Inlaid table presented to Mr H D McIntosh by the Australian Victoria Cross recipients from First World War

Place Oceania: Australia
Accession Number RELAWM14262
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Glass, Gold, Wood
Maker H Goldman Manufacturing Co.
Place made Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made c 1924
Conflict Period 1920-1929
First World War, 1914-1918

Glass topped timber table inlaid with distinctive state and territory timbers to form a marquetry map of Australia. Tasmania is represented by Huon pine; Western Australian by jarrah; South Australia by blue gum; Queensland by blond maple; Victoria by mountain ash; New South Wales by cedar; Northern Territory by sandalwood. The 65 squares surrounding the map are of Tasmanian blackwood burl and represent the 46 surviving and 19 deceased australian Victoria Cross recipients of the time. The banding around Australia and the blackwood squares are of Tasmanian myrtlebeech. The cross banding and legs are made from Victorian blackwood and the legs are carved on the top and bottom with a gumnut and eucalyptus leaf ornamental moulding. Inlaid into the table top is an 81mm X 82mm gold plate. It is engraved: 'To the Honourable Hugh Donald McIntosh MLC, JP. From HIS SOLDIER FRIENDS IN AUSTRALIA WHO SERVED IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. AUSTRALIA 1924.' The plate is impressed: '15ct' 'T.GAUNT&CO.'

History / Summary

The 'VC Table' was presented to Hugh Donald McIntosh in 1924 by the surviving Australian Victoria Cross (VC) recipients of the First World War, for his services to returning soldiers. It is made from nine distinctive types of timber representing the different states and territory of Australia. The top of the table has 65 parquetry squares representing the number of Australian VC recipients. It was manufactured by H Goldman and Company, a Melbourne based firm popular with organisations for the production of distinctively Australian cabinet work. The table was accompanied by an Illuminated Address including a testimonial with the names of 36 VC recipients as well as former Prime Minister William Hughes and David Gilpin, the Mayor of Sydney. It was hoped that the items would be installed in McIntosh's new home at Broome Park near Canterbury in England, the former estate of Lord Kitchener. McIntosh had leased the estate in 1923, though his fortunes later waned and he moved to more modest accommodation. In 1936 it was reported that 'the magnificent table, built of rare woods' stood in his London office.

Hugh Donald McIntosh was born in Sydney on 10 September 1876. Always making the most of any opportunity, he became a successful caterer, investor, boxing promoter, newspaper executive, and theatrical producer of the Tivoli Theatres. His wealth and reputation brought with it a great many detractors as well as a reputation as a notorious self promoter referred to as 'Huge Deal' McIntosh. He was elected to the NSW Upper House in May 1917. The former NSW Premier Jack Lang recalled that critics of the time claimed the public presentation of the testimonial by the VC winners was probably paid for by McIntosh himself.

This was, perhaps, disingenuous to the work of McIntosh for the ex-servicemen, even before the end of the First World War. He was president of the Returned Soldiers' Association in 1916 before he stepped down after members of the organisation protested that the position should be held by a veteran. McIntosh also conducted the first Anzac Memorial appeal in the Sydney Domain in 1916. He was a strong advocate of returning soldiers and took any opportunity to broadcast their plight. Questioned about post war problems in the New York Times while travelling through the United States in July 1918 he replied: 'Not the least of these problems...was the finding of fields of industry for veteran soldiers returning to their homes incapacitated physically or mentally for the routine of civil life.'

As the director of the Tivoli Theatres, McIntosh presented all returning VC holders with a gold medallion in the shape of a VC which entitled them to free admission to the theatre for life. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Cenotaph in Martin Place in 1927. Though Lang referred to McIntosh as 'the Barnum of Australia', he also wrote that '[w]hatever may have been his faults, he was a very genuine friend of the soldiers.'

It has been reported that a condition was imposed on McIntosh that upon his death the table be given to the then future Australian War Memorial. After his death, in London in 1942, the table, the Illuminated Address and a book of inscriptions arrived at Australia House in London for transport to 'the Australian War Memorial Museum'. It remained there until 1947 when it was finally shipped to Australia. It spent some time at the Duntroon Military College before being moved to its intended destination. This impressive table, with its decorative timber work and carved mouldings, was used by visiting dignitaries and heads of state during their visits to the Memorial until the 1990s.