The Local Files: Talking To Michael a'Beckett
"I was born in the country, grew up in a little holiday town and now I live in an outer suburb of Melbourne, all without having moved from Mt Martha. It has all just happened around me." Michael a'Beckett
I was born in the Mornington Bush Nursing Hospital on December 28th, 1949. My mother’s family were descended from the Balcombes who have been in the area since the 1840s. Along with the McCrae family and the Merricks family, the Balcombes were the original settlers on the Mornington Peninsula, joining with the Bunurong people who lived in the area. As you can imagine the white population was very small, less than 100 in total. At that stage travelling to Melbourne was a long journey, and transportation by sea was the preferred method because it was quicker, avoiding the swampy areas which are now known as Mordialloc and Patterson Lakes.
I lived at The Briars until I was 27 years old, on what was originally 1100 acres before it was divided between my mother and her sister in the mid 1950s. Our family had around 585 acres which included a bush paddock that was less productive in terms of farming. I was the last family member to leave the property in 1976 when we sold it to the Shire. We now enjoy seeing all the wonderful ways in which the public use and enjoy the homestead and the land.
Apart from travelling and having a short stint in Melbourne, I have never had a desire to live anywhere else. I guess I am fairly well known in the area, having dabbled in a local business for a very short time. We farmed The Briars until the 1970s with beef cattle, so farming has really been my life. There's no money in it really, it’s a lifestyle more than anything, and we helped to maintain the quality of the land. I also had 200 acres in Cape Shanck which I kept farming until 2000. We are now living on a 10 acre property, across the creek from The Briars.
Mt Martha has become such a sought after area, with demand outweighing supply. I hope it doesn’t grow much more but whatever happens, happens. I think people love it so much because of the beautiful bay, the surrounding rural environment and the fact that it’s so close to Melbourne. The facilities of course help to make everything so convenient.
I honestly don’t travel out of Mt Martha too often. Mt Eliza is similar but has its own unique feel. Mornington used to be the major town when I was growing up. I still remember the steam trains coming into the station. Frankston was another world away. It is improving considerably and has grown because of the train line. It would be terrific to see the train line extend further down the Peninsula.
My family is scattered all around the place now, but when the stars align we have wonderful family get-togethers. Summer in Mt Martha is getting increasingly busy too, being so popular with visitors and tourists. I usually stay home when it’s a hot summery weekend, there's nowhere to park! The area has indeed grown, and the population has increased considerably since I was a young boy. It has been fascinating to watch it develop and mature.
Mt Martha is my heritage, and will always be my home.