Dromana, like many a place around the world, derives its name from a misunderstanding – although few names are the result of so long a series of misunderstandings. A series which, in this case, began even before the birth of its eventual founder. Dexter McGeoghan was an Irish petty thief who was arrested and transported to the colonies in 1838, just in time to be among the earliest convicts sent to Melbourne. His first misunderstanding was of being given the bar sinister, which he though meant he had to change his name to Sinister, which he duly did, becoming Dexter Sinister.
The newly rechristened Sinister fell under the influence of his warden, a would-be classicist of great ambition and rather less accurate education than he realised, Major Charles Montague Pickford. Pickford was impressed by the Latin names of DS (as most people now called him) to be willing student, and took the man under his wing. Sinister, despite his name, was a model convict, and was greatly inspired for Pickford’s devotion to all things Roman (except for Romanians, who Pickford abominated; and Catholics, who he regarded as pretenders to the Roman name), in particular Pickford’s conviction that a prison camp should be run along the same lines as one of Julius Caesar’s legionary encampments. Naturally, he was unable to put these plans into effect while shipboard, but Pickford and Sinister, completely failing to grasp the inadvisability of training a group of resentful Irishmen to be better soldiers and tacticians, whiled away the voyage devising their plans for landing.
Upon reaching Melbourne, Pickford quickly passed over his command to the authorities there, begging leave to scout the surrounding areas for a suitable location at which to test his theories (he was cunning enough to present this to Batman, Fawkner and the others as a suitably distant location for a prison camp). Once permission was granted, he took Sinister and a native guide with him, exploring many areas around the growing township, and evaluating their suitably for his plans. He rejected Ravenhall as too exposed to the elements, Elba (modern St Helena) for being too hilly, the upper Yarra region for being too flood prone, and finally settled on an area not far north of Arthur’s Seat. Unfortunately, Pickford had the ill luck to startle a male platypus, and believing himself to be fatally poisoned, took his own life. Before doing so he freed Sinister, charging him to carry on with his plans.
Sinister had even less understanding of their goal than Pickford had, but was at least smart enough to realise that an ex-convict was unlikely to be trusted by the authorities with the responsibility for other convicts, and also that there was no way he could afford to pay for such an undertaking himself. But Sinister was more observant than Pickford had been, and suspected that gold was to be found in the upper reaches of the Yarra River – a suspicion that turned out to be correct with the discovery of gold deposits in what is now Warrandyte.
Sinister made a quick fortunes, but he was now encumbered with a wife, an Italian girl who was the daughter of a man he had shared the mining with in Warrandyte. Sinister settled down to raise a family, but his wife died of injuries sustained during childbirth, leaving him with only one child: a son he named Dexter Ignaro Sinister the Second (Ignaro had been the named of his maternal grandfather). Sinister raised his son to believe in the same goals as he did, and when his father died of a ague, Dexter Sinister II took up his crusade and brought it to fruition.
He built a roman-style encampment in a region he named Dromana (‘romana’ due to his poor Latin – no one’s really sure where the ‘d’ came from) but found that rather than soldiers, it was vacationing members of the middle class who came to populate it. Bowing to necessity, he built a road to beach for the use of his customers (which is now a part of present day Nepean Highway), and slowly drank himself into oblivion. Upon his death, the campsite remained unoccupied for some years until it was purchased by Roadshow Entertainment, who found in its serried ranks the basis of what would become one of the longest running drive in cinemas in Melbourne.
Suburbs near Dromana: