The flourishing city of Melbourne demanded huge supplies of lime, much of which was initially sourced from the Mornington Peninsula. Lime was an essential ingredient with which to make the mortar that held the bricks of Melbourne’s buildings together as well as the render which coated the bricks. Bullock teams would drag wagons loaded with bagged lime into the shallow waters of Port Phillip Bay, transfer it onto barges, then to small sailing ships, which would transport the precious cargo to a special Limecraft Dock which was constructed c 1849, near King Street in Melbourne.
The following transcript affords an interesting insight into an account of one of these journeys that is purported to have resulted in the naming of Dandenong:
” . . . To the Editor of the Argus
Sir, – In the interesting article, “The Gippsland Mystery,” on Saturday, by Ernest McCaughan, it is stated that “a party of five whites and ten blacks were sent out under the leadership of De Villiers, an ex police officer who kept the extraordinary named No Good Damper Inn. A propose of this, a story was related to me by the late Robert Rowley, then of Rye (a very old colonist who had known Buckley, the wild white man). The story, which may be of interest, that about the year 1840 lime was being burnt about Sorrento and Rye. A layer of sheoak logs was laid on the ground, then a layer of limestone. Another layer of logs, then again stone, and so on, until there was a considerable stack. Fire was next applied. By this rough and ready, though wasteful, system, lime used in the building of early Melbourne was then burned. The lime was then “slacked’, afterwards sieved, through a fine sieve, and forwarded to Melbourne by ketch. One of these old wind jammers had the misfortune to go aground near the site of Frankston. The lime was taken off undamaged, stacked, and carefully covered a little way from the shore. A number of blacks were in the vicinity. They had had some little experience of the white fellow’s flour. When they found the lime, sieved and done up in small bags under a tarpaulin, they were sure they had got the genuine article in plenty. So they mustered in force, took away all they possibly could, and, fearing pursuit, did not stop running till they put about 12 miles between them and the stack of lime. The blacks then mixed their flour with water upon their ‘possum rugs and put the dough in the ashes to bake, the result being spoiled rugs and bad damper. In the words of Mr. Rowley, “they called that place Dandenong,” which means “no good damper.” –
Yours &c. J.L. Brown
Sandringham, Sept. 8 . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Argus’ – Article “No Good Damper Inn.” – published 9 Sep 1924
When plotting the 12 miles (approx 19.3 km) quoted above from Frankston’s beach area, it would essentially take you to today’s Dandenong town centre, where once the “New Route to Gipps Land” crossed the Dandenong Creek, as noted in the extract of Thomas Ham’s map of 1849 (above) – water was also readily available from the creek – an essential ingredient to any sized establishment at the time. The exact location of the “No Good Damper Inn”, which is purported to have taken its namesake from this incident, remains elusive, however, the following extract would suggest there were no establishments in existence between Caulfield and Dandenong up to early 1851:
” . . . In January, 1851, some buoys were sent to Port Albert and laid down in the channel. The account for the work was duly sent to the chief harbour master at Williamstown, but he took no notice of it, nor made any reply to several letters requesting payment. There was something wrong at headquarters, and Davy resolved to see for himself what it was. Moreover, he had not seen Melbourne for ten years, and he yearned for a change. So, without asking leave of anyone, he left Port Albert and its shipping “to the sweet little cherub that sits up aloft, and takes care of the life of Poor Jack,” and went in his boat to Yanakie Landing. Mrs. Bennison lent him a pony, and told him to steer for two bald hills on the Hoddle Ranges; he could not see the hills for the fog, and kept too much to port, but at last he found a track. He camped out that night, and next morning had breakfast at Hobson’s Station. He stayed one night at Kilcunda, and another at Lyle’s station, near the bay. He then followed a track which Septimus Martin had cut through the teatree, and his pony became lame by treading on the sharp stumps, so that he had to push it or drag it along until he arrived at Dandenong, where he left it at an inn kept by a man named Hooks. He hired a horse from Hooks at five shillings a day. The only house between Dandenong and Melbourne was once called the South Yarra Pound, kept by Mrs. Atkinson. It was near Caulfield . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Book of the Bush’ – by George Dunderdale – published 1870
Another reference to “No Good Damper” states:
” . . . 23 Feb 1844 – Budgeree Tom and others of his tribe arrived from Gippsland at Halfway Flat near No Good Damper Inn at Dandenong where Georgiana McCrae was staying . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Georgiana’s Journal : Melbourne 1841-1865’ – edited by Hugh McCrae – published 1966
Another entirely different account of the origins of “Dandenong” and the “No Good Damper” is depicted as follows:
” . . . Wheaten bread is supposed to be a Chinese invention, though its origin is uncertain. But no such mistiness clouds the cradle of another edible of almost general use in the early times. This was the well-known ” damper,” simply a well-handled, well baked mixture of flour and water. This rude method of making bread was invented by William Bond, one of what was known as “the first fleet” arrivals in Sydney, where he carried on the bakery business, and was the author of the first bread loaf proper kneaded in New South Wales. He died in Pitt Street, Sydney, Anno 1839, after attaining to the very advanced age of 110 years. There is a place near Dandenong called “No good Damper,” and the origin of this name is very laughable. The proprietor of a small store there had occasion to be sometimes away from home, and the Aborigines, who had a great weakness for flour and mutton, stole a quantity of some flour, but the storekeeper said he would be even with the blacks. So he got a couple of bags of lime from Melbourne, and made them do duty for the flour at his next absence. “Blacky” called again, but instead of flour purloined a bag of lime, and left in great glee. On arriving at their quambying ground they commenced baking operations, when on mixing water with the supposed flour, they were horrified to find it fizz, and fancying the white man’s “debble debble” was about to bewitch them, they ran away yelling, “No good damper, no good damper.” So thus the phrase took, and so the storeman’s place is named to this day. The flour was never troubled after . . . “
Excerpt: ‘The Chronicles of Early Melbourne – 1835 to 1852 – Volume 2″ – by Garryowen – published 1888
– Facilities available at Dandenong
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