Brighton

A not inconsiderable amount of effort has gone into concealing the truth of Brighton. A conspiracy of cartographers, historians and politicians has whitewashed the history of this once vibrant area, leaving behind only patrician airs and suspiciously new-looking ‘Edwardian’ architecture.

In 1978, one Professor Pariedolia either did or did not battle his (or possibly her) arch-nemesis (or possibly best friend), Jack Tyme. The battle, which may or may not have occurred in Harlem, if indeed it occurred (and assuming, of course, that Harlem is a real place), resulted in a temporal paradox (or in no discernible effect whatsoever). A slice of Harlem was somehow transposed to the Melbourne bayside of more than a century earlier, where it existed or did not exist overlaying the original reality (assuming that the words ‘original’ and ‘reality’ have meaning in this context.) (Or any other.) Here, it endlessly replayed a single week of 1978 over and over, or possibly only once, repeatedly.

It is unclear – indeed, all of this is unclear – whether the Harlem in question was a real Harlem or some fictional analogue (or possibly the Harlem of some alternate timeline – but that way lies madness, although madness with really fun drugs). What is clear is that the residents of neighbouring areas had a great deal of trouble understanding the patois, the dialogue, the lingo of the native Harlemites, and thus came to believe that their name for the area was a phrase they used with great oftenness: “Right on”.

When the effect vanished, when the actual 1978 and that particular week rolled around, moves were taken swiftly to sweep the entire confusing incident under the rug. Anyone who refused to go along with it was rounded up, and subjected to a combination of a week long Blaxploitation film festival at the Brighton Bay cinema, where they were force fed large amounts of amphetamines and hallucinogens – thus rendering their true witness accounts into the stuff of drug-crazed ranting.

Professor Pariedolia would have been proud, assuming that he actually existed and was not merely an urban myth devised by the NYPD to explain their poor performance in the 1970s.

Suburbs near Brighton:

Port Phillip Bay Elwood Elwood Elwood Elsternwick Caulfield Caulfield
Port Phillip Bay Elwood Brighton Elsternwick Elsternwick Caulfield Caulfield
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Elsternwick Elsternwick Caulfield Caulfield
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Elsternwick Elsternwick Caulfield South Caulfield South
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Brighton Gardenvale Caulfield South Caulfield South
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Brighton Brighton East Ormond Ormond
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Brighton Brighton East McKinnon McKinnon
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Brighton Brighton East Bentliegh Bentliegh
Port Phillip Bay Brighton Brighton Brighton Brighton East Brighton East Bentliegh
Port Phillip Bay Hampton Hampton Hampton Hampton Hampton East Moorabbin

Pascoe Vale

Some days, it’s very hard not to feel sorry for John Batman. The other John, John Pascoe Fawkner, has two large suburbs named for him. Batman has a train station and a few local streets to which Australia Post will grudgingly deliver mail if addressed that way.

The larger of Fawkner’s two suburbs is Pascoe Vale, named for him and also because it is, mostly, a vale (more accurately, a series of vales and some of the adjacent hilltops). But Pascoe Vale was not always called that (it was Moonee Vale first, for the Moonee Ponds Creek that flows through the vale in question), and it is mostly John Batman’s fault that it has the name it does.

In 1835, as the syphilis that would eventually claim his life made him irrational and short-tempered (or moreso, according to some), Batman demanded that he be allowed to address the informal gathering of the colony’s leaders. In his speech, he excoriated each of them, individually and collectively, for what he considered to be deficiencies of character and virtue, accusing them finally of being engaged in a criminal conspiracy to kill his son (who had drowned in the Yarra by accident, and whose death Batman never fully got over).

As a result, when the first colonial Parliament was established, these men, still smarting from the now-deceased Batman’s words, named two suburbs after his greatest rival and none after him.

In the end, the victory was to be Batman’s, and he needs not our pity. It’s not like small boys all over the world tie improvised capes around their necks and pretend to be John Pascoe Fawkner, after all.

Suburbs near Pascoe Vale:

Glenroy Glenroy Hadfield Hadfield
Oak Park Pascoe Vale Pascoe Vale Coburg North
Strathmore Pascoe Vale Pascoe Vale Coburg North
Strathmore Pascoe Vale Pascoe Vale Coburg
Strathmore Pascoe Vale South Pascoe Vale South Coburg
Essendon Pascoe Vale South Pascoe Vale South Coburg
Essendon Essendon Pascoe Vale South Coburg
Essendon Essendon Brunswick West Brunswick

Kensington

Kenneth Albert Bulworth was a big man in the community in the early days of Flemington. Not exactly a popular or well-liked man, but a very, very respected one. Mostly because he was nearly seven feet tall and widely reputed to be the most ruthless and vicious of the various crime lords in the area.

Ken began his career as a standover man, mostly serving as muscle for protection rackets, but he had ambitions. He quickly took over the small gang that he started with, and over time, forged a large criminal syndicate out of the various gangs and independent criminals operating in his area. Those who did not work for him directly were usually still obligated to pay him a percentage for the privilege of operating in his territory. In gold rush era Melbourne, this made him a wealthy man, but not so wealthy that he didn’t still want more.

In the winter of 1860, he heard the first rumours regarding the race that would become the Melbourne Cup, to be held at the nearby Flemington Racecourse, and decided that he wanted a piece of that action. Over the next year, he and his followers fought a bitter turf war with the syndicates that controlled the races and the highly lucrative gambling that went with them. By August of 1861, three months before the race was to be run, victory was in his grasp, and he planned his final strike.

But Ken Bulworth was betrayed by the man known to history as “Faceless” McGee (a name referring to how he looked after Ken got word of his betrayal). When he went to meet his men at their staging area, he was instead set upon by his enemies and taken prisoner. He was never seen alive again, although his true fate remains a mystery. It is widely believed that the night before the inaugural Cup was run, he was executed by being dragged around the track behind a certain racehorse (the one he had intended to have win the race had his fix gone to plan).

However, the questions surrounding his disappearance only added to his reputation, particularly in the south part of Flemington he had called home, and for years afterwards, mothers would use him as a boogeyman figure, scaring their children with just three words, words that would in time rename the area: “Ken’s in town.”

Suburbs near Kensington:

Shoreham

You wouldn’t think so to look at it, but Shoreham holds a unique pedigree in Australia. It is (or rather, was) the site of the earliest artificial seawall to be built on the continent. Before even the settlement of Melbourne, when the Western Port Bay was sailed solely by itinerant whalers and sealers, the area now known as Shoreham was commonly used as a stopover point, providing shelter from the worst of the storms, and a place to go ashore in search of fresh water.

After the beginnings of settlement in the Melbourne area, the first permanent buildings in the area were constructed, although the main port facilities of the area were located further to the east and north, at Hastings, and Shoreham remained a fairly small township, with a population of about 50 fisherman and their families. In summers, the population would increase, but the peninsula vacation spots on the inside of Port Phillip Bay were generally more popular.

Shoreham eventually got its own name after the death of Harold Holt in 1967, when the angry sea battered at the backbeaches of the peninsula, and nearly flooded the area. The first waves having largely demolished the more than 150 year old seawall, a desperate sandbagging effort was raised, and the cry of “Shore ’em up” was frequently heard that night. A government surveyor who was visiting the area, and who participated in the anti-flood endeavours, misunderstood this to be the name of the place (which was actually known to the locals variously as Flinders North, Port Flinders and Flinders Beach), and it was duly inscribed on the next series of government maps and all their successors.

Suburbs near Shoreham:

Main Ridge Red Hill South Red Hill South Merricks
Main Ridge Shoreham Shoreham Merricks
Main Ridge Shoreham Shoreham Point Leo
Main Ridge Shoreham Western Port Bay Western Port Bay
Main Ridge Flinders Western Port Bay Western Port Bay

Blackburn

The thing about black things is that they’re black. Like, for example, ashes and soot. Black as the ace of spades. Or more accurately, that part of the ace of spades that is coloured black. So it’s hard to tell which bits of Blackburn are burnt black and which bits were black before they were burnt. But things are pretty black there. Dark, even.

Despite this, Blackburn is not home to an enormous contingent of Melbourne’s goths, who tend in fact to shun the place (and indeed, to shun most places located outside of public transport’s Zone 1). But assuming that there’s nothing racist in the name, because that would be too bloody horrible to contemplate, and in the absence of a severe bushfire at around the time the place was named, there’s no clear explanation for how Blackburn got its name.

Although the theory of “inexpertly throwing darts with the name of poets written on them at a map of Melbourne” does have a certain charm.

Suburbs near Blackburn:

Doncaster Doncaster East Doncaster East Donvale
Box Hill North Blackburn North Blackburn North Nunawading
Box Hill Blackburn North Blackburn North Nunawading
Box Hill Blackburn Blackburn Nunawading
Box Hill Blackburn Blackburn Forest Hill
Box Hill South Blackburn Blackburn Forest Hill
Box Hill South Blackburn South Forest Hill Forest Hill
Burwood Burwood East Burwood East Burwood East

South Yarra

South Yarra may actually be the most unimaginative place name in all of the Greater Melbourne Region, but it was not always thus. When the name was first applied, and the course of the Yarra north of the Yarra Bend in Kew was largely unknown, it referred to the whole area between the Yarra and the sea. (It also included Coode Island, which now lies north of the river.) This area was roughly the same as that of the tribal lands of the Boonwurrung, one of the Kulin peoples who occupied most of the land that is now Melbourne.

As the slow process of exploring the river’s headwaters progressed over the years, the area called South Yarra continued to expand, eventually covering an area bounded by Healesville, Port Melbourne and Tooradin, and encompassing all the land on that side of the Yarra and stretching south along the Dandenong Ranges in the east, while following the line of the coast in the west.

But over the years, pieces of it would be parceled off and given other names, slowly reducing the once vast region of South Yarra to the comparatively tiny vestige of it that remains today. Still, that’s a better fate than the now completely lost name of North Yarra, the area once occupied by the Woiwurrung, and now like them, almost entirely gone.

Suburbs near South Yarra:

MELBOURNE MELBOURNE MELBOURNE Cremorne Richmond Burnley
MELBOURNE MELBOURNE South Yarra South Yarra South Yarra Toorak
MELBOURNE South Yarra South Yarra South Yarra South Yarra Toorak
MELBOURNE MELBOURNE MELBOURNE Prahran Prahran Prahran

Clarinda

The 1660 play “The Sea Voyage”, written by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, is often considered to be little more than a rip-off of William Shakespeare’s better known “The Tempest”. To be sure, both plays contain similar elements: such as beginning with a storm, and featuring both a desert island and castaways at a banquet. But this is not because Fletcher and Massinger were copying the Bard of Avon, as is commonly believed, but because both plays draw upon the same true events.

In 1598, Adrie van Rutger captained a voyage to the East Indies, but got quite badly lost after being blown miles off course by a cyclone. An unwitting predecessor of Janszoon and Hartog, he sailed into Port Phillip Bay believing himself to have discovered a heretofore unknown inlet in approximately the location of modern Albany, West Australia. Here, he encountered a settlement of Amazons, although due to mutual incomprehension, he got the names wrong. Clarinda was the name of the people, not their princess (as was later depicted in “The Sea Voyage”). He did name their land, a stretch of territory encompassing most of modern Mentone, Parkdale and the eastern half of Cheltenham in addition to the region still called Clarinda today, and his journals are known to have been published upon his return to Rotterdam, with an English translation produced at the request of Queen Elizabeth in 1601.

The origin of the Clarinda Amazons remains a matter of considerable debate, although the most widely accepted theory is that they were a breakaway group of shield maidens from the settlers of Bangholme and Seaholme. An alternate theory suggests that they may have been a group of Amazons who washed up in Port Phillip Bay after Deucalion’s flood, having been sent warning by Deucalion’s wife Pyrra. What is certain is that they were extinct by no later than about 1750, and that little sign of them remained to be found when Batman and Fawkner arrived in Melbourne.

Suburbs near Clarinda:

Mooroolbark

The history of Australia, like that of most nation colonized after the Renaissance, is littered with crackpot ideas. But few ideas are more crackpot than those devised by people who read Lamarck, misunderstood a few key points and never read Mendel, Darwin or Galton at all.

Such people – one Aloysius Macomber of North Kilsyth was one – tended to evolve baroque breeding schemes that seemed primarily based on the idea that the mythical chimera had been created by patient animal husbandry rather than by storytellers hoping to be fed.

Macomber in particular was fixated on the idea that his cattle would be preyed upon by wolves and bears, and apparently unaware that neither of these creatures existed in great numbers in Australia. He wanted to breed a cow that was better able to defend itself, and better able to survive the drought conditions that so frequently obtained in Australia. For this purpose, he proposed to hybridise cattle, kangaroos and dogs.

The plan ended in tears and animal corpses, since when penned together, the animals would tend to fight with each other until one or more of them was dead. Macomber did at one point succeed in raising together a joey and a calf, but unfortunately for his breeding plans, they were both males (they did have a long and happy life together, though).

By the time that serious scientists were starting to re-examine the works of the now-deceased Mendel and unravel the mysteries of genetics, Macomber was also deceased, although unlike Mendel, he had hung himself from the rafters of the barn that had all too frequently been vandalised with the legend “Moo-Roo-Bark” by his scornful neighbour, William Slicington.

Suburbs near Mooroolbark:

Chirnside Park Chirnside Park Lilydale Lilydale
Chirnside Park Mooroolbark Lilydale Lilydale
Croydon Mooroolbark Mooroolbark Lilydale
Croydon Mooroolbark Mooroolbark Montrose
Croydon Kilsyth Kilsyth Montrose

Cremorne

Melbourne has always attracted artists of all sorts. The most famous school of Australian painting, the Heidelberg School, was based in Melbourne; Dame Nellie Melba chose to name herself after the city, and a generation of Australian music legends made the city their home in the 1980s.

But the earliest artist to look for a new place, a site where a dawn of creativity could take place, was one Donald Creswell, a poet and sculptor who came to Melbourne in 1873, and took up residence in the corner of Richmond circumscribed by the Yarra, Punt Road and the railway line. Creswell spent much of his time encouraging other artists to join him there, in search of a proper bohemian atmosphere of creative ferment, from which he believed he and others would be inspired to works of genius.

As it turned out, his efforts were largely unsuccessful, and the time and energy he spent on them left him too drained for creative endeavour of his own. Creswell died in 1895, of what legend tells was a broken heart (but which the coroner’s report listed as a liver failure brought on by alcoholism).

Although there is no doubt that Creswell was repsonsible for the area’s name, there is some question as to how: does Cremorne take its name from the creative morning that he sought to create, or from the years of sorrow he spent mourning his failure to do so?

Suburbs near Cremorne:

Doveton

Named for Ulysses S. Dovetong (the G is silent), who was in turn named after President Ulysses S. Grant, Doveton is an area near Dandenong in Melbourne that is best known for the spate of hedge burnings that tends to break out there on a semi-regular basis every decade or so.

What few people know, but is nonetheless commemorated by the name of the area, is that Doveton marks the site where Ulysses Dovetong (the G is silent) hunted the ancient enemies of his family, a particular druidic sept originating in the former kingdom of Dogfeiling in what is now Wales. The Dovetongs (the Gs are silent) have been hereditary foes of these druids since the earliest members of their family sailed to the British Isles with Ragnar Lothbrok in the middle ages.

Over the years, the druids were relentlessly hunted by the ancestors of Ulysses, including a several century stretch where they were pursued across North America from east to west before they reached California and sailed still further west. Ulysses S. Dovetong (the G is still silent) was the last of his line when he arrived in Melbourne in the years after World War One.

During the Great Depression, he hunted down and personally slew all of the druids he could identify, culminating in a final battle at what is now the site of Power Reserve, the home ground of the Doveton Eagles. Believing his work over, he volunteered to serve with the AIF in World War Two, and was one of the poor bastards who died while besieged at Tobruk. But he was mistaken.

Although the druids have not been identified, their ritual hedge burning continues to this day in Doveton, and the world may yet have to rue the loss of the Dovetong’s (the G’s silent) family traditions.

Suburbs near Doveton:

McCrae

The history of the Clan McCrae goes back many centuries to when the first scion of that line, Angus “That Crazy Bastard” McGuiness, first distinguished himself in battle. A Scotsman, he served with distinction in the war between the Scots and their most ancient arch-enemy, other Scots, in the years after the Romans abandoned Hadrian’s Wall for the bad joke it was. It was a time when centralised authority was non-existent in Scotland, when clans formed in the villages that supported the distilleries.

Angus was awarded his own tartan, and the title Angus the Crae, by his king, Hamish McBannockburn, who was the undisputed monarch of an area about the size of Ftiztroy Gardens. Angus’ eldest son, Tony, became the first McCrae (Mc meaning ‘son of’) and the proud line began there.

Centuries later, the McCraes had made themselves sufficiently unpopular with their leaders that they were invited to colonise new lands (or, as one legend has it, lured onto a boat full of whiskey and set adrift). Through many dangers and privations, they made their way to Port Phillip Bay, where they discovered that they had once again been beaten by the people they referred to as ‘the bastard English’. Claiming a windswept hill as their own, the Clan McCrae settled down to a life of alcoholism and subsistence farming, occasionally enlivened by righteous donnybrooks with the Irish farmers who lived next door. The area still bears their name today, but alas, their attempts to start a distillery there failed utterly.

Suburbs near McCrae:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay
Rosebud McCrae Dromana
Rosebud Rosebud Arthur’s Seat

Junction Village

Some activities, although vital to the functioning of a modern society, are simply too dangerous to take place too close to a centre of population. Were it not so, there would be a nuclear power plant on the site of Fitzroy Gardens, or a artillery training range in Albert Park Lake.

In the Victorian era, as the world slowly transitioned from coal power to gas power and on, electrical power was a new and little trusted power source. Matters we today take for granted, such as adequate insulation, were painstakingly worked out in this era by trial and (all to often fatal) error. The city of Melbourne was determined not to see a repeat of such events, which had marred the progress of electricity in London, Paris and New York, happen here. (There may also have been an overly uncritical reading of the screeds of one T. Edison of Menlo Park, New Jersey involved.)

And so a site that was distant but not too distant was sought, and eventually found. Here, electricity would be investigated and tamed before it was allowed into Melbourne proper. Or at least, that was the plan. In fact, the power station generated enough power for a relatively small radius, but was soon lost to attenuation. Electric Village, as it was then known, was a brightly-lit island in the darkness each night, but not much more. Over time, however, it came to be seen that electricity was reasonably safe (especially in comparison to how explosive gas could be), and other power stations were built closer to the city itself.

The village ceased, slowly, to have an identity based around electricity, and instead became associated with the support industries that had sprung up in support of the power station. For decades afterwards – until the 1950s, and the onslaught of cheaper Asian equivalents – it was the greatest manufacturing centre for electrical supply equipment in all of Australia. Wires, cables, switches and junction boxes were all made here, and the quality of the lattermost was a byword for three generations of electricians, and the source of the village’s current name.

Suburbs near Junction Village:

Cranbourne Cranbourne Cranbourne East Cranbourne East
Cranbourne Junction Village Junction Village Cranbourne East
Cranbourne Junction Village Junction Village Devon Meadows
Botanic Ridge Botanic Ridge Devon Meadows Devon Meadows

Hurstbridge

Rainfall patterns have shifted since European settlement of Melbourne, largely as a result of the slow but inexorable deforestation of the hills surrounding the city. Nowhere has this process been more notable than in the hills to the north east of the city, the broad area running roughly from Plenty to Lilydale. As a result, the tributaries of the Yarra in that area, from the Plenty River and all the smaller creeks and streams lying between it and the Yarra’s headwaters and running into its northern banks, have all diminished in flow over the years.

Nowhere is this process more clearly seen than in Hurstbridge, along the course of Arthurs Creek. When the area was first explored, the watercourse was wide and notable enough to be called Arthurs River. A bridge crossing it, leading on to Panton Hill and St Andrews, was built only at great expense. The sandstone used in its construction ended up giving the area its name – quarried at Sandhurst, far to the south, the bridge became known as the Hurst Bridge. Originally, this was merely the nickname given to it by the workmen who constructed it, but it was soon adopted for the area as a whole.

But even before the bridge was completed, the depth of Arthurs River had diminished. It would continue to do so for many years afterwards, until today the amount of water that courses through Arthurs Creek reaches 2% of its further volume only in particularly rainy winters. The bridge itself was accidentally destroyed by American soldiers in World War Two, when they attempted to drive a quartet of Sherman tanks over it, only to discover that without the pressure of the water to hold them in place, its foundations had become unstable. It is a minor miracle that there was no loss of life in the fall of the bridge. Today, no sign of it remains, its few standing remnants having been used for target practice by the tank crews.

Suburbs near Hurstbridge:

Doreen Nutfield Cottles Bridge Panton Hill
Doreen Hurstbridge Hurstbridge Panton Hill
Yarrambat Hurstbridge Hurstbridge Panton Hill
Diamond Creek Hurstbridge Hurstbridge Kangaroo Ground
Diamond Creek Wattle Glen Wattle Glen Kangaroo Ground