The corridor of the Maribyrnong River – originally known as the Saltwater River – has always been a pathway along which bushfires burned their way into Melbourne. Many solutions were proposed to this problem, few of which were ever successful. Maribyrnong became the site of a major government munitions plant (which, considering how flammable many of the munitions were, may not have been the smartest place to put it, but the land was cheap, and no one bothered to ask why), but when it was first built, it was called the Saltwater Munitions Plant.

It was not renamed – along with the river, the suburb and eventually, the municipal council area – until the 1920s. In that decade, Melbourne was threatened by a firebug who became known as Flaming Mary. She set fires at numerous locations around Melbourne, notably Auburn, Blackburn, Burnley, Craigieburn And Laburnum, demonstrating considerable skill as an arsonist (and a pretty low taste in puns). She led the police a merry chase (and provided fodder for numerous column inches for journalists who were tired of writing about Squizzy Taylor), until she set what would be her last fire, in Burnside.

After that, the police set a trap for her at the previously mentioned munitions plant, aided by Mary’s not inconsiderably sized fan club (who showed up waving banners that read “Mary, Burn On!”). Mary – whose actual names was Tracy Eileen McAllister – fell for the trap hook, line and sinker (which is a good thing considering how badly things might have blown up). She became the last woman to be executed by the state of Victoria, although only after serving 34 years of a life sentence and stabbing two other prisoners to death. But the banners of the fan club are commemorated by the name of modern Maribyrnong.

Suburbs near Maribyrnong:

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *