No story here, folks. Just a guide to a few a of my favourite books about my favourite city:
Thanks for going on this journey with me!
Suburbs near MELBOURNE:
Melbourne Docklands is a 190 hectare area that includes 44 hectares of water. Docklands is adjacent to Melbourne’s central business district, the capital of the state of Victoria in Australia.
The urban renewal project has just passed the half way mark of construction and has so far attracted more than $8.8 billion of private sector investment. By completion in approximately 2025, Docklands is expected to have attracted $17.5 billion in private sector investment.
Docklands offers a mix of uses including residential, commercial, retail, dining and leisure. It attracts millions of visitors each year.
Construction started in 1997 and when complete in approximately 2025, Docklands is estimated to be home to 20,000 residents and 60,000 workers, and it will be almost double the size of the Melbourne central business district.
It is most definitely not named after escaped Nazi war criminal Doktor Heinrich Lantz, despite its obvious evil.
Suburbs near Docklands:
It was at one point a widely held piece of Melbourne folk wisdom that all bridesmaids were named Martha. The origin of this idea seems to be the biblical tale of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. How exactly people came to believe that Mary married and Martha did not (scripture is silent on the matter entirely) is a mystery, but can reasonably be attributed to the well known fact that Victorian era Christians were a cowardly and superstitious lot.
In any case, it is not the putative biblical connection of the name that matters, but rather, its attachment to the idea of bridesmaids. Almost directly across Port Phillip Bay from Mount Martha (on a north-west to south-east alignment) lies Werribee, and beyond that, Wyndham Vale, at one time considered one of the finest locations in Melbourne in which to hold one’s wedding.
However, Wyndham Vale was plagued by strong prevailing winds that blew directly to Mount Martha – winds strong enough to carry off hats, veils, bouquets and inadequately fastened watches, capes and even, infamously, bridesmaids’ dresses. These winds would sometimes have enough strength to keep these stolen items aloft all the way to the mountainside opposite – and bridesmaids’ dresses, being among the larger yet lighter items, often became impromptu kites in this fashion. The mountain (if one can dignify a hill with that term) originally known as Mount Bayview became known as Mount Martha after it became well known as the common landing place of these dresses.
The fashion for weddings in Wyndham Vale is largely gone now, along with the open plains that made it attractive. The prevailing winds in the area now blow from the south west rather than the north west, in any case. But the name remains.
Suburbs near Safety Beach:
Americans and Australians have always had difficulty understanding each others’ accents, but this has rarely been a great problem. Other than the odd confused tourist (or confused would-be-helper-of-tourists), there’s rarely been a huge difficulty there.
Except during World War Two. At no other time have there been so many Americans in Melbourne. American servicemen – Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen – thronged the city streets, and occasioned much confusion, especially when it came to different meanings of such words as ‘root’ and ‘barrack’. Several large encampments housed these men – at the MCG, Royal Park, and in the plains beyond Essendon Airport, which were not at that time greatly built up. There was no escaping them, or the problems that miscommunications caused. Even Douglas Macarthur himself ran into some difficulties, and he spent a few of his precious hours planning strategy pondering a solution to the problem. Macarthur realised that Americans, Australians and New Zealanders would all have to work together, and that mutually incomprehensible accents would create a communications bottleneck that would hinder coordination.
His eventual solution was to turn to that branch of the US military that most prides itself on obedience, and task them with learning the peculiarities of Australian phrases and untangling the messiness of Strine. These men were soon flat out like lizards drinking working on the task, and not too long after that, they understood what this sentence and others like it meant. (They also found it much easier to pick up local women after figuring out what ‘wanna root’ meant.) The men of the other service branches were given a single simple order to follow in the event of a communications breakdown with their Australian allies – one that, ironically, has been remembered by history modified by Strine accents: “Tell a Marine.”
Suburbs near Tullamarine:
The earliest known settler in the area now known as Laverton gave it his name: Bruce Laverton was an engineer and visionary who had moved to the antipodes in search of a less scientifically conservative society than the one he had left behind in England. In the Melbourne of 1882 – the second largest city of the British Empire, the second richest of that empire, and the most populous in the southern hemisphere – he thought he had found it. He should have moved to Prussia or New York instead.
Laverton was a great devotee of the works of Leonardo da Vinci, and sought to recreate and improve upon many of the master’s devices. Two were of particular interest to him: a device for turning lead into gold, and the various devices that promised artificial flight. The former interest was relatively short-lived – after his lab exploded for the fourth time in 19 months, Laverton abandoned those researches to concentrate on the mysteries of flight.
Like the Wright Brothers who came after him, he was intrigued by the thought of powered flight, but his power source was very different – Laverton never named it himself, but Wilhelm Reich, who would follow in his footsteps, gave it the name of orgone. It was an energy field that existed within and between living things, not unlike the Force of the Star Wars films (only sans midichlorians, of course). Laverton built several devices, of increasing size and complexity, some of which even got off the ground (if he tested them in a high enough wind). He sustained numerous injuries in the course of these flights, from which he healed unusually quickly (which he attributed this to orgone treatments), and threw himself back into his work with a devotion that bordered on mania.
Bruce Laverton was last seen alive on August 14, 1897. He was testing his most recent device that day, attempting to take off with the aid of a strong northerly wind. Witnesses agree that he got aloft in particularly strong gust, but the day was rainy, and he was lost to vision shortly thereafter.
No wreckage or other evidence of his passage was ever discovered.
Suburbs near Laverton:
Originally known as Irishtown due to the high number of Irish immigrants who settled there, Preston is a testament to how much money stimulates the imaginations of property developers. It owes its name to a need to class up a notorious worker’s slum in order to attract higher sales prices. (Further testimony to the lack of imagination of early Melbourne settlers can be found a few miles to the north, where an area with a high number of Germans living in it was called Germantown.)
The money in question was gold rush money, of course. Successful miners had it, and property developers wanted it. It was just exactly that simple. But given the poor repute of the Irish in the Melbourne of the 1860s, no one was going to buy in a place called Irishtown except for a wealthy Irishman – and that phrase was widely considered an oxymoron at the time. A new name was needed, and so the search for the right name began.
Preston was a name taken from Preston Hargreaves, often considered to be Queen Victoria’s favourite poet at the time (he excelled in creating new remembrances of Prince Albert without repeating himself too obviously). It seemed that such a name was suitably classy for what the property developers intended, suggesting a connection to royalty without trespassing against the prideful aristocrats by using one of their own names.
There was one small problem, although it was not discovered until 1879, when the Queen’s grandsons, Princes Albert Victor and George, visited Melbourne, and when asked about Preston Hargeaves, honestly replied that there was no such person. (Upon leaving Melbourne by ship, their tutor and guardian recorded an encounter with The Flying Dutchman, and some historians record Preston Hargreaves as a member of its crew from that point onwards). For the Irish of Preston, to learn that their suburb had been renamed after a British lie was little surprise, although it did help to fan the flames of republican sentiment among them.
Suburbs near Preston:
The sport of Balnarr was invented by Irish Celts and Norse Vikings in the late 10th century CE. Although historians record it as a means of settling disputes without bloodshed, the truth is that the sport was easily as deadly as hand to hand combat was in that era – and that its invention was something a little closer to an attempt to find a common language (violence, scoring, and post-game drinking being the three things the Irish and Norse had in common), or at least to get people to stop killing each other long enough to try to talk.
It consisted of attempts to hit a ball (the ‘bal’) into nets made from ship sails, using pieces of wood stripped from shipwrecks (named ‘narrs’ after the ships, which were called knarrs). It was in many ways a predecessor of modern hockey, but lacking the general amicability and peacefulness of that game. Unsurprisingly, it became popular throughout the Celtic and Viking realms, except in Normandy, where the Normans – former Vikings who wanted so very badly to be French – despised it as uncivilised.
After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and the following centuries of uniting the British Isles into a single kingdom, it largely died out. Even in Ireland, where the game was born, it was largely abandoned after Cromwell viciously suppressed it (and most other forms of Irish culture). Only a few players remained, contesting in a shadow league that met only at night, well away from the hated Sassenach.
The game was carried to Australia by Irish convicts, who saw in the south-eastern portion of the Mornington Peninsula the perfect place to revive their lost sport. Emboldened by the long distance separating them from England, they even dared to name the area they planned to use for the sport itself.
In the event, Balnarring never resumed as a sport. The Irishmen who planned to revive it were distracted by the lure of easy riches that the gold rush of the 1850s represented, and abandoned their plans in (mostly) fruitless attempts to make fortunes. Only the name remains of their scheme.
Suburbs near Balnarring:
Few people have ever wondered what happens to the various species of chastity troll (mouth trolls, pussy trolls and heinie trolls are the best known breeds, but there are also nostril trolls, earhole trolls and random infected piercing trolls) when they reach the mobile phase of their lifecycles (after spending up to 21 years in their sessile phase within the body of a human female).
In fact, life is hard for them outside of their accustomed protective environment, and few survive past the first week after their expulsion. Of the ones who do, most of them answer a migratory call that seems inscribed in their genetic code as something akin to a race memory. They head for the troll graveyard, and achieving it, lie down and die, just as the elephants of old were rumoured to do.
In Australia, the only known troll graveyard is located in the wilderness beyond Rowville, and named for the earliest known troll to find its way there: a mouth troll by the name of Lysterfiend, who found its way there in the 1920s. Justly famed among his kind for this feat, many mouth trolls since then have been named after him.
Suburbs near Lysterfield:
Traditionally, a dale is a valley located in an otherwise hilly area. This clearly does not apply to Huntingdale, which is a flat area located in the middle of a larger flat area. It could arguably be considered a part of a large dale – one covering a goodly portion of the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne – but even compared to neighbouring suburbs, it is a tiny area.
Nor, given the fact that it is a flat plain that never had much more than scrub bush on it, can it truly be considered a good place for hunting – even to the British idiots who introduced rabbits to Australia, and thought they were fun to hunt. Rabbits could be found in more attractive surroundings if hunting them was one’s goal.
So there is this suburb with its portmanteau name, in which both roots of the portmanteau are demonstrably false. Clearly, there is more here than meets the eye. But it takes a look at the big picture to grasp the true significance. Huntingdale is located in close proximity to Monash University, and the majority of its inhabitants are students of that institution.
And there are those in Melbourne who hunt the most dangerous game, or, in its absence, free range soylent green.
Suburbs near Huntingdale:
Gwendolyn Durst was given up for adoption shortly after her birth in 1943. Her mother has never been identified, having given a fake name at the hospital, but her father has: American soldier, and later real estate developer, Seymour Durst. Gwendolyn (‘Lyn’ to her friends) was the result of a passionate night spent together by her parents before her father was posted to the front. He never met his daughter, and she assumed for many years that he had perished during the war (because that was what the nuns told her had happened).
Gwendolyn was a good student with an innate entrepreneurial bent. In her high school’s graduating class, she was not voted “Most likely to succeed” only because in 1961 girls at her school were not eligible in that category. She quickly got a job as a secretary in a local real estate agency, and began working her way up. The Sixties were a heady time of promiscuity, drug use, political activism and artistic endeavours for many of Gwendolyn’s generation, but not for her: a teetotaler and virgin, she was concerned only with making money and obsessively re-reading the works of Ayn Rand.
At the end of her first decade in the real estate business, she was the owner and manager of a small network of four agencies spread across Melbourne’s south east, about to expand with fifth and sixth offices opening in Mornington and Sorrento, and looking to get into the property development market.
It was at this point in her life that she learned of her father’s identity, and of the uncanny parallels between their careers. She repeatedly tried to contact him, but Durst ignored her, believing her to be a liar and gold-digger (which was true, but not in this particular context). Gwendolyn became increasingly embittered with her father over the course of the following decade, but it was learning of his plans to construct a National Debt Clock in New York – an act that she considered a betrayal of the political and economic beliefs she had assumed that they shared – that drove her over the edge. The housing development she had intended to name after him was instead named for herself. Ayn Rand would have been proud.
Suburbs near Lyndhurst:
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:
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:
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: