Official histories of the Spotswood area name one J.S. Spottiswoode as the source of the area’s name. Apparently, old J.S. was one of the original farmers in the area, way back in the 1840s. Unsurprisingly, ‘professional larrikin’ Al Stimson tells a different story in his tales of the area’s history.
He claims that the Spotswood region was actually settled even earlier than that, by one of John Batman’s original party, a man by the name of Ben ‘Spotty’ Hogan – the nickname apparently in reference to Hogan’s unfortunate skin condition. At that time – about 1837 – the western banks of Yarra, at least this far down, were still heavily forested. This worked fine for Hogan, who was a timberman with designs on getting into the shipwright trade.
Thus it was, if Stimson is to be believed, that the area became known as ‘Spotty’s Wood’, which was gradually abbreviated to Spotswood. The wood turned out to be less viable than Hogan had thought, especially after a bushfire in 1841 wiped out much of his remaining plantation. Hogan later turned to sheep farming, at which he was more successful, and is one of the claimants as the first local manufacturer of moccasins, beginning a business that his son-in-law and business partner, Rupert Ball, would rename after his own family when Spotty died.
Despite the wealth of detail offered by Stimson in his story, there exists no other correlation for his tale, although it is also true that there exists no serious contradiction of it in the extant records. As usual with Stimson, the biggest reason to doubt the veracity of this tale is that Stimson is the one telling it. That said, from 1930 until 1972, one local park in Spotswood did have a statue of Ben Hogan in it. It was removed after being severely damaged by vandals celebrating the victory of Richmond in that year’s Grand Final, and although the local council promised it would be repaired and replaced, forty years on it is still yet to return.
Suburbs near Spotswood: