You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Essendon’ category.


Burke & WillisRobert O’Hara Burke had a number of things going for him. He was Anglo-Irish gentry; he had been in the Austrian military; he had lived in Victoria for eight years. He was “tall, well made, with dark brown hair… a magnificent beard; he had fine, intelligent eyes, and a splendidly-formed head.” If you were looking for the right person to lead a dangerous, logistically-complex, and physically demanding expedition across Australia from south to north, what more could you ask for? Qualifications, character, suitability, perhaps? Let’s not be petty. We don’t expect that in astronauts or presidents, why explorers?

The whole thing started with another Irishman by the name of Ambrose Kyte who came to Melbourne as a young man “humble and objectless.” He did very well for himself in land speculation, and decided to offer a thousand pounds to help finance an expedition into the interior. The Philosophical Institute of Victoria agreed to raise the rest of the money, select the leader and outfit the expedition.

Camels had recently been introduced into the American west, and it was decided that ‘ships of the desert’ would be ideal for crossing the Australian Sahara, so camels were imported. The disaster in the making was assembled in Royal Park, home of the Melbourne zoo. It is adjacent to University College, our first home base in Melbourne.
The purpose of the expedition was exploratory, scientific and a little vague. Burke and young Wills (the surveyor of the company) were to attempt to explore the country between Cooper’s Creek and the Gulf of Carpenteria (keeping an eye out for another explorer by the name of Leichhardt who had gone missing in 1848.) They were to cross 1700 miles of extremely inhospitable territory. And come home again.

Camel

Royal Park was then on the outskirts of Melbourne, “practically in a state of nature.” Burke hoped that it would help accustom his men to bush life. The nineteen men had relatively modest provisions for a journey that could take two years. They were well supplied with equipment, however, which included an oak table. Their goods weighed at least 21 tons.

On August 20, the explorers headed out in some disarray, providing live entertainment to thousands of spectators from the City. Their first stop was at Queen’s Park in Essendon, a five minute walk from our front door. One of the wagons broke down on the way and at dusk a horse broke loose and ran away. It was an omen of things to come.

It was a long, arduous, and ultimately disastrous journey. After making a series of terrible decisions, Burke left Cooper’s creek in central Australia at the hottest time of the year with three companions, six camels and one horse. Only one man made it back alive.

There is a very good account of the expedition on the Wikepedia site as well as at: burkeandwills.net. A re-enactment of the tragic tale was made in 1985. The scenery is stunning.


When you move to a new city in a new land, you don’t arrive with any prejudices about the myriad of communities which make up the place. Melbourne is very spread out. With its 8,800 square kilometres, it is twice the size of Sydney. Despite a tiny central district, greater Melbourne eats up more land than London. The burbs spread in every direction for kilometers and kilometers, serviced by an extensive train system. Most of the homes in the older suburbs are quite small, but everyone who settled here wanted to have his own roses, his own backyard and his own garage. For 3.2 million people, that takes a lot of land.

You can get a strange look when you say you are living in Essendon. Everyone seems to think it is far away, although it is only 9 kms north of the main station, a twenty minute train ride. From where we live, the tram is more convenient, but it takes twice as long and can be held up by heavy traffic. Two weeks ago, my daughter’s tram was hit by a car, which was being driven somewhat erratically, according to her firsthand report. Perhaps the driver was on drugs. Drugs might be another reason for the strange look when you admit you live in Essendon.

A lurid story was splashed across the newspaper the other day about an underworld drug dealer who had apparently ordered the deaths of at least ten rivals. He has been behind bars for the last two years, but he just pled guilty to three of the murders and been sentenced. He may get out of prison before he dies. His name is Carl Williams.

In 1999, an amphetamine dealer by the name of Jason Moran shot Carl in the stomach. They were rivals and there had been some disagreement about finances. Jason thought that the shooting would give Carl a message that the Moran gang was not to be trifled with.

Instead, the baby-faced Carl decided to wipe out Jason’s gang. When you read through the long, dismal background of the murders, investigation, etc., it slowly seeps in that much of this sordid story took place in our area. The children of both drug dealers were enrolled in the same private school in Essendon. In one desperate attempt to bring Jason out into the open, William’s wife picked a fight with her counterpart out in front of the school. It didn’t work. When Carl’s hired killers finally caught up with Jason, the murder occurred at a football practice field in Essendon North.

Our placid-looking suburb would appear to belong to the pages of Miami Vice. Mind you, the gangland slayings over the last eight years don’t put Melbourne on the world’s murder map. In 2003, there were 302 murders in all of Australia. 12,658 in the United States. This country does have a much smaller population, but you can do the math. In terms of personal safety, we’re in Disneyland here.

Essendon is also known for its airport, its football club and its big box stores. It was the launching point for the Victorian Exploring Expedition– the disastrous trek across the Australian outback now known by the names of its ill-fated leaders, Burke and Wills. More about that in the next post.

Flickr Photos

P6110011.jpg

P6110010.jpg

P6110009.jpg

P6110005.jpg

P6110002.jpg

More Photos

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 40,418 hits
June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 141 other followers

Top Rated

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Categories