My father told me this story
forty years ago, when I was in my early teens.
My father was by trade a
bricklayer and being self-employed he travelled around quite a
We lived in Williamstown, one
of the inner Western suburbs of Melbourne, in those days. Werribee is one of the
outer Western suburbs and a good three hours drive from where we
lived. Or at least it took three hours for my father to drive
there when he took the whole family down to
WerribeePark on hot summer days.
Williamstown is famous for
having one of the best beaches around Melbourne. Nonetheless, instead of a ten-minute walk
to "Willy" beach in summer, my father would insist upon the
three-hour drive on Sundays down to Werribee to picnic in the
park surrounding the new baths.
However, being perpetually
short of cash my father could rarely produce the money to enter
the baths. So we would eat a picnic lunch amid the lofty elm
and gum trees in the park around the baths. Then we would set
out for a lengthy after lunch walk through the park. Which
usually (always if the kids had any say in the matter) would
finish with an exploration of the "ancient" stone ruins of the
old bathing house immediately behind the new baths.
After this we'd cool off by
going swimming in the river behind the old baths.
It was while swimming in the
river behind the old ruins that my father first told my brother
John and I the story of the Werribee Milkman.
The area we used to swim in was
very very deep. According to local legend it was bottomless.
John and I both scoffed at this. But John -- who was able to
swim and dive in those days, while the best I could do was float
on my back -- claimed to have been unable to find the bottom
after diving down as deep as he could once.
According to our father, one
dark, foggy morning in the early 1900s, when automobiles were all
but unknown in Australia, the Werribee milkman had driven off the
edge into the river at that spot, behind the old baths.
Supposedly milk cart, horses, and milkman had all sunk like the
proverbial rock to the bottom of the river, never to be seen
Except that according to many
Werribee residents (so my father claimed), on certain foggy
mornings, mysterious frantic neighing can be heard coming from
the area near the old baths. Supposedly on especially foggy
mornings a glowing, spectral milk cart can be seen silently
wheeling its way down along the side of the new baths, past the
old ruins, until mysteriously vanishing at the edge of the
As I said earlier, my father
was a self-employed bricklayer.
One day he had set out, only a
few hours after going to bed the night before, to a job in
Werribee. He arrived at Werribee (so he said) around
8:30 by his watch, to find the streets mired in a
thick fog, like an old fashioned English pea souper.
The streetlights were still on
overhead, as though it were still night. And the streets were
deserted, although it was a weekday, as though the populace had
all slept in, or (most likely) set out to work early because of
the fog forcing them to drive along at a snail's pace.
There had been fogs the last
two or three mornings when he'd arrived at work, but only light
mists, not like the thick fog that day. In the fog, and not
overly familiar with that part of Werribee, my father was soon
lost. He drove round and round for what he said seemed like
hours. Until finally he found himself in an area he was very
familiar with: outside the WerribeePark.
As he approached the main
entrance of the park, he heard the clip-clop of horses' hooves.
Not unusual in Australian cities even in the 1990s, since the
police ride horses in areas where squad cars would be
inconvenient but going on foot could prove too dangerous.
However, instead of a mounted police officer, or even a casual
rider who might have been using the park, when the horses came
into sight they were pulling an old-fashioned milk
Fearful of a head-on collision,
my father pulled over to the side of the road to allow the
horse-and-cart to pass. At this stage he still did not suspect
anything was up. As recently as the early 1960s there had been
horse-drawn milk deliveries in Williamstown, so he said, "I
thought it was possible out more toward the country, Werribee
might still have them in the early 1970s. Although I had not
notice them on other mornings in Werribee, and the cart did seem
Instead of continuing on toward
him, however, the horse and cart turned left into the
Not really knowing why he did
so, my father started his van and followed after them. The milk
cart followed the winding road through the park up to the new
baths, making my father heave a sigh of relief, thinking it was
going to stop there. However, the milk cart continued on toward
the concrete ruins of the old baths. Again it looked for a
second as though the milk cart were going to stop there. But
instead it continued on past the old baths too.
Until reaching the edge of the
river, where, at least, my father thought it had to
But no! The milk cart
continued on straight off the edge into the river. Where it
seemed to float for a second, then simply faded out of existence.
As my father explained it to me, "The cart didn't sink to the
bottom, otherwise I would have run to see if I could rescue the
driver. It simply vanished like a puff of smoke!"
Well that's the tale of the
Werribee Milkman as my father used to tell it in the 1970s.
After hearing that my brother John and I were never very keen to
go swimming in the deep water of the river. Although neither of
us would ever admit to really believing that a milk cart complete
with driver and horses lay at the bottom of the river, or that a
spectral milk cart could be seen in Werribee on foggy
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