Flinders

Unusually, the name of Flinders was known for many years before its location was ever discovered by those who named it. The name has been in use in English since at least the fifteenth century CE, around four centuries before Europeans ever came here. But they knew what it meant, nonetheless.

Flinders was a location of the mind, a place almost but not quite unimaginably far away, to which one might easily be dispatched by the impact of a cannonball. The items and people hit by those projectiles were almost always blown to Flinders, which may account for its many calcium rich hills.

Flinders was first found, coincidentally, by Matthew Flinders, who recognised it for what it was, but tried very hard to attach another name to it out of modesty. But in the end, his love of naval tradition was simply too strong, and he confessed to a superior officer that he, a Flinders himself, had found this location, so long believed mythical. The Royal Navy wasted little time is trying to build a base there (in the hopes that enemy troops blown to Flinders would thus be easily captured for interrogation, but soon relocated to the more congenial inlet now called HMAS Cerberus. Only a scattering of lighthouses mark the fact that they were ever there, although those too were in observance to naval tradition.

The expression is “blown to” Flinders, after all, not “run aground on” it.

Suburbs near Flinders:

Cape Schanck Boneo Main Ridge Shoreham Western Port Bay
Cape Schanck Flinders Flinders Flinders Western Port Bay
Cape Schanck Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait

St Andrews Beach

It seems obvious enough. A beach, named after the patron saint of fisherman. What could be simpler?

Except that it wasn’t the original name of the area, and that’s not the only thing he’s patron of. Originally, the area was named Capri by the Sea, and marketed, as so much of the peninsula was, as luxury beach homes. But when the interest in the area failed to eventuate, the various land developers began to sabotage each other’s constructions. Before long, this led to deaths – which led to more deaths.

Indeed, within a decade of its founding, Capri by the Sea was notorious more for its vigilante lynchings than anything else. The government of the day dealt with this sensibly, by buying back the land cheaply and dispersing the workmen and the mobs they had formed (although not a few of them later wound up participating in the Eureka Stockade rebellion). The half finished buildings were allowed to quietly fall into ruin, reclaiming by the scrubby bush of the area within five years. Finally, the whole area was renamed based on its only successful industry.

St Andrew, you see, is also the patron of rope makers.

Suburbs near St Andrews Beach:

Rye Rye Fingal
Bass Strait St Andrews Beach Fingal
Bass Strait Bass Strait Fingal

Portsea

Doctor Beaufort Montgomery III, yachtsman and overly-entitled upper class twit, was not a man to let little things like reality or good manners stand in his way. His stubbornness, allied to an even less laudable vindictive streak, had caused the end of the careers of several people who had gotten in his way. Fittingly, it was also the cause of his own career’s end, and that of his life as well.

When Montgomery landed at Sorrento, he was offended by the crass mercantilism of those who lived there (crass mercantilism being a thing he understood to be a privilege of his social class alone), and sought revenge upon them by depriving them of their livelihoods. Realising how dangerous the Rip – the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay, a mess of cross currents and shallows – was to shipping, he hit upon the scheme of building a canal across the Mornington Peninsula where it narrows approaching the Rip.

The idea was acclaimed as an excellent solution to the problem, although Montgomery made enemies of his competitors (one who advocated a canal across the Bellarine Peninsula and another who wanted a rail link all the way to the Sorrento back beach), and he had little trouble finding investors. He had rather more trouble constructing the canal. The spine of the Mornington Peninsula is a basalt ridge line, stretching for miles. Digging would never work – it would have to be blasted out. But there was estimated to be insufficient dynamite in the whole of the nation for that job, even if the mining industry could be persuaded to part with theirs. Montogomery lost his shirt and his reputation, and eventually threw himself into the ocean in shame. His body was never recovered, although it is rumoured that Harold Holt may have been searching for it on his final swim.

Suburbs near Portsea:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay
Port Phillip Bay Portsea Sorrento
Bass Strait Portsea Sorrento
Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait

Sorrento

There’s many a place in this crazy world of ours that got its English language name as a result of cultural or linguistic misunderstandings. The village that now glories in the English name of ‘goat dropping’, or the mountain whose name translates to ‘your finger you fool’ spring to mind. Others come later, when people forget the linguistic origins of a name, and use it as an English word (which is why the fully translated name of baseball’s ‘The Los Angeles Angels’ is ‘The The Angels Angels’). And still others come to pass when someone misunderstands an accent.

There has never been a more accent-misunderstanding-ing class of people than the upper class Victorian English gentleman, a species of man who regarded it as a duty to Queen, God and Country to fail to understand the accents of all those of a lower social class – which was anyone outside their own social class, anyone foreign and of course, anyone female (except the Queen). One such gentleman (and it should be understood that in his particular case, the term ‘gentleman’ is an almost entirely nominal one), a yachtsman and doctor named Beaufort Montgomery III, landed near the extremity of the Mornington Peninsula one fine morning in 1886, and was astonished to find that working class people already lived there, and claimed the property that he had imagined would be his for the disposal.

History does not record Montgomery’s response to being told he would have to pay to tie up at the dock by the descendents of the hearty Scots and Cockneys who had first settled the region, but one has to wonder what he expected. It’s a rental, innit?

Suburbs near Sorrento:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay
Portsea Sorrento Blairgowrie
Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait

Blairgowrie

The Blehgauer is a rare species of raptor, native to the Black Forest region of southern Germany. The earliest records existing of them were left by the Romans, who noted that Arminius and his tribe used them as scouts. Attempts by the Romans to domesticate them over the ensuing centuries failed miserably, but the dream of doing so became a part of Western military culture. The Burgundians, and later the Carolingians, also carried on experiments with the birds, but to no avail.

It was rumoured that the Knights Templar had succeeded in domesticating the Blehgauer, just as it was rumoured that many of the Templars escaped to Scotland after their suppression in France. The fact that the first verified use of them militarily was by Scots forces a few decades after the Templar suppression tends to support both these rumours – it is speculated that the missing ingredient to taming these birds of prey may have been a good single malt.

From there, the use of the birds evolved over the years, with a greater emphasis on falconry and the use of the birds as sentries. As various groups of Scots emigrated in the successive centuries, colonies of the Blehgauer – spelled Blairgower by the Scots – went with them. By the mid-Nineteenth century, colonies of them were extent in Ireland, Canada, the Confederate States of America, and Australia. But attempts to plant a colony on the Australian mainland failed again and again, although each time they moved a little further south in search of conditions more like those of Scotland. The final mainland attempt to create such a colony – a Blairgowrie, as the Scots called them – took place on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. It was abandoned within five years, after the birds escaped (they were later found to be nesting in the west of Tasmania).

Suburbs near Blairgowrie:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay
Sorrento Blairgowrie Rye
Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait

Rye

Listen mate, if you’d come halfway round the bloody world to find yourself gazing upon a splendid natural harbour that was damned near unusable due to the ferocity of the currents at its all-too-narrow mouth, standing on a rocky outcrop that might possibly support goats, but certainly not the sheep and cattle you’re going to have to drive overland in the hope that somewhere on the other side of the bloody bay there’d be decent pasturage for them, well, you’d be feeling pretty bloody wry too, mate.

The hilly spine of the western arm of the Mornington Peninsula is unsuitable for most cultivation (although it did provide a source of lime to early settlers, it should be understood that this means the stone, not the fruit), including, perhaps surprisingly, Rye. But then, it was that very absence that got the region its name.

Early settlers, facing the circumstances described above, quickly came to the conclusion that what this situation called for was a drink. But if they were to drink their whiskey, they realised, there was only one way to have it with rye.

Suburbs near Rye:

Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay Port Phillip Bay
Blairgowrie Rye Rye Tootgarook
Blairgowrie Rye Rye Fingal
Bass Strait Rye Rye Fingal
Bass Strait Bass Strait St Andrews Beach Fingal

Cape Schanck

To clear up a common misconception: a cape shank is not the correct name of the knot used by small children pretending to be Superman. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the area in question’s name was an early name for the geological formation now called Pulpit Rock, from an old idiom (and archaic spelling) of the word ‘shank’, meaning a protuberance. The Cape part of the name derives from Martin Alexander Cape, an early explorer of Victoria who traversed almost its entire coastline in 1801, a year before Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation of the continent (although after Flinders’ proof that Tasmania was separate from the mainland).

Cape was a notorious egotist who rubbed many of those he met the wrong way, and his comparative absence from the history books is a reflection of this: people who disliked him conspired to attribute his acheivements (few though they were) to others, and to delay or outright prevent the publication of his notes and maps.

His final crew, aboard the HMS Thamyris, were probably those who disliked him most, and it was they who persuaded him to take the dangerous overland journey from the mouth of the Murray, travelling north in search of the inland sea that eventually led to Cape’s death near the Timminy Caves outside of Dingo. However, on their way back to Port Jackson, they were stricken by the guilt of their actions, which they attempted to expiate by naming Cape Schanck after him. Several of them later drank themselves to death in Sydney after their participation in the Rum Rebellion.

Suburbs near Cape Schanck:

Fingal Fingal Fingal Boneo
Fingal Cape Schanck Cape Schanck Boneo
Bass Strait Cape Schanck Cape Schanck Flinders
Bass Strait Bass Strait Cape Schanck Bass Strait
Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait

Fingal

Although local legend states that this area was named after an ancient king of Ireland, the truth is rather more mundane. It was named after a king, of sorts, in a way. But the tale is one that is decidedly more mundane.

Until the late 1960’s the area was simply a part of Tootgarook, Boneo and Cape Schank. It was in the year 1967 that Harland David Sanders (who was not really a colonel, at least, not as anything other than a purely honorary thing) purchased a large tract of unused farm land in the area. for the purpose of farming the astronomically vast numbers of chickens that his enterprise would require when it opened in Australia the following year. The Sanders Farm – which was really more of a very large battery chicken growing operation – soon made the entire region reek. It got to a point where the holday trade of the peninsula was seriously affected by it – people weren’t coming any more, because a bad wind would see their holiday ruined.

The last straw came one day in 1975, when the stench led an anonymous letter writer to the Herald (a writer widely suspected of being Allan Stimson, despite reports of his death at a nearby beach in 1966, trying to save a friend from drowning – he had, after all, been reported dead on several previous occasions) to compare it to being like the plot of “On The Beach”, only with the directions reversed.

Sanders was no longer involved with the Kentucky Fried Chicken company by that point, but the new owners were very sensitive to criticism. They closed down the farm, re-sourcing the supply of their chickens to a variety of smaller establishments across Australia and beyond. And they found themselves with a windfall: years of chicken shit had made the land they owned extremely fertile, and it would fetch an excellent price at market as farm land (there being, at that time, no warning of the sea-change movement that would later populate the area farm more densely).

But their For Sale sign was vandalised by some local semi-literate half-wit, adding the words “it’s FINGALickinn good” to the agent’s effusive description. And thus did the area come by its name.

Suburbs near Fingal:

Rye Rye Tootgarook Rosebud West
Rye Fingal Fingal Boneo
St Andrews Beach Fingal Fingal Boneo
Bass Strait Fingal Fingal Boneo
Bass Strait Bass Strait Fingal Cape Schanck
Bass Strait Bass Strait Bass Strait Cape Schanck