The area now known as Mulgrave was originally settled in the 1840s, with the earliest residences in the area dating from the 1839. The area was then a low-lying swampland, part of an extensive saltwater lagoon that stretched both north and south along the same rough alignment as present-day Eastlink (although, of course, considerably wider and better smelling).
The area had much to recommend it to a certain frame of mind: a good supply of water, arable land, and not inconsiderable isolation. The perfect place, in short, for growing illicit crops. Of course, it took a long time – and a certain amount of criminalisation – for this to occur. Throughout the 19th Century, many attempts would be made to farm cattle and sheep on th land, most of them failing due to the all-too-frequent loss of livestock into the swamps. The locals, picking up on Kulin nation legends of the bunyip, believed that something that lived there ate their animals, although their suspicions were slightly more plausible, running to tales of a giant platypus or a saltwater crocodile.
In fact, the monster of the swamps was a man: John Justin Annaduff, an escaped convict who had made a dangerous escape from the penal colony at Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania, in a homemade canoe in 1840. Only twenty at the time of his escape, Annaduff would live to see the end of the Victorian Era, although this only became known when his copious journals were recovered after the subdivision of the area after World War One. Annaduff had kept detailed records of his predations, and also on his observations of the comings and goings of the residents of the area – some of them were later used as evidence in a civil suit regarding the true parentage and inheritance of the Stimson and Yuille families, both once residents of the area.
It was not until 1926, when the federal governement criminalised marijuana, that the area really came into its own. The eastern half of the area was still largely a mixture of farmland and uncultivated semi-wilderness at that point – perfect for creating the first illegal plantations of cannibis plants in Australia. Under the direction of Peter ‘Ace’ Lindsay, a survivor of Squizzy Taylor’s gang, seeds were duly sown and plants tended, with the first crop hitting the streets on the same day thAt Myer unveiled their Christmas windows in December 1926. For most of the next two decades, the dope grown in what was then called Springvale East was widely known as some of the best in the country. It became extremely popular with the American soldiers stationed in Melbourne during World War Two, which for a few years led to Ace Lindsay becoming one of the richest men in the country.
By 1946, however, moves were afoot to destroy Lindsay’s criminal empire. The plan was simple enough: the law-abiding farmers of the area would be induced to sell to land-hungry real estate developers, while the unclaimed areas would be claimed by the government as a park, with a huge budget set aside to ‘improve’ the land. It went without saying that the improvement that was most desired was an end to marijuana cultivation in the area. On New Year’s Day 1947, the police, aided by members of the AIF, moved in, slahing and burning as they went. Few arrests resulted from these actions, but that was fine, as arrests were not really the point. The massive burnoff of Lindsay’s current crop – estimated as being in the region of 5000 tonnes of marijuana, with an astronomical street value – began on January 4, 1947.
And from that day onwards, the area received its own name at last. The police might have driven off Lindsay and his men, but his name for the area, given bitterly in the heat of the moment, and deriving from a slang term for cannibis, stuck:
Henceforth, the are would always be known as the Grave of all Lindsay’s Mull – although despite the original name of the area’s major road, the way was never free. Still, it must have amused Lindsay’s heirs that for many years the VFL chose to make Mulgrave the home of its epononymous stadium.
Suburbs near Mulgrave: