St Albans

Unlike St Kilda, which is named for a nonexistent saint, St Albans suffers from an embarrassment of riches in the namesake department. There are no less than three St Albans recognised by the Catholic Church: Alban Roe, Saint Alban, and Alban of Mainz. Each of them is notable for embodying a quality found in the modern residents of St Albans.

Alban Roe was a notorious smart arse whose execution in 1642 was briefly interrupted when he asked his gaolers if converting to Protestantism on the scaffold would save his life. After a certain period of shock, they told him it would, at which point he told them that he was just kidding, and would like to be hanged now, please. From him, modern St Albans takes stubbornness, defeatism and a certain larrikin streak.

Saint Alban, one of the earliest Christian saints in Roman Britain. He was executed by beheading after he took the place of a Christian missionary whose piety impressed him enough to convert – Alban actually impersonated the missionary when the Romans came for him, and went uncomplainingly to death. The fact that his death was attended by miracles suggests that God may actually be a little more fuzzy on the commandment concerning the bearing of false witness than is generally assumed. From him, modern St Albans takes a willingness to learn new ways, and a small amount of hypocrisy.

Alban of Mainz was a missionary sent among the savages on the far side of the Rhine from the shrinking remains of the western Roman Empire, where he was beheaded by those savages. Legend holds that his headless body carried its head to the place where it wanted both to be buried. From him, modern St Albans takes a willingness to go among savages – as one of the most ethnically diverse suburbs in Australia, no matter who you discriminate against, you’ll likely find them in St Albans.

Which of them the suburb is named for is unclear, although it is possible (given the plural form of the name) that it is named after two, or even all three of them. Al Stimson, larrikin historian, proposes that it is Alban of Mainz, a suggestion based on his observation of how often his cephalophoric behaviour is mimicked in the area: whether in anger, despair, or just from nursing a bad hangover, holding one’s head in one’s hands is a common activity in St Albans.

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