When Hollywood star of the silent screen, Canadian-born Claire Adams married Victorian grazier, Donald (Scobie) Mackinnon in 1937 they made headlines in Australia and abroad. They set up their home at a property called Mooramong at Skipton near Ballarat (in Victoria) and they transformed it from a staid country homestead into an opulent Hollywood oasis.
Theirs was a whirlwind romance with a courtship of just three weeks in London before they married and Claire Adams would see Hollywood no more. They honeymooned for a year through Europe, the US and UK before returning to country Victoria.
The media of the day documented the couple’s incredible lifestyle at the western district property. Press pictures captured their social events and many famous visitors… it was a private Hollywood in the bush!
Between 1919 and 1927 Claire Adams appeared in 46 silent movies including 5 Zane Grey westerns with renowned actors such as Tom Mix, Lon Chaney, Milton Sills, John Gilbert and Wallace Beery.
But while Claire is preserved on Hollywood celluloid, their lifestyle and love affair have also been captured in film that never made it to the big screen. Claire spent decades filming life at Mooramong on a small 16mm film camera. Only snippets of these films had been transferred to tape and viewed. There remained more than 150 unopened film cans waiting to tell the whole story of their life together… until now.
With a backdrop of famous local and international visitors, glitzy soirées and the unrelenting life on the land, and while World War Two raged in Europe, Scobie and Claire fought bush fires and drought. From early days the Mackinnons were recognised for their generosity and fundraising efforts for the needy.
The Mackinnons died in the 1970’s. Their ashes are buried together under a big peach tree at Mooramong beside their famous swimming pool and in view of the main house.
The Mackinnons had no children and bequeathed the property, Mooramong, to the National Trust on the understanding that it continue as a working property.
Their remaining combined wealth was enshrined in the Scobie and Claire Mackinnon Trust that continues to be a significant philanthropic funding body for a vast array of charitable causes. Just like Hollywood, their legacy offers an eerie sense of immortality.