Albert Braggadocio Montague Pantywaist Padget-Willoughby, also Baron Wimpington of Wimpington-on-Whey (the third of that title) was a man who, despite his upper class upbringing, always had the odds stacked against them. His run of bad luck began before his birth in 1834, when a jealous older sister forged a letter in his father’s name declaring what Albert should be named upon his birth. – although whether his bad luck was the cause of his name or whether his name attracted bad luck are questions for the ages.
Despite a regimen of humiliation and beatings from his classmates, Albert managed to complete his schooling and move along to Cambridge, there to be made a gentleman. For a youth whose life had taught him to be fast on his feet, not to mention dangerous with his extremities (Albert’s beatings having tapered off after it became clear that needling Albert was almost certain to result in a broken nose at least), this seemed a pleasant respite. But fate, or at least Albert, had other plans.
Having seen enough gentlemanly behaviour for a lifetime, and recently learned of the discovery of gold in the hills of far off Victoria, Albert took ship for the colonies without a second thought. (He did spend a fair portion of his voyage composing a letter to his parents, the substance of which was that they should tell everyone – even each other – that he had died and never think of him again.) Albert never did reach the goldfields – the first newspaper he read upon arriving in Melbourne was full of tales of the Eureka Stockade, and although Albert did not fear danger, he saw no need to court in unneccessarily.
A town awash in money and immigrants always has work for a man who will let his fists do the talking, but Albert scorned the easy life of a criminal. At the same time, he found the idea of being a policeman far too restrictive. But a combination of both? That appealed. As a child, Albert had always enjoyed the tales of Robin Hood, especially the sections regarding Robin’s repeated tweakings of authority’s metaphorical nose. He determined to become a vigilante, helping the poor and unlucky, and striking back against the rich and moneyed.
His first efforts were trifles, but they taught him the importance of researching one’s targets – and of having a support network. While Albert saw no need to recruit a band of merry men, a few key allies – sympathetic priests and publicans, a copper or two who would look the other way, and so on – he did deem useful, and thus cultivated assiduously. By 1860, he’d become enough of a menace that there was a price on his head, and he was forced to relocate to the outer regions of the growing metropolis, where he had greater support.
Although he ranged over much of the western and northern suburbs (which at that time were mostly farms and isolated villages) of Melbourne, his particular home was the area where the railways to Ballarat and Bendigo branched away from each other, and the people there counted him a valuable ally. It was always to their advantage to have Alby on their side.
Suburbs near Albion: