There is no need to go looking on any 21st Century map for Bain Street, Port Melbourne, you won’t find it.
Bain Street was gazetted on 27 July 1898 and as you can see from the map from around the 1950s (below), it was west of Swallow Street and it wasn’t quite 100 years old when it succumbed during the development of Beacon Cove.
The street was named for Alexander Joseph Bain who was Mayor at the time having been elected to Council in August 1896, serving as Mayor August 1897 to August 1898 and finishing on Council in August 1899.
Bain was born in London and came to Australia with his parents. He set up business as a tailor, probably in Dandenong but by February 1886 he had also commenced business at 129 Graham Street, Port Melbourne. Before the end of that year he had moved to 205 Bay Street and later established his business at 295 Bay Street.
Bain was a prominent citizen serving as President of the Sandridge Branch of the Australian Natives’ Association and on the School Board of Advice in the 1880s. He was also prominent in the running of the Dispensary Committee and the Port Melbourne Football and Bicycle Clubs. At times his shop (establishment) in Bay Street was used to receive nominations for the office-bearers and committee of PMFC.
A J Bain died in Traralgon on 29 December 1914 aged 51. It seems that the wealth from his business and properties in Port Melbourne had been badly affected by a fire and he had taken his tailoring business to Dandenong, Colac and finally Traralgon.
As a mark of respect for his passing the Port Melbourne Town Hall flag was flown at half mast.
U’Ren, N. and Turnbull, N., 1983. A History Of Port Melbourne. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Trove. 2020. Trove – Digitised Newspapers And More. [online] Available at: <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper?q=> [Accessed 3 September 2020].
Thanks for this info about my great grandfather, which allows me to query the A J Bain “facts” in U’Ren and Turnbull’s history book. Bain was described as a conservative member of Parliament for the State seat of Melbourne. This appears wrong, he is not listed on the State Parlt library website as a former MP, and in his obituary https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/129524051 he is not noted as such. On his “conservatism”, a report of the Traralgon railways union branch AGM https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/89750319 includes his comment that “he was not a unionist as he was not an employee, but he was a political unionist, and always tried to play his part in the PLC [Political Labour Council] which was making a name for itself in Traralgon (Applause).” He was the local President and sat at the front table with Frank Tudor MP and Railway Employees’ Union officials. On p 215 the book talks of the Jan 1929 shooting of waterside workers during the strike, when James Whittacker was killed. Having built their straw man, the authors then suggest as appropriate the renaming of Bain St, taking up the theme of a 1975 Record article which wanted a Whittacker St to commemorate the union hero. It’s unclear whether anyone else suggested this – based on the real facts about Bain, it sounds unlikely. As a lifelong unionist and occasional leftwing activist, you might understand why I feel aggrieved and mystified at these mistakes and the animus expressed towards A J Bain. Noel Turnbull is careful to not publicise his contact details, but hopefully someone associated with this website can pass on my request for clarification about what’s going on here.
Thank you for you comment Kevin. I don’t know the “facts” one way or the other and I can’t speak for Noel Turnbull or the late Nancy U’Ren and their research however mistakes happen, if that is the case here then I hope your comment has gone some way to address them. Noel is a member of this Society and we will make him aware of your comment.
As for saying that Noel is careful not to publicise his contact details, I think that is sensible internet practice and a bit unfair to suggest that he does this to avoid contact regarding these (or other) matters.
I was pleased to see your comments questioning the depiction of Alexander Joseph Bain in Uren and Turnbull’s history of Port Melbourne. Bain was briefly mayor of Port Melbourne, not a conservative MP, and he publically demonstrated his affiliations with the Labour movement, as you have indicated. This, and the fact that he came from a family of railways workers makes him an unlikely anti-unionist. He appears to have been discredited on the basis of very dubious evidence.
Thanks for your further comments Liz.
I was able to put Noel Turnbull in contact with Kevin Bain via email. Unfortunately Noel no longer has the original research materials on which the contents might have been based and as it is almost 40 years since he and Nancy U’ren wrote the book he has no memory of any other details. Noel completely accepted Kevin’s correction and apologised for having included any incorrect information. Since it is extremely unlikely that there will be a further edition of the book where the information can be corrected, it is good that the correct information is published here.
I have summarised the correspondence between Kevin and Noel and will ensure it is inserted into the reference copies of the book held in the Society’s collection.
Thanks, David. This correction should alert future researchers to look more carefully. (I wonder whether Bain’s name might have been aurally confused with Commissioner Tom Blamey who was known for his fierce opposition to the strike https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/truth-was-first-casualty-of-1928-war-on-the-waterfront-20101105-17hib.html – but this is of course pure speculation. A J Bain died in 1914, 15 years before the strike and the shooting of Allan Whittaker.)
Another small correction to Alexander Joseph Bain’s bio above: his birth certificate clearly states that he was born in Port Melbourne – not England – on 31 July 1863, when his parents were living in Railway Place.