Mitcham - Pre 1888

If you talk about the formation of the Mitcham Football Club, you must first talk about Mitcham's rural community and its founding father - John McGlone.            




Like many Irishman of the time, John McGlone (1829 - 1892) fled the ravages of the great Irish famine and at age 25 arrived in an largely unknown land in to carve out a better life in the British Colony of Victoria in 1854.

At this point of time Australia had not become a nation until 1901, when the British & colonial parliament convened in Melbourne (Exhibition Building) to pass legislation enabling the six colonies to be federated to form the commonwealth of Australia.  

John eventually settled in Mitcham in 1868, joining a strong fellowship of Irish Catholic settlers. Mitcham at this stage had a grand population of around 30 residents . 

Not surprisingly many Irish owned and opperated a large number of hotels in Mitcham. Emery`s Hill Reserve, Kenny`s Reserve, Archards Reserve, Birch`s Hill, Mary Jane O`Callaghan`s, Pat Mc Donnell`s and the Reserve Hotel, most of which were situated on the current Mitcham Hotels location.    

Wood cutters, charcoal making and subsistence living was the early norm until clay tile / pottery companies, orchards and flower growing emerged in Mitcham’s early years. 

Life was definitely tough with no tap water instead water wells, creeks and some tanks and no electricity. Instead the community relied on candle lanterns, kerosene lamps and fires for cooking and warmth.

Social activities such as dances, musicals and meetings were often timed to coincide with the full moon, providing moon light to better see their way home. 

Given the lop sided male population, ships carrying predominately marriageable aged Irish women arrived in the colony to bring what the British government considered to be a “stabilizing influence to the rough colonial society”. The key objectives of course were to both develop and populate the colonies.

Many of these women were destitute, escaping the work houses in Ireland and readily grasped the opportunity for a new life in a far way British Colony. 

The ship was a four-month journey and most went into service or became married soon after arriving. These vessels were generally known as, but not officially acknowledged as the 'Wives Ships’.

John McGlone met and married one such Irish woman in Eliza, happily forming a life long marriage bearing seven children. John and Eliza formed a formidable team playing a significant leadership role devoted to survival, family and community service. Mitcham was indeed blessed. 

Pictured above: Old Harvest Home Hotel (Circa 1878 & 1890)

Pictured above: Old Harvest Home Hotel with owners John & Eliza (Cira 1890)

Eliza herself became a strong public figure, as a publican. She was Mitcham`s unofficial postmistress, a mother who deeply cared for the general welfare of the towns small community.

Pictured above: Eliza McGlone (1880)

Over time John had numerous government jobs  - Deputy Register of Births & Deaths, Inspector of fisheries, Senior Police Constable and Mitcham postmaster, delivering mail to all Mitcham`s residents.

He was a prominent community leader, the go to man in Mitcham. He built and operated the Harvest Home Hotel, featuring two front doors, one to the parlor room and the other to his wife and six children back of house. 

John had humble beginnings as the earliest local publican in 1870. Located on a dirt track known as Whitehorse Rd, the Cobb & Co Coaches would pull up, drop off passengers and mail, before they would rest and then head on its way to Lilydale.  

McGlone Street today in Mitcham, marks the site of John’s first home on Whitehorse Rd, 200 meters from the current Walker Park. 

Later in life he focused more on business and public affairs. He was of course Mitcham Football Club President and a councilor for the shire of Nunawading. John was also very successful in a number of speculative land transactions and owned approximately 50 acres of land along Whitehorse Rd between his home and the town Centre.

As a traditional and loyal Catholic Irishman, he donated a large parcel of land to establish on Whitehorse Rd. This land became the home of Mitcham's Catholic Church in 1872 and much later the St John’s Primary School and both are very much operating today. 

Mitcham FC: Established 1888

John served as Chief Judge in the Mitcham Athletics’ Club, which progressed his interest to introduce other sports into the tight knit Mitcham community. 

A strange and new football game in Melbourne was continuing to attract much popularity. 

The major football competition (Victorian Football Association - VFA Est 1877) was capturing wide spread public appeal and drawing huge crowds, especially as the Mitcham Cricket Club had been established five years prior in 1883.

John was extremely adamant he would form Mitcham's very own football club. It was time!

Driven by John and other like-minded Mitcham settlers, a community meeting was convened at Mitcham's Archards Reserve Hotel in early 1888. There was only one agenda item, which was “the desirability to form their own football club".  A club to represent the township of Mitcham.                                                             

Views were canvassed, and a vote was duly cast. The result saw a resounding yes and thus history took its course and the Mitcham Football Club was formally established in 1888.   

It was no surprise that John McGlone at 60 years of age was duly elected Mitcham`s inaugural President along with Richard Blackbourne as Secretary and Thomas Titus as Treasurer. Many other officials came from the well organized Mitcham Athletic Club, to fill other MFC office bearer positions. 

It was generally understand he also backed the club financially, to ensure stability during the first formative years.

Pictured above: Mitcham Sports Day Program 1906. Run by Mitcham Athletics Club. 

Given Mitcham had a population of around 50 in 1888, (18,000 in 2020) the new club was nonetheless well placed to secure enough fit young men from the new local clay companies, especially from a very supportive Edgar Walker nearby (Australian Tessellated  Tile Co). Edgar himself, later became President of the Mitcham Football Club. This gave John the solid confidence he needed to form the new football club.

But who did Mitcham play against ?

There were hardly any football club`s in the district, other than Canterbury FC in 1881, Surrey Hills FC also 1888, Box Hill in 1890 and Camberwell in 1896.

To compete Mitcham had to venture far away playing against - South Yarra, Toorak/Vaucluse, Hotham, Parkville, Riversdale, Burwood, Richmond Imperials, Port Melbourne seconds , Lilydale and Essendon Districts. Later they would also play Williamstown, Oakleigh, Nth Brunswick, & Fitzroy Rovers.  

It was humble beginnings for Mitcham FC playing initially in the inspiringly titled “Second Rate”  (Junior Football Association), although it is worth noting that at one time competition levels went down to sixth Rate.

Picture above: Picture of early day footballers in action

Pictured above: Unknown football player (1880's)

These early matches on occasions were arranged between the clubs themselves, playing when and where they could. 

Mitcham's first ground was located at the Mitcham Railway Reserve. Bounded between Whitehorse & Mitcham roads, Station St & the Railway line, adjacent to the current Mitcham Hotel. It was a paddock, slashed by sickle come game day, with the odd travelling circus setting up on this central township location.

The train line (steam trains) was extended from Camberwell to Lilydale in 1882, which massively opened up the outer eastern rural district of Melbourne, including the Mitcham railway Station.  

Longer general travel suddenly became possible, rather than the “too long and just too hard an option". Matches typically did not start untill around 3.00pm, teams were picked on the ground and were generally low scoring games. 

Travelling to and from the game was often more arduous than the match itself. People would have to find their way home in the pitch dark via a steam train or horse and cart with kerosene lanterns. Some Mitcham players more often than not would walk in the cold and dark to avoid the cost of the train ticket

Life remained basic and hard, electricity and running tap water did not arrive in Mitcham until the early 1920`s, around 30 years after Mitcham`s first football match took place in 1888.

Loyalty & The British Empire 

Mitcham supporters were called the `Mitchamites’ and later the ‘Tri-colours` as Mitcham jumpers were horizontal hoops in red, white and blue. These three colours were chosen to retain their allegiance to the British Empire & the Union Jack flag. This was under Queen Victoria’s reign of 1837 – 1901, whom the state of Victoria was named after. Their mother country. 

Pictured above:  -  Queen Victoria 

Pictured above: MFC 1903 Premiership team with the British Union Jack flag 

The British colors remained for the next 39 years until 1928, when the Tigers emblem & the mighty yellow and black colors (same as Richmond FC) were adopted and entrenched into Mitcham’s constitution forever. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. 

Pictured above: Mitcham Football Club Premiers 1903

At only 63, John McGlone passed away in 1892. Interestingly, at his funeral one of the statements on his life referred to him as “an old colonist of some 35 years  standing”. John was a member of the old Colonists Association of Victoria.

Pictured above: John`s funeral carriage moving through Box Hill in 1892.

John`s enduring legacy to the Mitcham community and his determination to form the Mitcham Football Club will be eternally acknowledged and fondly remembered by all associated with the Mitcham Football Club. 

Now 13 decades on, just look at what his personal efforts have triggered. Today, his beloved Mitcham Football Club remains strong, growing and happily serving it’s community.                                                     

Junior male and female teams and AusKick continues to significantly expand. The club continues to provide opportunities to all who wish to try this magnificent game of Australian Rules Football.                             

His vision for the club has greatly exceeded his ecpectations. John's big Irish heart would be bursting with pride. The Mitcham Football Club is deeply indebted to our early pioneers in John & Eliza McGlone. 


The Mitcham Cricket (Est 1883) and Football (Est 1888) Clubs are the oldest two sporting clubs still operating within the City of Whitehorse. 


Future MFC President: Edgar Edwardes Walker. Edgar was one of the pall bearers at John McGlone`s funeral in 1892.

1888 was a big year for establishments;      

Mitcham Football Club, Mitcham Primary School, Mitcham Police Station, Mitcham Reserve Hotel, Mitcham Methodist Church, Mitcham Church of Christ, Melbourne Princess  Bridge was completed, Melbourne Exhibition Building was completed

New Football Association formed : 

In the Outer Eastern District of Melbourne in 1903, the`Reporter District Football Association` was formed. Six founding teams:  Mitcham, Canterbury, Box Hill, Ringwood, Ferntree Gully & Bayswater


  • MFC History Series                -   2020
  • Place Kicks to Drop Punts     -   Published 1989   (MFC 1st 100 years) 

Pictured above: Mitcham FC History book (Place Kicks to Drop Punts)


Author - Garry Wathen (Mitcham FC Historian)          





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