Oct 12, 2010

Maribyrnong River

London has the Thames, Paris the Seine, New York the Hudson and Melburnians living in the north west have the other river the Maribyrnong River one of Melbourne's major urban waterways. The name is derived from mirring-gnay-bir-nong, said to mean "I can hear a ringtail possum' in the local Woiwurrung language. The Maribyrnong winds through Keilor, Sunshine, Essendon and Footscray, then flows into the Yarra near Port Melbourne. For many years it has been a source of industry, recreation, vegetation and Aboriginal archaeological sites. In 1940, an Aboriginal Skull was found during excavation on dry creek near the Maribyrnong in Keilor; it has been dated to about 15,000 years old. Further investigations have unearthed evidence of campsites as old as 40,000 years. Prior to this discovery the explorers James Fleming, Charles Grimes were on a survey of Bass Strait and Port Phillip in February, 1803 when they launched a small rowing boat from their ship and made their way up the Maribyrnong River. After the goldrushes of the the 1850's industries were established along the river to provide employment for returning miners. The industries that developed in the area were slaughterhouses, boiling down works, tanneries, glue works, bone mills, a wool washer and a soap works on the Maribyrnong by the 1860's. Despite the industry and the pollution, there were places to enjoy along the river. A popular place for relaxation after a working week was the Riverview Tea Gardens operated by the Hicks family that began in 1909 and provided kiosks, a dance hall and pleasure cruises on their boat 'River Queen'. These activities operated throughout the 1920's and '30s; closed during the Second World War and ceased to operate in 1947 due to a lack of interest. Peter Somerville of the Blackbird River Cruises started cruises in 1979 and has seen the return of birds, fish, penguins, seals and the occasional dolphin.
For more information see -

Maribyrnong Action in Tranquillity by Olwen Ford & Pamela Lewis

Maribyrnong Record: Past Images of the River by Judy Maddigan and Lenore Frost

The Vertical File in the Sam Merrifield Local History Room has newspaper clippings, photographs and a resource kit on the Maribyrnong River.

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