Scoresby

The suburb of Scoresby is named for Sir Reginald Scoresby, a Victorian who fought as a volunteer in the Boer War between 1899 and 2002. He fought in virtually every engagement of the war, alongside men like Harry Morant and fellow Victorian Colonel Arthur Alfred Lynch. Although there are few surviving official records from the war, journalist accounts frequently mention Scoresby. Three things stand out in these reports: firstly, that he seems to have been a master of disguise, appearing to be anywhere from 5’4″ to 6’6″ in height with eyes variously described as blue, green, brown, black, grey and gold; and secondly, that he served in many units, including some not actually from Victoria; his middle names varied from nonexistent, to one (often Alfred, but nearly as often John), to several (one account lists him as Reginald Huntingdon George William Charles Umberto Farley John Alan Jonathon Bertrand Scoresby). One thing most historians do agree on is the Sir Reginald Scoresby eventually died on the field of battle, nobly sacrificing himself to save his fellow troops (in 1900), his horse (in 1902), some innocent farmers (1899), a lion with thorn in its paw (1900) and on one occasion when the dragon he was riding crashed to earth on St George’s Day, 1901. (It should be noted that his knighthood, his Victoria Cross and the naming of a suburb after him are all posthumously granted honours.)

Some reporters at the time, and some historians over the last century and a bit – all of them from New South Wales – have tried to get to the bottom of the contradictions of Sir Reginald’s life and death, but with little success. A definitive biography, busting the myths about the man, remains a forlorn hope.

This is, of course, because there never was a Sir Reginald Scoresby. What there was instead was a conspiracy by patriotic Victorians to create a war hero whose name could be used as a rallying cry to help Victoria get its way in the negotiations leading up to Federation. All accounts of Scoresby were either created from whole cloth by Victorian journalists who were members of the conspiracy, or cases where a Victorian soldier took on the role of Scoresby when interviewed by journalists who were not in the conspiracy. At its largest, the conspiracy seems to have involved a handful of journalists, no more than a dozen soldiers and an unknown number of politicians. It may never be known for certain, but evidence suggests that the conspiracy was devised and led by Alfred Deakin, proud Victorian and the second, fifth and seventh man to be Prime Minister of Australia. Supporters of the Deakin Hypothesis often point to his son, Alfred Deakin Brookes, who was the first head of ASIS – suggesting the covert operations may well be in the blood (and that ASIS may have been involved in the coverup, if not the initial Scoresby Conspiracy).

Suburbs near Scoresby: