Coburg is one of Melbourne’s older suburbs, and many of its historical sites such as the location of the city’s last working smithy and the spot on which the first pub, the Golden Fleece Hotel, stood are marked with bronze plaques.
Coburg, of course, hosted the nation’s most infamous jail, Pentridge Prison, for almost 150 years. Many of Australia’s most notorious and controversial murderers died at the end of a rope on the Pentridge gallows.
Those executed at Pentridge include Ronald Ryan, the last Australian to be put to death by the state in 1967. Although there was speculation that the shot which killed the man whom Ryan was found guilty of murdering had been fired by a warder, the Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte refused to respond to the public clamour for a reprieve and insisted the execution be carried out.
Pentridge Prison, so long a forbidding landmark in the suburb of Coburg, no longer hosts reluctant guests of the State, but its dark secrets will linger on in an interpretive museum which will be part of a new development taking shape within the old prison complex.
Complete with its 2,000 vacuum tubes, 10,000 resistors and condensers and kilometres of wiring packed into a cabinet the size of a small apartment, the first computer built in Australia now rests in retirement in the Museum of Victoria's overflow warehouse at Coburg.
It was commissioned by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and was put to work in the CSIRO's Sydney offices in 1949. Seven years later it was moved to the University of Melbourne where it remained until pensioned off in 1964.