Stuff you never knew, but are now glad you do!
Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey
Virtually anyone who has lived in Northcote for any period of time could fail to notice the impact of the Merri, and to a lesser extent, Darebin Creek on the suburb.
But few will be aware of the third and probably fourth major waterway -
The likelihood of a mystery river was first came to light in early May, 1915 when Mr. R. F. Brown, the President of the Northcote South Ratepayers Association told a routine meeting that he had seen evidence that "a substantial subterranean water channel of incalculable value to Northcote and surrounding districts for improving the Merri Creek for swimming baths, lakes and uses too innumerable to mention" flowed underneath South Northcote.
He introduced to the meeting Mr Bartle Ryan, said to have had considerable experience throughout Australia with subterranean rivers.
Ryan said that there was a strong probability that a river flowed under South Northcote between Walker and Westgarth Streets "and probably crossing to Clifton Hill". He suggested that countless years ago, the river would have flowed on the surface, but when the Dividing Range became a series of active volcanoes, (as was Rucker's Hill), the basalt lava had flowed down the original watercourse and it, with other rivers had been covered over, claiming both the Yarra and Plenty Rivers were formed in the same way when normal conditions returned.
Ryan claimed he "had not the slightest doubt" that if a few bores were put down between Walker and Westgarth streets, in the Northcote Park, or at the side of the Creek opposite Ross Street, "one would not only strike the river bed, but an abundance of water", and that a shaft driven down alongside the creek bed would give an abundant supply of underground water, probably by gravitation without need for pumping.
He added that he believed underground rivers absorbed about one-
Mr. Ryan then produced a report from a Mr. Reginald Murray, the former Victorian geologist and said to be a leading authority on deep river beds.
Murray's report stated that from maps of geological surveys and from his personal observations, it was evident that two deep load systems existed at the tram and railway crossings of the Merri Creek -
There had been proposals put forward in previous years to dam the creek somewhere around Northcote Park to create a lake extending back under the bridge to the old Melbourne Corporation quarry site near today's Rushall station for boating and recreation, and the Association called a conference at the All Saint's Hall for the purpose of developing a scheme to "beautify" the Merri Creek by tapping into the underground river.
Representatives from Pender's Grove, West Progress, North Fitzroy, East Brunswick and Clifton Hill Progress Associations attended, and Ryan, after being voted to the chair exhibited plans from the Metropolitan Board of Works showing that underground rivers did exist. A letter was received from the Northcote branch of the Australian Native's Association suggesting a further conference of A.N.A. branches bordering the creek be held; the request unanimously acceded to.
With the perfect clarity of hindsight, the proposal had a major flaw in that it presented few if any advantages to any other municipality other than Northcote, and then only a relatively small section of the newly declared city.
The initial meeting was attended by A.N.A. delegates from Collingwood, Ivanhoe and Heidelberg, Coburg, Brunswick, Clifton Hill, Northcote and Preston. Ryan and Murray jointly suggested that if a weir was constructed in the neighbourhood of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, a lake could be thrown back as far as the Preston-
Again, this offered nothing to anyone except Northcote and perhaps a tiny section of south-
Ryan suggested that the mysterious underground river flowed under the Merri Creek somewhere in Coburg and the water could be tapped, but it would be a much costlier exercise because of the greater depth under the surface and the likelihood or more rock being encountered when sinking the bores.
The general consensus was that by tapping the supply around Coburg with a series of weirs constructed from rocks in the creek and a series of miniature lakes suitable for bathing established along the length of the creek.
The meeting passed a resolution that the secretary be instructed to call a conference of representatives from all councils and public bodies concerned with a view to approaching the Public Works Department and asking them to drill two or three test bores.
Bartle Ryan, now noted as "a mining engineer from Northcote", in the meantime arranged a "lecture" in Brunswick on subterranean rivers and the possibility of using the water to "scour and beautify" the Merri Creek. The lecture was rescheduled so Brunswick Councillors could attend and Ryan produced a map showing of the two Northcote rivers, suggesting that by gravitation in Northcote South and a pumping station in Coburg, around a million gallons of water per day could be obtained, the depth of the river being about an average of 110 feet below the surface and the cost of boring about 12/6d per foot.
After the initial meeting of the A.N.A. delegates, the Preston branch wrote to the Shire Council suggesting it should be represented at the subsequent meeting and it was moved that the Shire President, Cr. Crispe attend, to which Crispe replied "No thanks" to laughter and it was subsequently moved no action be taken.
With somewhat more to gain, Brunswick moved to write to the Northcote Council offering to meet with them to discuss the proposal. Whether the meeting was ever held is uncertain -
Whether or not future generations were ever aware of the believed existence of the subterranean supply is unknown, but it seems rather strange that if it was, and with today's advanced technology, that no attempt was made to confirm or disprove the existence of the river during the extended drought of the early part of the 21st century.
The other mystery which was never explained (and perhaps in a small way indicates the river may not have existed) is that none of the "expert" opinions expressed way back in 1915 made any suggestion as to where the water actually flowed.
It had to go somewhere -
A side elevation section of what the underground river what assumed to look like with the proposed gravitation outlet near the High Street/Queen's Parade Bridge feeing a swimming pool and with excess water piped into the existing creek.
|1842-47 : Early Settlers|
|1856 The Election|
|1888 The Citizens|
|1915 The Underground Rivers|
|1920 A Street Walk|
|Darebin's Great War|
|Darebin's Boer War|
|Drinking in Darebin|
|South Preston SS 824|
|Education Department : Memorials|
|Education Department : War Relief|
|South Preston State School|
|Preston State School|
|Metropolitan District 4|
|Preston's First Contingent>>|
|South Preston : A-C|
|South Preston : D-G|
|South Preston : H-J|
|South Preston : K-Mc|
|South Preston : Me-R|
|South Preston : S|
|South Preston : T-Z|
|The First 26|
|1914 Special Leave|
|... and On Average|
|And from Northcote|
|Timeline 1875 - 2014|
|Farewell to Jaga Jaga|
|The Price of a Park|
|Preston Park : 1909|
|The Dogs of War|
|War Service Homes|
|Turf Comes To Preston|
|The Winter Sport|
|Turf at Westgarth Street|
|The Real Preston Park|
|1494 : A Beginning|
|1871 : Preston School of Design|
|School 824 : The History|
|School 824 : The Memories|
|1864 : The Beginnings|
|1872 : The Free Education Act|
|1878 : A New School|
|1895 : A Merger|
|The Hanna Family|
|Memories : Day 1|
|Memories : Teachers|
|Memories : Pencil and Ink|
|Memories : Reading|
|Memories : Lunchtime|
|Memories : Preston Tip|
|Memories : Punishments|
|Memories : Uniforms|
|Memories : Where To Next|
|Memories : School, 1955|
|Memories : School, 1928|
|Memories : A Centenary|
|Memories : Sports (official)|
|Memories : Sports (local)|