Sometimes, words in different languages can have very similar meanings. English’s “diamond” and German’s “diamant” are an excellent example of the former, having the same meaning and almost the same pronunciation. But two homophones from the same language, “creek” and “kreig”, could not have more different meanings. The former is a small watercourse; the latter means simply war. The story of how the German came to be mistaken for the English in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne is a curious one.
For a start, war is probably overstating things – at most, the conflict was a series of low intensity skirmishes over the better part of a decade, often with months separating incidents. But it was indeed fought over diamonds, back in the days that a small deposit of them was not yet worked out along the banks of Scrubby Creek.
The belligerents were members of the Morentzie family and members of the Kelly family. Both families owned properties further down the creek, in Montmorency and Wattle Glen respectively, and both had been inspired by the discovery of gold in the neighbouring Yarra valley to explore the headwaters of Scrubby Creek. Neither family was particularly renowned for fair, or indeed, legal, business practices.
As it turned out, there was a small deposit of diamonds – so small its origin was more likely meteoric than geologic – under one set of rapids in the creek. In this location, it was covered by mud and three feet of creek most of the time, except on the driest summers, when the creek would cease to flow and mud turn to dust and blow away. The location – and the shifting course of the creek, caused by winter floods every few years – was usually hidden away until the summer heat really set in (although in some years, bushfires revealed it earlier), and as such, it was searched for by both families each year. Most years, it would not even be found. On the years that it was, the finders would hurry to unearth as many diamonds as they could while concealing this fact from their rivals. Before long, gunplay ensued, blood was shed and lives were lost.
The Diamant Kreig, as the Morentzies referred to it, came to an end when they succeeded in buying land further up Scrubby Creek, and dammed its flow late one autumn. By the time that the rains of winter had set in, they had found the deposit, and when winter was over, they had had worked it bare. Only then did they sell off the land, to a property developed who misheard their family name for the area but still wound up very near to the truth, albeit a few years too late.
Suburbs near Diamond Creek: