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10 Wacky Facts About Melbourne

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by Julie Mundy (subscribe)
Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog:
Published May 16th 2012
Yes, yes, we all know that Melbourne is one of the world's most liveable cities (are you listening, Sydney?); that it was home to the 1956 Olympics; that it is the only city which has a public holiday for a horse race; that we love our trams and Luna Park has the oldest continually operating scenic railway .....

But what about when it comes to the really interesting bits of information about Melbourne? How good are you at Melbourne's wacky facts and figures? Here's my top ten things you didn't know (and don't need to, to be honest) about Melbourne:

1. Before Melbourne was Melbourne, it was called Batmania
Not because the first settlers were obsessed with Gotham City and Bruce Wayne, but for John Batman, the Australian-born colonist who was one of Melbourne's founding fathers.
Mild mannered, John Batman (source: Wikicommons)
Mild Mannered John Batman (source: Wikicommons)

2. We're Happy Little Vegemites!
Not only was this national toast spread invented in Melbourne, it is still manufactured solely at the Vegemite factory in Fisherman's Bend, near Port Melbourne.
Vegemite (c) Kraft

3. The MCG Floats
In 1846, the hallowed grounds of the MCG were first located further downriver at present day Southbank, but had to move for a couple of reasons: it was in the way of Victoria's first steam train track and it kept flooding. The Melbourne Cricket Club even had to advertise for the return of their change rooms, which floated down the river on floodwaters on more than one occasion!
MCG Postcard
MCG postcard

4. We Have A Much-loved, but Very Rude, Festival
Some Aboriginal language specialists think that the aboriginal word, 'Moomba' rather than meaning 'let's hang out and have some fun' actually can be literally translated as 'up your bum'! Which is probably what the Birdmen shout each time they leap out over the Yarra.
The Birdman Rally (c) Moomba Festival
The Birdman Rally (c) Moomba Festival

5. Coquettish Chloe
The beautiful nude painting of the famous 'Chloe' which now hangs upstairs in Chloe's Bar at Young and Jackson's pub on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Street, once hung in the slightly more salubrious surrounds of the National Gallery. However, her nudity had the Victorian matrons reaching for their smelling salts and so she was taken off show in 1883 before being rehung in her full glory in the pub in 1904, where local lads could discretely steal up the stairs for a good ogle.
'Chloe' at Young and Jackson's (c) Young and Jackson's
'Chloe' and friends at Young and Jackson's (c) Young and Jackson's

6. What Lies Beneath ...
Next time you are complaining about car parking at the Queen Vic Markets, spare a thought for those below. Literally. The car park for the markets is built on the site of Melbourne's original cemetery. When the market was being extended in 1917, some 900 of the named and 'celebrity' graves were relocated to Fawkner and the General Cemeteries, but many more were in unmarked graves, and it is thought some 9000 souls remain below the car park. There's a great self-guided history tour of the market you can download here.
Queen Vic Markets post card
Queen Vic Markets post card

7. Foxy Melbourne
The RSPCA tells us that Melbourne is officially the fox capital of the world, with between 6 and 23 foxes per square kilometre in the urban area of the city. That compares with 4-6 foxes per square km in country Victoria and around 13 sheep and 3 people per square kilometre in Australia.
Feral red fox (c) Pittwater Council
Feral Red Fox

8. A Good, Moral Scrub
Melbourne has a chequered history of public bathing. First, there was the Yarra River (yergh!). Then there was a dip in the sea, but mixed bathing was considered an alarming threat to public morals, so in the 1860s mixed sex and public bathing in daylight hours was prohibited. Things started to improve with the opening of the City Baths in 1880. Then, in 1881, the Brighton Sea Baths allowed bathers to discreetly enter the sea unseen and the rage for individual bathing boxes took off. There are still over 1800 private bathing boxes and boat sheds scattered around the bay, including the colourful ones at Dendy Beach in Brighton.
Dendy Beach Bathing Boxes (c) JP Mundy
Dendy Beach Bathing Boxes (c) JP Mundy

9. The Shrine Guards in Green are Actually Boys in Blue
It's true - they may be dressed and look like old diggers, but in fact they are a branch of special forces police. The Shrine of Remembrance is on state land, so cannot in fact be protected by our armed forces. When it was being built, during the Depression, lots of building materials were disappearing' in the middle of the night, so the Chief Commissioner put the call out to ex-military members of the force to form a protective guard just as they do to this day.
Shrine Guard (c) JP Mundy
Shrine Guard (c) JP Mundy

10. Mind your goat
Under local Melbourne by-laws, it is an offence to drive your goat (or dog) harnessed or attached to a vehicle in a public place. It's also illegal to sing a rude or bawdy song within earshot of another person, so careful what you sing along to next time you have your earphones in!
No matter how you dress it up, no goat carriages in Melbourne! (Flickr)
No matter how you dress it up no goat carriages in Melbourne! (Flickr)

Do you have any other wacky, useless and totally arcane facts to share about Melbourne? I'd love to hear them!
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Why? Sometimes you just need to fill your head with useless facts.
When: All year round - there's no escape from trivia!
Where: Various places in and around Melbourne
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great review, thanks for sharing - lots of fun!
by lesle (score: 1|82) 3843 days ago
It's Gotham City not Gothic City -.-
by Hahsk (score: 0|5) 3397 days ago
Great facts!
by DONT. (score: 0|4) 2607 days ago
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