The Early Days
Melbourne, in 1894, was tasting the bitter aftermath of the great land boom. Against this sombre background, the Melbourne Savage Club was founded. The first President Dr Harvey E Astles, MD, FRCP presided over a club of ‘bohemian’ spirit. In this respect, the club was based upon an appreciation of music, art, drama, science and literature.
The club name was adopted from that of the famous Savage Club in London. In turn, the name of the London club is inspired by the minor eighteenth-century poet, Richard Savage, as well as being a wry double-entendre on the spirited nature of its founding members.
The early Savages not only established and secured the ideals and underlying strength of today’s club; in many outstanding instances they also contributed to the economic and cultural development of the then infant nation of Australia. Sir Arthur Streeton, Sir John Longstaff, Frederick McCubbin and David Low were dominant figures in art. Alberto Zelman contributed much to the world of music. Other members played important roles in medical, legal, commercial and political fields.
The Later Years
In 1923, the club purchased the present building. Classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), the clubhouse was built in 1884-5 and was the one-time property of Sir Rupert Clarke, Bart.
During the years of consolidation, one of Australia’s most respected statesmen played an important role in the club’s administration. Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, QC, served as President from 1947 to 1962. Many affectionate anecdotes surround Sir Robert’s aims to ensure that the club resist the temptation to accept some of the less appealing innovations of the twentieth century. The swinging fans or ‘punkahs’ in the dining room are an example of his influence.
The incorporation of the Yorick Club within the Savage Club took place in 1966, adding a further dimension. Founded in 1868, the Yorick brought together across many years such talents as Marcus Clarke (the Club’s first Secretary) and Adam Lindsay Gordon, a foundation member. The Yorick Club’s background of such interests as literature, art and science were immediately compatible with those of the Melbourne Savage Club.
The clubhouse possesses a rare ambience. It is spacious, restful and presents a civilized place of meeting, conversation and relaxation against a background of superb furnishings and appointments. The Savages of today are inheritors of a priceless ‘home from home’. They share, in addition, a comprehensive social calendar that ensures that the club is much more than a mere meeting and luncheon place.