Born on 26
January 1876 at Carr’s Plains, near Stawell, Victoria the son of Holford
Highlord Wettenhall (1840-1920, Stawell Cemetery) and Mary née
Dennis (1846-1917); his father was a noted pastoralist and politician in the
Wimmera district. Marcus the sixth born of nine children and elder brother
of Roland (q.v.) was
educated at the local state school, Toorak and later Geelong Colleges before
matriculating in 1893 later becoming an outstanding athlete. But he was
always destined to follow in his father’s footsteps; by 1907 he was actively
managing the 400-acre orchard Glen Holford, near Pomonal, on the
northern slopes of the Grampians established by his father around 1890 until
his health broke. A subsequent subdivision of the Carr’s Plains run in 1909
saw Wettenhall acquire 3000 acres which he held until 1923 and was a pioneer
of the bulk handling of wheat in Victoria having designed and built his own
silos at Mernong in 1919. Prominent with the Central Fruitgrowers’
Association of Victoria, Wettenhall had his sights on the political arena;
in 1912 he joined the People’s Party to join the fight against King
O’Malley’s (c1858-1953) Commonwealth Bank scheme only to become a supporter
of the bank by 1920 describing socialism as “flabby golliwog”. Elected to
the seat of Lowan in the Legislative Assembly (1920-35) for the Victorian
Farmers’ Union he became briefly honorary minister (Sep 1923-Mar 1924) (“few
saw any signs of political genius to justify early promotion”) he was of
that rare visionary breed whose advocacy on many issues notably transport
made him “years ahead of his colleagues” whose speeches were “frequent,
vigorous and well argued”. Described as “of middle height and medium build,
with brown hair, pale complexion and sharp features”, in 1928 Wettenhall was
compared to the great Duke of Wellington - “a hard master, sparing of
praise, lavish of censure, often brusque to the edge of brutality” who as a
politician had come “thus far and no further, who cannot cherish very fond
hopes of one day sitting in the premier’s chair”. Member of the Federal
Council of Woolgrowers (1926-35) and councillor of the University of
Melbourne (1925-40), in 1917 he the family to Melbourne and resided at 39
St. George's Crescent, Ashburton where he died a day before his 75th
birthday; in 1920 his second daughter Phyllis died just a day after her
paternal grandfather aged eight years old. Married to Leila née
Warner (1880-1973), they had six children; Holford (b 1903; married Grace
née Howett), Thirza (married John Cox), Marcus (1911-1943; married Ada
née Crooks), Phyllis (1912-1920), Peter (b 1913; married Esther
née Good) and Hugh (b 1917; married Sybella daughter of
Hugh Macindoe (q.v.).
Monumental Headstone (enlarge
ADB Volume 12 1891-1939 (Smy-Z).
Browne, G., “Biographical Register of the
Victorian Parliament 1900-94” (1985).
The Argus 1 November 1920.
The Age 26 January 1951.
The Herald 25 January 1951.
Geelong Advertiser 14 January 1928.
Corfield, J & Persse, M., “Geelong
Grammarians. A Biographical Register Vol I 1855-1913” (1996).
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