing to assist in the necessary steps to ensure its protection? Perhaps a combination of all?
Time is our friend in providing us with a period to grow and learn, and thus the opportunity to do good and well in our life. It is also our greatest enemy in that it can also take away those things that we have worked and thrived for, and the people which we love and cherish. And it also our teacher where we learn from it that nothing is immortal and can last forever. But what if we could turn back time? With what we know now would things be done differently to preserve Mac’sfield? Perhaps, but most likely not. Regardless, it is impossible to do so and our actions can only take place from this point forward. Should you wish to see properties similar to Mac’sfied remain and be preserved, it is now that we must take further interest our history and past – to define our future.
,  Pretty Sally’s Hill: A History of Wallan, Wandong and Bylands – JW Payne.(1981)
 Kilmore Free Press Newsaper – February 2nd, 1934
 Kilmore Free Press Newspaper – June 20th, 1935
 Kilmore Free Press Newsaper – April 1st, 1937
 An association of past pupils of the Wallan state school with the purpose of meeting and keeping alove memories of happy school days
 The Age Newsaper – August 16th, 1938
 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/58077732 and https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/146184161
 Punch Newspaper – April 27th, 1905
 The Weekly Times Newspaper – May 6th, 1905
 Memories of Barbara Laffan
 The Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper – February 8th, 2004
 The Age Newspaper – June 26th, 1986
- I would like to express my appreciation to Grahame Thom and the Kilmore Historical Society for their assistance in providing information and photos of Mac’sfield.
- My appreciation is also extended to Craig Moffatt (a descendant of Margaret Macleod) for supplying Macleod family history and a photo of the wedding invititation.
- A special thankyou to Sue Righetti (daughter of Ivo and Alison Righetti) for supplying photo’s of Mac’sfield and of the Wallan Wallan Woolshed.
- Thankyou also to members of the Wallan Wallan Historical Group, in particular Ray Pollock for providing information on the dairy farm.
- As always, I am indebted to Barbara Laffan (my partner in crime for all historical related things) as chauffeur and host of a visit to the site of Mac’sfield. Her reversing skills on the Macsfield lane highway overpass are duly noted.