Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Suburbs That Changed Their Names

In some ways, Melbourne is a chameleon city.

Consider the following; it has had a number of names (starting with 'Bearbrass'), has evolved through a number of distinct eras (illegal farming outpost, sub colony of Sydney, gold rush boom town, 'Marvelous Melbourne' in the 1880s), and has had its geography almost totally altered (Batman's Hill, the South Melbourne Swamp and the Elizabeth St Waterfall were all prominent features, now consigned to history).

Even the street names that break our city into its famous grid are enigmatic; start on Elgin Street in Carlton and head east and you will shortly find yourself on Johnson Street, then Studley Park Road, without taking any corners.

Another way that our city reveals its shifting nature is in the names the suburbs. Many of these have changed over the years, and some more than once. The following list is a selection of these (Know another? Drop me a line...).


Current Name: Burwood

Like so many people in the story of Melbourne, John O'Shanassy stopped here on his way to Sydney, where he was headed to make his fortune, and never left. The story goes that the devout Irishman had a chance meeting with Melbourne's first Catholic Priest, Rev. Patrick Geoghan, who convinced him to stay on.

Which worked out well for O'Shanassy, who started a profitable drapery business on Collins Street and then moved into politics. Twice Victoria's Premier, O'Shanassy's second term in office in 1858 coincided with the development of this suburb in Victoria's east, whose name is thought to be a tribute. 

But subsequent arrivals from England chafed at living in an area with an Irish name (similar to 'Irishtown', below). A campaign was eventually organised to change the suburb's name, and the local council opted for 'Burwood', taking the name of prominant local settler Sir James Palmer's estate. Burwood was formally applied to the suburb in 1879.


View of Melbourne from the base of Emerald Hill, 1858.
Current Name: South Melbourne
Immediately behind the south bank of the Yarra, the first European settlers of Melbourne were struck with a remarkable sight. Rising from the broken, swampy ground that stretched towards the coast was a lush green hill; a volcanic outcrop, covered in thick foliage. 

While the damp land around the river's edge was mostly unsuitable for settlement, the hill itself was considered a prime location. The site was surveyed and subdivided in 1852. and so became one of Melbourne's first suburbs. The name Emerald Hill was a riff on a description by a local journalist, Edmund Finn, who in 1845 described the area in the 'Port Phillip Herald':

Green as the freshest shamrock, encircled by shining lagoons and the shining sea.

The name Emerald Hill was used in the promotional material when the land was sold. As the area boomed in the 1870s, the local council adopted the name 'South Melbourne', feeling that this was more befitting their growing stature.


Current Name: North Melbourne

Born in Suffolk in 1806 to a seafaring family, Charles Hotham joined the Navy when he was only 12, serving as a cabin boy in the Caribbean. A decorated, globe trotting career followed; Hotham rose rapidly through the ranks and commanded ships in South America, and a fleet in Africa. But this stern, authoritarian man was not universally popular.

Hotham's political enemies had him removed from the armed service, and posted to out of the way Victoria as Lieutenant Governor in 1853 (expanded to full Governor the following year). Initially a popular figure in Melbourne, Hotham's aggressive response to the Eureka Stockade lead to a collapse in his support. He tendered his resignation in early 1855 and was waiting to be replaced when he died in office, on December 17.

To commemorate Victoria's first full Governor, a new suburb north of the city was named after Hotham in 1859. The area flourished and quickly became one of Melbourne's most distinguished suburbs. Wishing to highlight its connection to the city proper, the local council decided to change the name to North Melbourne in 1887.


H.L.Wood's General Store, High Street, Preston
Current name: Preston

Never a formal name for this area, this inner northern suburb was known for a time as 'Irishtown' as the first settlers to the area were from the Emerald Isle. Chief among these was Samuel Jeffrey, a labourer who established a farm on 40 acres in 1846. Jeffrey's farm and family prospered; he was soon able to expand his holdings, establish other businesses, and had 7 children with his wife, Eliza.

But subsequent arrivals were not happy to be living in 'Irishtown.'

Among these were the Wood family; English Baptists who established the first general store and post office in the early 1850's. The Woods, and other English settlers, took to calling their little township 'Preston', after a village in Southern England where many of them had holidayed. The name Preston was formally adopted in 1856.

Samuel Jeffrey lived on his property until his death in 1891. To the end, he listed his address as 'Irishtown.'. 


Liardet's Beach in the early 1840s.
Current Name: Port Melbourne

Born in England in 1799, Wilbraham Liardet set sail for Sydney with his large family (including 9 children) in 1839. He hoped to make his fortune in the booming colony at Botany Bay but, en route, the Liardet's docked in Melbourne for three weeks. Wilbraham was immediately entranced with the local climate and scenery, and changed his plans on the spot. 

Deciding to settle in Melbourne instead, the Liardet's took up residence in a few tents, which they pitched on the largely unoccupied beach just south of the city. Wilbraham was an energetic man, and he shortly constructed a crude jetty from the beach, where mail could be landed from passing ships. For a fee, he would then ferry the mail by horse into the city, where it was distributed.

This small business proved lucrative, and by 1841 Wilbraham had built a more substantive jetty - which allowed goods to be landed - a house for his family, and a hotel; 'The Brighton Pier Hotel.' He had also become a well known figure about early Melbourne; friendly, colourful, and known for his artwork as well as his business endeavours. 

Then known as Sandridge, Wilbraham favoured the name 'Brighton' for the beach area where he lived. But for a time, locals knew called it by a name associated with the man himself, 'Liardet's Beach.'

See also: SANDRIDGE.

The proposed Rosstown Sugar Works
Current Name: Carnegie

William Murray Ross was an English born entrepreneur, who made a fortune in manufacturing in the early days of Melbourne. He is best remembered for 'Rosstown'; an ambitious project he conceived in 1875 in the south eastern suburbs of the city.

Ross proposed creating a new industry, and town, from scratch; sugar beets, then unknown in Melbourne, to be grown in large quantities and processed in an enormous factory he would construct. To service the factory, Ross also intended to build a planned community for his workers, and two high speed rail lines connecting both town and factory with the city.

But only one of these projects panned out. As Melbourne continued to expand rapidly, Ross' housing development sold well. But the people buying the land were not sugar beet millers; the local beet industry never took off, and the factory was started, but never completed. Meanwhile the state government, wary about privately owned rail infrastructure, delayed the railway line approvals in Parliament. Ross eventually had problems with his creditors and had to abandon the mill and the railway, and sell his interest in the land.

The suburb kept his name though, until 1909. 

And then the local council, trying to curry favour with American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and secure a loan from his foundation to build a library, changed the suburbs name to 'Carnegie.' This unlikely move had an even more unlikely coda; the council's effort to gain funds was unsuccessful, but the suburb kept the name Carnegie anyway.


Current name: Port Melbourne

William Wedge Darke was an English born surveyor who worked with Robert Hoddle in early Melbourne. The two men clashed frequently and Hoddle, as Chief Surveyor, insisted that Darke be employed only on a contract basis, rather than as a full time employee.

Something of an eccentric, Darke lived in a wooden caravan he had imported from Sydney, which the locals dubbed 'Darke's Ark.' To limit his dealings with his subordinate, Hoddle sent Darke out to survey the Port Melbourne area. Darke parked his caravan on the beach south of Melbourne in 1838, and worked independently form there.

Darke was reportedly the first person to cut a track through the tea tree scrub to the south beach, and he hoisted a sign post on a barrel to mark the path back to the colony. The sign was positioned on a sandy ridge, the highest ground around, and this primitive landmark gave the area its first name: 'Sandridge.' 

The name was changed to Port Melbourne in 1884 by the local council.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Evan Dando at The Hi Fi

The Lemonheads in 1987.
Formed by a group of high school friends in Boston in 1986, pop group the Lemonheads came to prominence on the indy scene of the early nineties. Their breakthrough album of 1992, It's a Shame About Ray, was a critical and commercial success, and one of the defining records of the era, its popularity bolstered by a rocking cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson.

Evan Dando, 1992. Note the 'Smudge' tshirt.
Similarly, Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando seemed like the quintessential 90s rockstar; sensitive, laconic, scruffy, and largely unchanged by success. Dando was the one constant in the band as it developed, with other musicians coming and going regularly. He also had a well known drug problem, another 90s cliche, right from the group's early days.

But his sweet voice and facility with wistful lyrics always shone through, whatever turbulence had occurred in the background.

Fast forward ten years...

By the early 2000s, The Lemonheads were defunct (splitting in 1997)  and Dando was performing as a solo artist.

But his recorded output since the band had ended consisted of only one live album, 2001's Live at the Brattle Theatre, which served to showcase an artist resting on former glory; his set list made up of old Lemonheads songs and covers. In the intervening years, Dando's drug and alcohol problems had worsened and the artists behaviour had become increasingly eccentric and unpredictable. He sometimes appeared disorientated in interviews, and struggled to finish his sets when onstage.

Then, things seemed to take a turn for the better.

In 2003, Dando finally recorded his first solo album of new material, Baby I'm Bored. This was accompanied by a much publicised detox and changes to a healthier lifestyle. The new, improved Dando would support his album with a world tour, a showcase for his reinvigorated talent, body and mind.

This, at least, was the plan...

Evan Dando and Nic Dalton
Evan Dando had a long history with Australia. 

In the early 90's, before he made it big, he had travelled around the country, and had fallen in with a couple of like minded local musicians, Tom Morgan and Nic Dalton. Morgan and Dalton, best known locally as part of the band 'Smudge', had helped write the songs that became It's a Shame About Ray. Dalton would subsequently join the Lemonheads and serve as one of their many guitarists, playing and touring for two and a half years to 1996.

Once he left the band, Dalton then moved from playing to production, founding the successful local indy label Half-a-Cow records.

So when Dando needed musicians for a backing band for his solo tour, he turned to his old friend and colleague Dalton, asking him to play base. Dalton agreed, and he became part of what appeared, on paper, to be something of an alt-rock supergroup; alongside Dando and Dalton were former Dinosaur jr drummer George Berz, and You Am I guitarist Davey Lane.

Two shows were set for Melbourne, in the first week of August, 2003.

Sadly, it soon became apparent that Dando's new, cleaner lifestyle was just talk.

Dando at The Prince, August 2003.
Sporting a beard, a beanie, a trenchcoat and heavy, lidded eyes, Dando's first show at The Prince was an embarrassment in nearly every way. The singer, clearly not entirely with it, began his set by mocking the venue:

'This place used to rule! Now it sucks. God bless gentrification, right?'

Things went downhill from there.

Standing on the corner of the stage, Dalton plucked at his base, looking mightily unimpressed. He would leave the band immediately after the show, his participation in the tour over.

Although whether he was fired, as originally announced, or left disgusted with Dando's behaviour, has never been established (a website with Dalton's name attached currently indicates that he left the band because he was unwell).

Whatever the explanation, with a gig the following night Dando was now without a base player. Whether due to drugs, or bravado, or his lackadaisical nature, the singer simply decided to soldier on without one.

August 2, 2003 then. Evan Dando at The Hi Fi Bar. One of the most notorious gigs in the city's long musical history.

The mystery girl, onstage with Evan Dando at the Hi Fi.
The night started unremarkably enough; the set opening with Dando onstage, by himself, singing a Lemonheads number, The Outdoor Type.

Things became strange as his band joined him for the set proper. Accompanying the rest of the group onstage was an unknown young girl, who joined Dando at the microphone.

As a remarkable coda to the story, the embarrassed young girl on stage, holding up the words to songs that Dando had forgotten, was later found to be Missy Higgins. Higgins, a Lemonheads fan but then totally unknown, had talked her way into the sound check in the hope of catching a glimpse of Dando.

After this mess of a show and tour, Dando continued on much as he had before. He has detoxed and cleaned up a number of times, and has relapsed an equal number. He still tours Australia regularly, with the gigs running the full spectrum from the sublime to the ridiculous.

But nothing has topped his efforts at the Hi Fi Bar, in 2003.

Recalling his infamous effort during an interview in 2006, Dando seemed characteristically non-plussed:

As fitting a summation as any.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Prince Wikyama and His Amazing World Record Dive

Let's be clear before we start.

There was no Prince Wikyama. And he definitely didn't complete a world record dive.

But the title of this piece is in keeping with the the story that I'm going to unfold; a story of one strange afternoon in the city's history, and the colourful characters that took a turn in the spotlight that day.

As unlikely a forgotten tale as you could imagine...

Alick Wickham.
Born in the Soloman Islands in 1886, everything about Alick Wickham was striking. Strongly built, handsome and athletic, Wickham excelled at sports from a young age, showing a particular aptitude for swimming and diving. In 1901 he was sent to Sydney, living with relatives of his father while he finished his schooling, after which he determined to make a name for himself.

Finding work as a house boy, in his leisure time Wickham would swim laps in the sea baths at Bronte Beach. While doing so, he used a stroke that was commonplace in the Soloman Islands, and many Pacific Island nations, but relatively unknown in Australia; freestyle.

And so the story goes: Watching him one day was prominent swimming coach George Farmer, who remarked: 'Look at that boy crawling!' 

The Australian Crawl was born.

Wickham equals the National 100 yards record, July 1903.

What Farmer also saw that day was an immensely strong young swimmer, who he was keen to help hone into a world class athlete. Farmer recruited Wickham for the East Sydney Swimming Club and, under his personal direction,the youngster equalled the national 100 yard record in 1903. The following year, he broke the world record for a swim over 50 yards and, over the next few years, would break still more state and national records.

Alongside his sporting achievements, Wickham made a living performing stunts  and tricks at swimming carnivals and other public events.

Alick Wickham had become a well known, and quite exotic, local identity.

John Wren
Born in Collingwood in 1871, John Wren endured a rugged start in life. Son of a knockabout Irish labourer, Wren left school at 12 and took a number of menial jobs, ending in a manual position in a local lumber yard. A keen amateur sportsman, proficient at cricket and footy, Wren supplemented his modest wages by working as an independent bookie, taking bets on the local sporting comps that he followed avidly.

And so the story goes: in 1890 Wren bet his life savings on Carbine in the Melbourne Cup and, when the Kiwi horse got up, found himself with enough dough to go into business for himself. Wren opened a licensed betting agency on Johnston Street, near where he grew up, which quickly proved lucrative enough to expand into a chain of shopfronts.

As the money poured in, Wren's notoriety grew. 

He maintained links with Melbourne's criminal underground, running illegal totes alongside his legitimate ones, and employed a number of ex-cons in his businesses (Squizzy Taylor was rumoured to be a friend). He was also accused of fixing races and flouting Victoria's gambling laws, but each time charges were laid against him, he was able to beat the case. 

Wren also gave money generously to charities, and the Catholic Church, and fashioned himself as the champion of the underdog. His support for local sporting teams, Collingwood chief among them, and outspoken patriotism meant that he remained popular, as well as infamous.

John Wren had become a colourful, and quite exotic, local identity.

Deep Rock Swimming Club

Among Wren's many sporting interests was the Deep Rock Swimming Club. 

Nestled on a gentle bend in the Yarra, near Wren's house in Kew, Deep Rock was a popular swimming hole for inner city residents. After Wren assumed the Presidency of the club he expanded its activities; overseeing the construction of a concrete swimming pool for kids, instigating lifesaving lessons, and arranging carnivals and competitive swim meets.

After the outbreak of World War I, Wren decided to use the swimming club for a show of patriotic support. He conceived a swimming carnival, capped with a world record high dive into the Yarra from the cliffs opposite the club, with all proceeds going to the Returned Soldiers Fund.

This remarkable event was set for March 23, 1918.

The dive tower, March 23, 1918.
Alick Wickham had performed in Melbourne a number of times during his swimming career, so undoubtedly was well known to a sports fanatic like Wren. But, by 1918, his days as a national sporting champion were over. Perhaps this is what motivated him to accept the dangerous proposal Wren put forward; one final turn in the spotlight for an athlete who's prime was now past. Or maybe he was simply motivated by the thought of helping the war effort; Wickham's younger brother Ted had been killed on duty in France. 

Whatever the reason, Wickham agreed to a one-off high dive into the Yarra from an elevated platform. To add an extra element of spice, he also agreed to be billed as 'Prince Wikyama,' a visiting member of the Solomon Islands Royal family. The local press lapped up this exotic angle and this, along with the patriotic theme of the day. meant a big crowd was a certainty.

In the end, an estimated 60 000 people would cram into the surrounding park to watch the death defying feat, paying 6 shillings each and raising a considerable sum.

The first part of the carnival proceeded without incident; the swim meet was competitive, with the feature 100 yard race being won by a local swimmer ahead of Wickham (who had provided a sporting head start). The crowd built during the day, and by the time of the dive they were spread along both sides of the river, and even climbed trees to get a clearer view.

Around 5pm, Wickham was rowed across the river in a canoe, and then walked up a dirt track to the clifftop. He then mounted several flights of stairs, to the top of the wooden platform that had been erected there. The mood of the crowd was tense, nervous, solemn. As for the diver...

Wickham climbed back down the platform again. He spoke to officials. The crowd waited anxiously, a number now convinced that if he dived he would be killed, or seriously injured.

But after a few minutes he climbed up again, and took position on the edge of the diving platform. A bugler on loan from the local barracks played one long note, which silenced the crowd.

Wickham survived his jump, more or less unscathed, and was rewarded by a gesture of 100 pounds from Wren, who viewed the day as a great success. Wickham's feat was celebrated by the press across Australia, and the successful jumper found himself a minor celebrity again.

Wren also claimed that Wickham had broken a world record, in that the platform was 205 feet (62 metres) above the water. This almost immediately came in for considerable skepticism, as many eyewitnesses felt that the tower had been much lower than this.

But Wren was able to produce Sgt F. Smith of the Melbourne War Council, who had erected the platform for the event. Sgt Smith swore that the height of the tower was 205ft, 9inch, which seemed to set the matter firmly in the record.

Alick Wickham, Prince Wikyama, had set a new world's record.

The local press report the jump.
After the war, Wren's eventful life continued much as it had beforehand. 

His business interests were wide and varied enough that he survived a number of reversals, and he would remain a wealthy man for the rest of his life. As he grew older, he became steadily more involved in the Victorian Labor Party, and he was soon recognised as one of the state's most influential political operators.

Wren was the subject of Frank Hardy's classic local novel 'Power Without Glory,' (under the character name of John West), where he was depicted as a thoroughly amoral individual, corrupted by his thirst for power. Wren sued Hardy for libel but the court, almost certainly swayed by Wren's seedy reputation, dismissed the case.

A sports fanatic to the end, Wren suffered a heart attack while trying to get behind the goals in the final moments of Collingwood's grand final win of 1953. He died a few days later, on the 26th October 1953.

Alick Wickham's fate was more melancholy.

Too old for competitive swimming, Wickham's fortunes took a turn for the worse, and he was reduced to driving a cab in Sydney to make ends meet. In the 1920's he returned to the Soloman Islands to live, where he was married unhappily three times, and worked a variety of odd jobs. 

The cliff Wickham jumped from, present day.
Meanwhile, debate had continued about the height Wickham had jumped from on that remarkable day in 1918. 

To settle the argument, in 1965 the Yarra Bend Park Trust had the Yarra cliffs surveyed. This established their height as 106 feet and this, combined with an estimated tower height of about 30 feet, meant that Wickham's jump was more like 135 feet overall. Still considerable, and still an Australian record for that time, but not the world mark that had been claimed.

Record books that previously carried the story of Wickham's jump now swiftly removed it. 

Wickham himself passed away, penniless, of natural causes on August 10, 1967.

Deep Rock momnument, Yarra Bend park.

The Deep Rock Swimming Club continued to thrive after World War I, but fate seemed to conspire against it.

A flood in 1934 washed away the pedestrian bridge that provided easy access to the club grounds, and the clubhouse itself burned down the following year. And most of the remaining club members enlisted during World War II, many set never to return. New members never materialised, to take their place

By the 1950s the Deep Rock section of the river had gained a seedy reputation, as it was used as a discrete drinking and partying spot after hours. Finally, as pollution of the Yarra increased during the 20th century, people simply began finding alternate places to swim.

The club was finally abandoned at the end of the 1950s. A metal plaque, and stone memorial, are all that remain in the park today, small reminders of a fomer local institution, that once laid claim to an astonishing world record.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Extreme Weather

With an extreme cold snap hitting Melbourne this weekend, it seemed like a good time to have a look back at the outer limits of weather in our city. Melbourne people talk a lot about the weather, and we are nationally famous for the varied, 'four seasons in one day' nature of the local climate.

This list is a guide to some of our local weather records, and extreme weather events from the past 150 years:


7 February, 2009: A day that will live in local infamy. A perfect nightmare of conditions - record high temperatures, low humidity and gale force, hot winds - triggered the worst bushfires in Australian history; half a dozen major conflagrations that claimed 173 lives and destroyed several regional communities.

In the week leading up to 'Black Saturday,' Victoria was hit by unusually high, sustained temperatures. In Melbourne, the maximum temperature climbed above 43 degrees on three consecutive days for the first time since record keeping began, in 1859. As the fires gained momentum on Saturday, the mercury reached 46.4 degrees; not only the hottest temperature ever recorded in Melbourne, but the the highest recorded in any major Australian city.

Fires burned out of control for two weeks, before being contained. The extreme weather, part of a longer heat wave, continued until the first week of March, when cooler conditions helped fire services finally extinguish the last of the blazes.


According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the coldest temperature recorded in Melbourne is - 2.8 degrees, registered on 21 July 1869.


This ranks as one of the great unanswered questions of Melbourne; does it ever snow in the city?

The answer, amazingly, is yes (but only very occasionally). While Mount Dandenong, and some of the other outer suburbs, gets a dusting every decade or so, the last snowfall in the CBD was in August 1951:

In Burwood, then schoolgirl Susan Webster (picture top) recalls the event:

There are also records of snow falling in the city in 1899.


The highest wind speed recorded in Melbourne was 121 km/hour, on 3 September 1982, at the anemometer in Olympic Park.


On 2 February 1918, a hot, windy day produced an intense storm cell off the coast of Brighton, in Melbourne's south east. The storm was powerful enough to produce two tornadoes, which crossed the coast around 5.45pm. The effects were dramatic:

The last photo shows the Methodist church on Hawthorn Road, which had to be completely rebuilt Several dozen homes were also damaged, the roof torn off a local hotel, and the Sandringham rail line closed. A  number of people sustained minor injuries, and damages of 150 000 pounds incurred.

It is estimated that the windspeed of the tornadoes was between 250 and 320 km per hour, making this Melbourne's most violent storm.


The heaviest rainfall Melbourne has seen was recorded during a dramatic thunderstorm on February 3, 2005. 120mm fell in the 24 hours to 9am on February 4; a fifth of the city's average annual rainfall.

The storm was caused by a massive low pressure system off Victoria's south coast, so large that it extended right out into the Tasman Sea. Heavy rain continued throughout the following week, setting several more records for precipitation (highest 48 hour total, highest weekly total), and flooding was widespread.


The Yarra is a river prone to flooding. While this still occurs today during periods of heavy rain, a lot of planning and engineering effort has gone into minimising the effects in the inner city.

But this was not always the case.

On 13 July 1891, several days of sustained heavy rain caused the river to burst its banks in spectacular fashion, inundating the surrounding suburbs. The river would eventually swell to more than 300 metres in width:

Thousands of people were displaced by the flood, which took several days to subside.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Melbourne's Indigenous Placenames

Melbourne's European history is short.

The first explorers began surveying the coast in the 17th century, and the first short lived settlement was attempted at Sorrento in 1803. A more permanent township was established by ambitious pastoralists in 1835.

As a city, we haven't even reached our bicentenary.

But human occupation of what became Port Phillip Bay stretches back much farther back than this.

The five Nations that make up the Kulin Nation.

Melbourne's Indigenous population established itself in the area between 31 000 and 40 000 years ago. By the time the first European settlers arrived, the land around Port Phillip Bay was home to five individual Indigenous Nations, who peacefully co-existed under the banner of the Kulin Nation. Each of these Nations had their own language and traditions, although there was some overlap between their cultural traits.

The arrival of farmers, merchants and soldiers would change the local Indigenous way of life forever. But, as a small  reminder that local history did not start in 1835, our modern city is still dotted with a number of Indigenous place names. A short selection of these:


This suburb in Melbourne's inner east can trace the route of its name to the Bolin Bolin Billabong, a key watering hole for the area's original Indigenous inhabitants. The Billabong is still in existance, now lying in... Bulleen Park,


Bundoora is an Indigenous word, normally translated as 'Place where kangaroos live.'

Carrum/Carrum Downs

The name Carrum is linked to the Indigenous word 'Karrum', a the local name for a boomerang.

The Eastern Brown Snake, common in Melbourne's outskirts.


North of the CBD, the suburb of Coolaro takes its name for the local Indigenous word for a brown snake.


All the different iterations of Dandenong (suburb, mountain, shire council) can be traced to the Wurundjeri word 'Tanjenong', which was the local name for the creek that ran out of the ranges towards the Yarra.

The Welcome Swallow, one of several species common in Melbourne.


This shire council in Melbourne's inner north takes its name from the Indigenous word for 'Swallows', a common bird in the area.

Koo Wee Rup

On the southern outskirts of the city, Koo Wee Rup is derived from the Indigenous name for this area Kowe Nerup; Kowe, meaning blackfish, and Nerup meaning swimming. So this was a swampy area, and a traditional fishing ground for the area's first inhabitants.


Blue blood suburb Kooyong was named by Government surveyor Robert Hoddle after the Kooyong Koot Creek (now Gardiner's Creek). Kooyong is an Indiegnous word meaning camp, or resting place.


This inner city suburb is named after it's dominant feature; the Maribyrnong River, which was originally dubbed 'Saltwater Creek' by the first European Settlers. The Indigenous name for the river is Mirring-Gnay-Bir-Nong, which was adopted for both river and suburb in the late 19th century.


This green, outer suburban fruit production belt takes the Indigenous name for the area; 'Monbulk' was a word used to indicate the granite cliffs that were subsequently quarried by European settlers.


South of Melbourne, this area was known as 'Mooroobin' by the local Indigenous population, which was adopted as the name for the first cattle run established in the area by John King.

Nar Nar Goon

On the eastern fringe of the city, Nar Nar Goon is named after a local Indigenous name for the koala, prevalent in the area in pre-European times.

Narre Warren

Narre Warren was the Indigenous name for this area, loosely translated as 'hilly country.'


Nunawading was the traditional name for this area east of the city, which was a word that indicated a ceremonial ground. While the first settlers adopted this name when they arrived in the area in 1854, Nunawading was then given the more English sounding name of  'Tunstall' in the 1870s. The original name was restored in 1945.

Tullamareena's escape, depicted by W.Liardet (1840)

The suburb best known as home to Melbourne's airport was named after Wurundjeri elder Tullamareena, who was present when John Batman first sailed up the Yarra, and who lived in this area. In 1838, Tullamareena was arrested for stealing sheep, and imprisoned in the Melbourne jail. He escaped shortly afterwards, and took revenge on his captors by setting fire to the wooden structure, burning it to the ground. Recaptured, Tullamareena was then sent by ship to Sydney for trial (the standard process in the very early days of Melbourne, when there was no local magistrate). When the local authorities realised he understood no English, he was acquitted and set free... in Sydney, a thousand kilometres from his home. No further contact was recorded with Tullamareena, and his fate is unknown.

Yarra River

The naming of Melbourne's most famous geographical feature is based on a misunderstanding. The first European settlers thought that 'Yarra Yarra' was the local name for the river that they sailed up from the coast, when, in fact, it was subsequently found that this referred only to the small waterfall, that used to tumble gently near Elizabeth Street. By the time this misunderstanding was discovered, the name Yarra had already stuck.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Carnegie Library

American industrialist Andrew Carnegie seems almost like the epitome of the old fashioned American dream.

Born into a poor family in Scotland in 1835, Carnegie came to America with his family in 1848, where they settled in Pennsylvania. Leaving school at 13, Carnegie took a series of menial jobs, working in a cotton factory, then as a telegraph runner, before landing a job for the railways in 1853. A hard worker, conscientious and dedicated, Carnegie then began a rapid rise through the ranks, and was secretary of the Pennsylvania division of the railroad company by the time he was 20.

Carnegie in 1878.

Around this time, he also came under the influence of Colonel James Anderson, a local philanthropist, who allowed young people access to his voluminous private library. Anderson took a liking to Carnegie, and offered him personal, and financial, advice, serving as a mentor to the ambitious young man. Thrifty with money, Carnegie soon had some capital behind him, that Anderson helped him turn into a series of profitable investments in local businesses.

The success of these investments allowed larger, and more lucrative outlays, culminating in a
$40 000 investment in a local oil company. Within 2 years, this speculation would yield more than $1 million in returns. Carnegie parleyed his now considerable wealth into a major investment in heavy industry, founding the Union Steel company, whose rapid growth would make his major fortune. When Carnegie eventually sold Union Steel to JP Morgan in 1901 for $480 million, he was the wealthiest person on earth.

In shorthand, this is the story of Andrew Carnegie, business magnate.

Carnegie in retirement.

But in his later years, Carnegie would take on a new guise; that of wealthy benefactor

Carnegie never forgot his modest background, nor the generosity of Colonel Thompson that had helped him on his way. As his involvement in his business was delegated away, Carnegie dedicated himself to philanthropy and, by the time of his death in 1919, had given away some 90% of his enormous fortune to charitable causes.

One of his favourite philanthropic endeavours were the Carnegie Libraries.

The first Carnegie Library; Dunfermline, Scotland

Conscious of the role that Colonel Anderson's private library had played in his own development, Carnegie founded an ambitious program of library construction. The object was to provide a free source of knowledge, available to anyone, regardless of their means or social status. The first Carnegie Library opened in his old home town of Dunfermline, in Scotland, in 1886, and the first in his adopted country in Braddock, Pennsylvania (a town dominated by a Union Steel mill).

The libraries were not provided without conditions, and a number of eligibility criteria had to be met; the town had to be without a public library already, and be willing to provide a site for the building free of charge. And the local authorities also had to commit to providing an annual budget for the continued running of the institution. Nevertheless, many towns and cities were willing to meet these criteria, and eventually more than 2 500 Carnegie Libraries would be built, right across the world.

The Northcote Library Comittee.

In Northcote, in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, the need for a new library was keenly felt. From 1883 a room in the Northcote Town Hall had been set aside as a public library, but this had proved inadequate for the growing community. In 1907, the Northcote Library Committee approached the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, and submitted a formal request for funds for a new library building. A site adjacent to the Town Hall, at 185 High Street, was offered, and an annual budget of 200 pounds for running costs agreed to.

With some back and forth over the particulars, the application was approved, and 3 000 pounds allocated to the committee from the Foundation. Construction was completed in 1911, and the library was opened August 21, 1911 by the Governor of Victoria, Sir John Fuller.

The Carnegie Library in Northcote, shortly after completion.

The new building featured a classical facade, while the interior had designated rooms for newspapers, magazines, books and study. It would continue to operate through most of the 20th century, before the library again outgrew its location. In 1985, the Northcote Library was moved to a (considerably less stylish) location on Separation Street, while the Carnegie Library was converted into Darebin City Council offices.

The site today.

After his death, Carnegie's left much of his fortune in trusts, which are still used today for a wide variety of charitable causes.