Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Changing the name of our suburbs


Melbourne Punch, 22 April 1869

As you probably know already, Coburg was originally called Pentridge until 1869 when residents successfully lobbied for a change to Coburg as it no longer wished to share the name of what had become Victoria's most feared prison.

You can see here the fun the staff at the Melbourne Punch had putting together a ditty based on two of the choices put forward - Merriville led to the description of its residents as Merri-villians. Coburg led to Co-burglars. 

On that occasion, Coburg was the choice.

Move forward 45 years and Coburg was looking to change its name again. It was the the first month of WW1 and now Coburg was considering divesting itself of its Germanic name. 

Some of the mooted changes will be familiar - Merri (the suggestion of the local branch of the Australian Natives Association - the ANA). Others suggestions were Stanley (probably after the newly arrived Victorian Governor) and Linlithgow (after the Scottish town, perhaps). 

We know that name change did not take place, but in 1920 anti-German sentiment was still evident when the matter of changing Coburg's name cropped up again. This time the mooted change was to 'Moreland', which eventually occurred more than 70 years later.

Moving on to Brunswick...

I discovered recently that the name Merriville occurs also in Brunswick's early history in an area that for a while was called West Northcote, then Brunswick and is now part of North Fitzroy. It was to be a suburb in its own right but this did not happen. 'Merriville Lodge' was the name of the home of the Assistant Protector (later Guardian) of Aborigines William Thomas from the 1860s until his death in December 1867. Its address was variously given as Government Road then Westgarth Street, West Northcote then Brunswick Road, Brunswick and later Holden Street, North Fitzroy.

This map of the proposed Township of West Northcote, on Thomas's land gives a slightly better idea of its location. 

And so we move forward to later 2021 and Moreland Council's decision to change the City's name.

Not long to wait to see what name is chosen. 

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Sarah Sands corner, orange meets green – with unhappy results

 When Protestant William of Orange sent his men to fight off the Catholic forces of James the Second, he hoped to get rid of James forever. And he did. The Battle of the Boyne took place on 1 July 1690 on the banks of the River Boyne not far north of Dublin. William was triumphant. James was driven out and the Irish ‘troubles’ became entrenched in Ireland’s history – and the history of the Irish diaspora.  

Just over three hundred years after the Battle of the Boyne, the tensions created by this bloody battle played out on the streets of Brunswick, in particular right in front of the Sarah Sands Hotel, the southern gateway to Brunswick.

On Sunday 19 July 1896 the Police Commissioner prohibited the march. What better way to make sure there was a big turn out? And there was. Thousands found their way to this stretch of Sydney Road by whatever means was available and they succeeded in preventing the Orangemen from marching. There were violent clashes, though, and the newspaper headlines the next day shouted ‘A riotous Sunday afternoon in Brunswick’.

The following year there was huge media attention and the press published photos of masses of people at what they called ‘Red Flag’ corner. It was Sunday 18 July 1897 and almost 300 police, mostly constables on foot, had taken their places, ready to face the largest crowd ever assembled in Brunswick. It is believed that more than 30,000 people converged on the Sarah Sands corner that afternoon, arriving by tram, train and on foot from all over the city. Tensions rose as the Orangemen began their march at about 3pm and it was at this corner that the crowd broke through the barriers.

Image the excitement when a middle aged woman, later identified as 37 year old servant Johanna McMahon, leapt into the parade swirling her umbrella around. She didn’t do much damage, though, because in those days of poor roads and unmade roads, and in the middle of winter, Johanna was pushed by the police into the mud. That slowed her down enough for the police to bundle her into a cab and take her to the lockup. A few others tried to interrupt the procession but this time the marchers got through.

There were no marches, no protests the following year. So for just two years in the 1890s, this little part of Brunswick was the subject of huge media attention for its battles of the orange and the green.

And in case you’re interested, Johanna McMahon was taken before the Carlton Court, remanded to appear in Brunswick Court where she was fined 10 shillings and allowed to go home.

If you stand on the Sarah Sands corner and look around you at the recent developments that blend Brunswick’s past with its future you'll be hard put to believe the ferocity of the religious and national tensions between the English and the Irish that played out here and over many years within unions, benevolent associations, political parties and workplaces. It probably still exists in some families. It was a very real thing and affected generations of Anglo-Celtic families in Australia.

The Orange Demonstration at Brunswick, Weekly Times, 24 July 1897. The first image has the caption 'Looking on from "Red Flag" corner'. The second has the caption 'The crowd near the Sarah Sands'.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Our Lady Help of Christians site before the church was there

There's a fantastic pictorial record of Brunswick's first century in the Moreland Libraries collection and it's even available as a download through the Local History Catalogue. It's called 'Pictorial Brunswick 1839-1939' and was prepared during the Centenary year (ie 1939).

In all likelihood it was prepared by the Brunswick Historical Society, a group that had been established in 1937 to prepare for all the Centenary activity. In July 1938 (see Age, 29 July 1938), they'd had a large number of glass lantern slides printed and they put on an exhibition at the Town Hall. According to the newspaper, it showed 'old homesteads, the birth of Industry, the development of transport, and many interesting landmarks'. The Society donated their lantern slides to the Council and today the images have been digitised and made available through the Moreland Libraries catalogue. The Brunswick Historical Society disbanded in October 1959 and today we have the Brunswick Community History Group, which is interested in collecting memories, memorabilia and images from Brunswick's rich past.

And here is one image from 'Pictorial Brunswick' showing part of the suburb's rich industrial heritage. It's the stone quarry that was worked on the site of what is now Our Lady Help of Christians, in Nicholson Street, East Brunswick. The house in the background has been identified as Yeo House (which was in Barkly Street east and was the home of an early Mayor Thomas Stranger, councillor and quarryman).

Monday, 19 April 2021

Interested in the history of activism in Brunswick?


I'm giving a talk (a May Day tribute) on Brunswick activists and activism at the Brunswick Community History Group on Saturday 1 May at 1.30pm.

It's at Siteworks in Saxon Street, Brunswick (off Glenlyon Road).

Among others, I'll be talking about the contribution of trade unionist and historian extraordinaire Les Barnes, pensioner warrior Marg Nunan and Noel Counihan and the Free Speech protest. Plus much more ...

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Betty Sullock, professional ice skater

Herald, 21 August 1952

Professional ice skater Betty Sullock, daughter of Richard Basil J.G. Sullock and his wife Jean, was brought up in White Street, Coburg. 

She learned to skate at Melbourne's Glaciarium (also known as The Glaci) at what is today's Southgate (near the State Theatre).

The Glaciarium, 16 City Road, South Melbourne. Image H2009.185/13Courtesy Harold Paynting Collection, State Library of Victoria.

In September 1949, aged 23, Betty set off for England to skate at the Westover Ice Rink at Bournemouth during their summer season. 

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she skated in England, Sweden, France, Germany and Belgium and her speciality was pair and figure skating.

By the end of 1952 she was performing regularly in Australia - in Armand Perrn's 'Ice Follie' at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney and in the show 'Hot Ice' which toured Australia from September 1953 to June 1954. By then she was married to Ken Donaghue, a stage manager of Potts Point, Sydney. (His father Jim was also a stage manager and both men worked at some stage for the famous theatrical company J.C. Williiamson's.)

The couple lived in the Sydney area where they raised their family. 

Betty Donaghue (nee Sullock), former Coburg resident and professional ice skater, died in NSW in November 2014 aged 88.


Age, 8 April 1950

Argus, 5 May 1938

The Sun (Sydney), 7 January 1954

UK Outward Shipping records

Victorian electoral rolls

Ancestry family trees

State Library of Victoria picture collection

Monday, 4 January 2021

More on Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle

I've written about Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle project before and you can check it out here and here.

Now you can read his book.

Read all about Nick's book here

Friday, 6 November 2020

And they're racing at Flemington, November 1956

Argus, 7 November 1956

This photo features Mrs Patricia Poole of East Coburg, according to the Argus newspaper.

I've checked all the usual sources and can’t find any evidence of her being in Coburg, so probably she lived in the area for a short time only. 

It's possible her husband was Stanley Philip Poole born in Northcote in 1917 (died Heidelberg, 1981). If so, then she’s Patricia Wright and they had been married for fifteen years when this photograph was taken.

If anyone can tell me any more about Patricia Poole or the Poole family in Coburg, please get in touch.