market gardening tradition began when David Milburn settled
in the valley in 1857.
A skilled gardener he gained the nickname ‘Davey the
Basket-Man’ because he sold fruit, vegetables and
butter at the roadside to diggers travelling to the goldfields.
Acknowledged as the first irrigator in Victoria, in 1857,
he developed an irrigation method by using a hand pump to
draw water from the Salt Water River (now known as the Maribyrnong
David Milburn came from Yorkshire, England in 1853. He tried
the diggings and was not successful and then came to Keilor
in the employ of William Taylor at Overnewton. He bought
15 acres and in 1860 had 165 acres of market gardens and
fruit orchards. He sold vegetables to the diggers on the
way to the goldfields.
He was the first farmer to establish an irrigation plant
in Victoria. He was also a Councillor for 35 years. He died
in 1918 at the age of 90.
An insight into a social event in Keilor was a Wedding held
“A very pleasing ceremony was celebrated in Christ
Church, Keilor on 3rd instant by the Rev.R.H.Rodda of the
Church of England, Broadmeadows. The occasion was the marriage
of Miss Sarah Ann Milburn, eldest daughter of Mr David Milburn
of the Grange Farm, Keilor, to Mr William Lyne of Westernport.
The wedding party was very large and it took some fifteen
vehicles to convey them to the church, making the little
village quite astir. The bridesmaids were the three sisters
of the bride, three sisters of the bridegroom, Miss Kruse
and Miss Fyffe, while Mr Hateo of Carlton was very happy
as best man. The wedding breakfast was laid out at the residence
of the bride’s parents and about 90 sat down to a
sumptuous repast. All went merry as the proverbial marriage
bell and Rev. Mr Rodda proposed the health of the bride
and bridegroom in a good speech….Mr D. Milburn and
Mr Thomas Lyne of Tooradin, Westernport, returned thanks.
A fine large marquee was erected with a good dancing floor
and in the evening about 120 guests assembled to celebrate
the occasion with the mazy dance. The wedding presents were
both costly and numerous. The committee of the congregation
of the Church of England at Keilor gave a handsome silver
tray, teapot and cruet in kindly recollection of the bride’s
services to the church. In conjunction with Miss Gowdie
(sic), Miss Milburn has for some time past undertaken the
duties of honorary organist. Congratulations and kind wishes
were numerously expressed for the future welfare of the
young couple. It is needless to remark that the bride’s
parents are very well known and respected in the Keilor
Shire of which Mr Milburn has been for many years a councillor.
The happy couple left for their wedding tour for the Gippsland
Lakes.” (Source: The Essendon Gazette,
“In Keilor, orchards had been planted on the river
flats by the mid 19th century along with market gardens.
David Milburn on Arundel Road developed the first irrigation
system in Victoria to water his orchard and market garden
in 1857. He described how he carried out the work at the
First Irrigation Conference, convened by Alfred Deakin in
I started by getting my living from 7 acres of land, leased
in 1857, with 2 acres of orchard; used water by hand pump.
Afterwards bought 45 1⁄2 acres of land; planted 3
acres of orchard; and used pump worked by horse-power. In
1870 bought 70 acres of land adjoining; planted more fruit
trees, and erected chain water-lifter, worked by horse-power,
which gave 100 gallons per minute at 34 feet delivery; this
with fair results. Had a windmill erected, having four different
pumps, all in a small way, for when horse, or man, or wind
stopped, the water stopped.
In 1884, having a few hundred pounds to spare, I thought
of going in for a centrifugal pump and engine, but I was
recommended to try two hydraulic rams, and erect a weir
across the Saltwater River to work them; but what with the
rams not working well and the weir being washed down three
times, I did not get good results the first 2 years. In
1887 had a third ram put down. When plenty of water is running
over the weir, the three rams will deliver, at a height
of 50 feet, 150 gallons per minute, at 30 feet high, 220
gallons per minute. These are a great improvement on the
former pumps (saving horse and manual labour), as they work
day and night with very little attention.”(‘Victoria’s
First Irrigator’, Aqua, vol.10, June 1959, p.189,
May 1962, pp. 153-4.)(Source of photo and text: ‘Farm
and Dairy’ by Gary Vines, 1993)
“One of the oldest family-owned market gardening businesses
in Keilor, G.S.Milburn and Sons, is no more.
The firm ceased production in December (1999),when the older
two of the three Milburn brothers – Bruce and John,
…Their departure from vegetable production at Keilor
ends a family tradition dating back 146 years to the arrival
of their great-grandfather, David Milburn, in 1853.
...David explained the focus was no longer on production
for market and wholesale to small suburban green grocers.
‘People are increasingly buying fruit and vegetables
in supermarkets’, he said.” (Source: ‘Farm
dynasty ends’ by Chris Evans, 1999)