It was at one point a widely held piece of Melbourne folk wisdom that all bridesmaids were named Martha. The origin of this idea seems to be the biblical tale of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. How exactly people came to believe that Mary married and Martha did not (scripture is silent on the matter entirely) is a mystery, but can reasonably be attributed to the well known fact that Victorian era Christians were a cowardly and superstitious lot.
In any case, it is not the putative biblical connection of the name that matters, but rather, its attachment to the idea of bridesmaids. Almost directly across Port Phillip Bay from Mount Martha (on a north-west to south-east alignment) lies Werribee, and beyond that, Wyndham Vale, at one time considered one of the finest locations in Melbourne in which to hold one’s wedding.
However, Wyndham Vale was plagued by strong prevailing winds that blew directly to Mount Martha – winds strong enough to carry off hats, veils, bouquets and inadequately fastened watches, capes and even, infamously, bridesmaids’ dresses. These winds would sometimes have enough strength to keep these stolen items aloft all the way to the mountainside opposite – and bridesmaids’ dresses, being among the larger yet lighter items, often became impromptu kites in this fashion. The mountain (if one can dignify a hill with that term) originally known as Mount Bayview became known as Mount Martha after it became well known as the common landing place of these dresses.
The fashion for weddings in Wyndham Vale is largely gone now, along with the open plains that made it attractive. The prevailing winds in the area now blow from the south west rather than the north west, in any case. But the name remains.
Suburbs near Safety Beach: