In 1886, it was widely agreed that Doctor Beaufort Montgomery III had many fine traits. He was a skilled surgeon, a well to do member of Melbourne’s upper crust, an Eton- educated member of the Drones Club in good standing, and, when the mood took him, something of a philanthropist. Montgomery – Beau, to his friends – was also one of the finest yachtsmen ever to grace the waters of Port Phillip Bay. If the Crown Colony of Victoria had competed in the America’s Cup in the 1880’s under Montgomery’s captaincy, the cup would have been in Australian hands a century sooner.
Beau divided his time between surgery and sailing, with a little time out for socialising, although reports from the various young ladies that he squired to the most important events on Melbourne’s social calendar suggest that he was something of a blowhard, even a bore. He was also, it became apparent by the time of Federation, what was then called a ‘confirmed bachelor’: a homosexual. It appears that Montgomery, in keeping with his upbringing and the social mores of his time and class, mostly suppressed this urge, although his fondness for two-man yachting events suggests that he may have found an ingenious (and water-going) closet to inhabit. When he could not indulge his passion for seamen, however, he turned to the bottle.
Montgomery, it has to be said, was a mean drunk. In 1883, he was nearly arrested for punching a horse that had lost him his wager (it ran second in that year’s Melbourne Cup), although his family were able to hush up the matter. But then in 1898, he got into a violent argument with Alfred Deakin at a pre-Federation meeting, eventually assaulting Deakin when the man would not submit to him. (To his credit, the future Prime Minister declined to press charges, on the grounds that although Montgomery had thrown the first punch, it was a quick uppercut from Deakin that had settled the matter.) Again the incident was hushed up, although after this and other humiliations in the manly art of fisticuffs, Montgomery also suffered from a reputation for a glass jaw.
The net result of all his troubles was that Montgomery withdrew increasingly from society. He no longer operated on patients, and rarely attended social events. In fact, by 1901, he was compelled to found his own yacht club near Black Rock, after having been denied membership at any other. Such was his reputation as a sailor, however, that he had no trouble attracting younger members to the club, and it continued after his unfortunate death when he fell overboard one night in 1904 and was lost at sea. His body was never recovered, but the new yacht club was renamed in his honour, honour of his mastery of wind and wave, and honour of the first in Latin he had won in his student days.
Suburbs near Beaumaris: