In 1787, Scottish poet Robbie Burns wrote a lyric he entitled ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’. By ‘birks’ he meant birches, a species of tree for which the village of Aberfeldy, on the banks of the river Tay. But a century later, when the pseudonymous satirist who wrote only under the name Kelly Barry was looking for a title for a screed mocking the stupidity of certain people living in the Essendon area, along the banks of the Maribyrnong, ‘The Berks of Aberfeldy’ seemed like an excellent choice – not least because the people being satirized seemed scarcely any smarter than a Scots birch tree.

It is a mark of how well Kelly Barry had judged the targets of the piece that the family named Burke (or possibly Berke or Bourke or Burk – consistent spelling does not seem to have been a quality they much prized) liked it so much that they renamed their property Aberfeldie (displaying once again that casual disregard for spelling that was their hallmark, or possibly their haulmarc), a name which would in time encompass the area around their property, and remain in the area even when the family were long dead and gone and their property was sub-divided to make the modern suburb of that name. Ironically, although many of the streets of the new suburb bear the forenames of various members of the Burke family, including Aberdeen Burke, Brunel Burke, Boulevard Burke and Batman Burke (in addition to their ideas about spelling, the Burkes also held common notions of naming in gleeful contempt), no street there bears the family name.

Suburbs near Aberfeldie:

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