It’s a well-cited fact that the Swan River colony’s first newspaper was printed at Hamilton Hill by a man named Charles Macfaull. What may have been lost to the sands of time is that he left a certain liquid treasure-trove buried on his property alongside the journalistic heritage…
Grape vines in Hamilton Hill
An enterprising early colonist, 30-year-old Macfaull arrived at Fremantle in 1830 and immediately asked Governor Stirling to grant him land at Hamilton Hill, just south of George Robb’s farm (present day Randwick Stables area), though he had no money to put towards it.
Recognising a determined businessman when he saw one, the Governor agreed, and Macfaull immediately began planting grapevine stocks on the land, establishing the colony’s first vineyard roughly halfway between the Newmarket Hotel and Davilak Reserve today.
Entering the newspaper business
While his vines were growing, Macfaull - clearly keen to build on his
profits - entered into a partnership with William Kernot Shenton, and became co-publisher of the colony’s first newspaper. The partnership was reportedly stormy, and in June 1831 Macfaull took over the enterprise entirely and moved the printing press to his Hamilton Hill property.
One of Macfaull’s shipmates on the journey to the Swan River Colony was a 15-year-old boy named Edmund Stirling, and it is he who tells the story of Macfaull’s buried treasure. He and his guardian had helped Macfaull to plant his vines at Hamilton Hill, and Stirling went on to work on the paper as well.
Hiding the liquor
It seems that Macfaull’s wife, Elizabeth, had become concerned with his heavy drinking and had enlisted Stirling’s help to hide her husband’s liquor supply. Sometime in 1832 or ‘33 Stirling and Elizabeth buried a large number of bottles of Cape wine and Jamaica rum somewhere on the property (presumably the grapes Macfaull was growing had not had a chance to mature into the colony’s first wine).
Searching for the hiding spot
50 years later, Stirling took a writer for the Daily News back to the location to search for the bottles. Of that 1880s search, the writer recalled in 1925: ‘Owing to the altered conditions of the country during the intervening half century, our search was not a success.’
It is entirely possible, therefore, that to this day there remains a hidden stash of early colonial liquor buried somewhere beneath Hamilton Hill...