Monday, October 15, 2012

Truth is stranger than fiction - part III (the Moran's)

Our childhood house - all gussied up and looking nothing remotely like it did when we lived there:)

Well here we are folks, I've come up with the goods on my connection (though tenuous) to the Moran family.

I know it's been a long time coming and I apologise.....blahdy blah blah. Life's busy, blogging takes a back seat most point bayoneting the wounded so let's move on!

To the anonymous commenter who has been leaving requests reminding me that I owe you my Jason Moran story....hope this lives up to the hype.  If not, tough luck, I've started moderating comments so go your hardest critiquing me but you won't get your comment published without putting your name to it!!

If you're new to KATcapers (I can live in hope that I am somehow attracting new readers) my families connection to the Moran family was mentioned in passing in this post about my brush with an idiot and his gun. 

In considering this post I've realised that my story isn't so much about Jason Moran.  In actual fact it's more related to my recollections of the home of the Moran family and how the memory of it and the impact it had on my childhood mind still prevails today.  So I'm sorry to disappoint.  If you feel like reading my recollections of a house read on.  If you're looking for a juicy anecdote about a future crim perhaps click away now.

Ascot Value has had its fair share of crime and ignominy in the course of its existence and the presence of the Moran compound when I was growing up was simply a more visible indication that we were surrounded by faceless types who weren't particularly attentive to the letter of the law.

My dad was an ex-merchant seaman who like many of his colleagues had found his feet immersed in cement as a cargo superintendant for what was then the Australian National Line.  These ships were the vehicle for goods coming into Australia via the ports in our capital cities and my dad was effectively in a managerial role ensuring that the containers were loaded and unloaded from the ships arriving in port.  If a cargo ship capsized after being reloaded in his port, it would be his arse in the sling for not correctly positioning the containers!!

As a manager he was aware but not really a part of the shenanigans that people usually associate with the wharves (strikes, wharfies, things "falling off the back of truck" etc).  Nonetheless he was well aware of that and worked down at Port Melbourne throughout the period when the infamous "Painters and Dockers" were making their presence felt.  If you're not a Melbournian or indeed if you have no sense of the history of your fair city and the genesis of many of the Underbelly players (original series) feel free to skip ahead.

I however have a keen sense of my upbringing in a suburb that was a melting pot of new immigrants (Irish, southern Mediterranean) alongside working class people who had made Ascot Vale their home migrating from closer afield locales.  Most of these people I should stress were hard-working, honest types like my family.  We just happened to have the occasional dodgy neighbor. 

For those unfamiliar with it, Ascot Vale is conveniently located on a rail and a tram line and in those days (1970's) was easy commuting distance to the Port Melbourne docks and what was then the abottoirs of Flemington, Kensington and Footscray.  Hence some of the Painter and Docker criminal underbelly found it a favoured place to sleep off their nefarious activities.

The part of Ascot Vale that I grew up in is the neighborhood nestled in the crook of the arm that is Flemington Racecourse and the Royal Agricultural Society buildings that host the Melbourne Show.  Colloquially known as Whiskey Hill, our neighborhood was bound on one side by the Maribyrnong river across which lies Footscray and on the other side Epsom Road across which we needed to pass to reach the flats of Ascot Vale where our school was and where the main drag (imaginatively named "Union Road") and shops were located.

The area is popular today for its mixed housing stock - terraces, Californian bungalows, Edwardian cottages.  At the bottom of Whiskey Hill is also the low-rise Housing Commission flats.  When I was growing up the housing stock was affordable and many migrants settled in the area.

Our house was a Californian bungalow built in 1924 and it was located one street back from Langs Road which is the western-most boundary of the Showgrounds.  About four houses down our street was a group of vacant lots that bounded our street and backed onto more vacant blocks on Langs Road.

Covered in gravel, this vacant land was owned by the Royal Agricultural Society who ran the Show.  We kids called it "The Poles" in reference to the fact that the fence on both street boundaries was of the steel pole variety.  We were clearly imaginative kids!

We often played in the lots as kids, kicking stones (probably throwing them to) and mucking about. 

Every September that gravel lot would be used for parking whilst "the Show" was in session and it would be chock a block with vehicles.  For the remaining eleven and a half months of the year however it was just vacant land.

There was one section of The Poles that we steered clear of though.  I can't recall us kids every discussing it but we kept our distance from the big brick house that had two of it's boundary fences adjacent to the Poles.

It was a big house for our neighborhood.  Double story, brick and in those days painted white.  It was also notable for the fact that it had a pool.  Even more exotic it was a 'dug-in' pool which was unheard of in our neck of the woods. 

There was a grand portico at the front and there was a LOT of concrete.  These people weren't huge fans of grass, lawn and plants. 

Furthermore, these people clearly liked to park their cars, swim and be surrounded by high fences on all sides!!

We knew 'of' the people who lived there but we didn't associate with them.  Their name was Moran.

The times I recall being close to the fence at the rear and trying to peek through at the pool are unsettling.  That may be me projecting information I now have on an innocent memory but suffice to say the house was not on our list of homes to door knock when out selling our Girl Guide cookies!!!!

In hindsight, the conspiracy-theorist in me thinks that the location of the house with it's gravel-lot neighbors was a clever position when you're worried your enemies might decide to launch an  assault (and by enemies I'm thinking either the Police or other criminals equally).  With it's location on the main road it had easy access in and out....pretty good when you're wanting a quick getaway:)

There was a public/state school at the bottom of our street.  We didn't go there.  We were Catholic and we went to the Catholic school over on the other side of Epsom Road.  Once we were old enough we walked home most days.  My older sister, myself and my brother.  In later years I'm sure my other sister came too but my strongest memories of that trek to school is of just the three of us.

It was on those walks that I recall running into the kids from the state school.  Boys in groups.  One of those boys was Jason Moran.  I do remember him as throwing insults at us and making us feel unwelcome.  He was a loud-mouth.  I was scared of him and I was always glad we didn't run into him anymore than the odd time we did.

He used to ride around the neighborhood on his bike (a dragster I think) along with his mates.  We were certainly intimidated.  He was well aware even then of his power and influence as one of the Moran's.

I don't know if it's a figment of my imagination but I grew up thinking that nefarious business was going on in that house that these days we would refer to as a Compound.  I heard stuff about Abortion clinics and whilst I now know that those took place elsewhere under the watchful eye of the Mrs Moran senior it certainly casts a pall over the house.

In later years the house was painted Salmon Pink.  It wasn't a good look I feel.  The house and it's secrets deserved a more dignified choice of colour.

In even more recent years the house was home to Lewis Moran who was bequethed it by his mother (the practitioner of backyard abortions).  He made his own contribution to Ascot Vale's criminal reputation by his death at gunpoint in a cafe on Union Road.

My parents relocated many years ago up to an area outside Gisborne.  Sadly that area has been made famous of late as the final resting place of Jill Meagher.  Crime and ignominy are all around us it seems.

So there you have it.  My recollections of a house and my glimpse from not so afar of a family that lived a life in the shadows and had darkness in their future that my young mind couldn't even comprehend.  In contrast, our home just up past The Poles was miles apart. 

Our home was filled with it's share of darkness too but thankfully it was the more basic "domestic chaos" variety - moody, occasionally crazy father raising five children with our long-suffering mum.  That darkness was coupled with plenty of sunshine and brightness that is our family.  I'd take our house any day:)


  1. great post. love the comment about the salmon pink paint!

  2. As you honoured my request, I have honoured yours and have given my name. I very much appreciate your story about living so close to this once dangerous family. It's chalked full of thought provoking material. Although it may not have been what I thought it was going to be, I still throughly enjoyed it. Keep up the good work!


  3. Funny what we remember. I always thought we avoided the "compound" because it ran a business that required a "red light" out the front .

  4. So intriguing, Lib. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! J x


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