Somerton

Angus Morentzie was a farmer from one of the more mountainous reaches of Scotland. Almost everything he knew about farming, be it planting or raising livestock, was filtered through that geographical prism. So it is little surprise that his first attempt at farming, on the flat plains stretching north from the fields of Had, Campbell and Up, failed utterly. Morentzie, who had named his property Summer Town (although with his typically erratic spelling), got out with just enough money to buy more steeply sloping property a few miles east (and would go on to achieve much greater success farming it).

The new owners of the property, the Ridley family (who owned all the land from the line of Somerton Road north to the hill that still bears their name today), did a lot better farming the land, planting wheat on it and turning it into a field of gold (both in appearance and in income) to the north of Melbourne. But as the neighbouring suburbs became the home of industry, the air there became too polluted to grow a healthy crop any longer.

The Ridleys turned to real estate speculation, subdividing their land into smaller residential lots, except for one that they planned to build a mansion of their own on. But the land sold indifferently at best – their best sale came when the Royal Australian Navy purchased some of it for a training base, but despite the large sum involved, the government paid a fraction of the price the Ridleys had hoped to receive.

The Ridleys eventually gave up on the land, with the last scion of the family, a youth of only 18, selling it at a bargain basement price in the 1950s and moving to London. Here, he got involved in the newborn rock and roll scene, and became notorious as a maudlin drunk who would bend the ear of anyone who’d listen with tales of his lost youth in Australia. Ridley died of alcohol poisoning in 1960, but not before inspiring Eddie Cochran to create his best known song, “Summertime Blues”.

Suburbs near Somerton: