Elphinstone Dick

Harriet Elphinstone Dick was a notable Melbourne personality in the latter part of the nineteenth century. She first came to public notice when she won many swimming races at the old St Kilda Baths in the 1870s, when she was in her 20s.

In 1879, at 24, Miss Dick retired from championship swimming to run a ladies-only gymnasium in Collins Street. She continued to run her gym, which was extremely popular with members of the teaching profession, until her death in 1901 at the age of 54.  While running the gym, she taught swimming at the St Kilda Baths, the scene of her earlier swimming triumphs.

Miss Dick lived at various times in Brighton, but also took up farming at Clayton, then on the very outskirts of Melbourne, with a female companion. The two were very firm in their decision not to allow any male animals on their farm.

Miss Dick also took to prospecting and spiritualism. In the 1880s, she and her friend attended seances where a spirit by the name of “Pat” convinced them that they should drill for oil at Point Ormond in Elwood. No oil was ever found.

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