The Bend - Fishermens or Fishermans
The title of Allan Meiers' book Fisher Folk of Fishermans Bend, published October 2006 by the Society, certainly caused some concern when we first saw it. Common usage in Port referred to the area as Fishermens Bend (or simply The Bend) even after the name was officially gazetted as Fishermans Bend in 1998. We are a stubborn lot and thought the change of spelling was political correctness gone too far. But was it?
Allan wrote an excellent letter defending his use of Fishermans Bend, citing several documents including some from earlier in the 20th century with that spelling. It appears that the more recently popular Fishermens Bend came into common use around the 1920s or 30s. It is often difficult to determine how and why placenames evolve but the book's glossary goes some way to explaining this process.
In the early days of settlement, the area between Sandridge (Port Melbourne) and the Yarra was known as Fishermans Bend, named for the tight bend in the river which before the building of the Coode Canal encompassed the area designated Humbug Reach (today Coode Island).
In the 19th Century, the strip of land along the foreshore between the mouth of the Yarra and what is now Princes Pier was officially known as The Ballast Ground. It was in this area there were dairy farms and fishing families, including a small settlement toward today's Webb Dock. This area, despite being a relatively straight stretch of coastal land, became known as The Bend to the people who lived there.
To outsiders this may seem confusing since the coastal strip between Webb Dock and Princes Pier is known as The Bend while the whole general area is referred to as the Bend. To distinguish between the two names you need to listen to how local Port people refer to the area. Going 'over the Bend' refers to the general area while 'down The Bend' refers to the coastal strip.
So is it Fishermans Bend or Fishermens Bend?. The short answer is both. The two terms have been used interchangeably since settlement and the Society acknowledges the use of both spellings and thanks Allan for helping us sort it all out.
© 2006 Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society
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