By John Granger

As a Melburnian, if you hear the word ‘Essendon’ one of two things usually springs to mind; airport or football team.

Until 1970, Essendon Airport was Melbourne’s international link to the world – it welcomed Queen Elizabeth in 1954 and the Beatles in 1964. We chronologically-challenged (yes, us) are stunned that the Tullamarine terminal is over 50 years old. The Ansett vs TAA days now seem a bit ‘Laurel & Hardy’ and recalling the machinations of Reg Ansett and Henry Bolte seems to acknowledge, and even salute, a quaint and less complicated world.

And then there’s the footy team. Standing toe-to-toe with archrivals Collingwood and Carlton for nearly 125 years, Essendon Bomber fans are loyal, passionate and fierce. Premierships abound and legends such as John Coleman and Dick Reynolds reflect the pride and success of one of the AFL’s great clubs. But sadly, like Essendon Airport, iconic Windy Hill has also had its wings clipped.

In 1803 Charles Grimes sailed up the Maribyrnong River and named Essendon after a village in Hertfordshire, England. Sporadic settlement followed until the gold rush saw miners use Mt Alexander Road as an outbound route. Development ensued … Essendon Post Office was established in 1856, a train link with Melbourne began in 1871, and in 1906, the North Melbourne Electric Light & Tramway Company extended its services to connect Essendon with the Melbourne CBD.

The Rotary Club of Essendon was chartered in 1935 and is the third oldest club in District 9800. No mention of the Club would be complete without alluding to Royce Abbey – Rotary International World President in 1988/89. Royce was a dynamic leader whose presidential message was ‘Put Life Into Rotary – Your Life”. And it is very fitting that his son, David, is President of the Club in this centenary year of Rotary in Australia.

Like others, the Club has had to curtail some of its activities with the continuing pandemic. A wide range of local projects and groups requiring assistance has been identified and with member financial encouragement and hands-on involvement, these projects are being addressed. They include the provision of children’s clothes – especially important during winter – coordinated by the Caroline Chisholm Society; the provision of bags of cleaned clothes and hygiene packs to assist the homeless via the Open Door organisation in North Melbourne (with RC of Prahran); overseeing a $3750 grant from the Moonee Valley Council to pays for 50 professional counselling sessions aimed at halting violence towards women and families.

As the spectre of COVID-19 waxes and wanes, there’s been a partial return to meetings twice a month on Tuesdays at 7 pm at the Anglers Tavern, 2 Raleigh Road, Maribyrnong … right on the Maribyrnong River, and although that certainly wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Essendon, Hertfordshire, it just may have elicited a wry smile from Charlie Grimes.