Thursday, November 28, 2013

'A sodden expanse' - Fishermans Bend

PMHPS continues to be preoccupied with Fishermans Bend. In the late 1930s Fishermans Bend was on the cusp of a major transformation to industrial development - a change that was anticipated with excitement and optimism. Charles Daley in The History of South Melbourne says:
'The once-despised Fishermen's Bend - a no-man's land - under the pressure of economic circumstance, has come into its own, and its sodden expanse bids fair, under the exercise of human knowledge, skill and labour, directed to its reclamation, to provide eventually scope for great projects and undertakings conducive to the advantage of the State.
In this long-neglected and unoccupied area of 'Siberia,' ... great activity and interest have been aroused. On 5th November, 1936, occurred on, the north side of 'The Bend,' the opening of the great and extensive factory for motor construction of the noted firm of General Motors-Holden's, whose enterprise has set the example for other leading industrial ventures and subsidiary factories.
The Aircraft Factory ... in which the Broken Hill Proprietary, Imperial Chemical Industries and General Motors Companies are jointly concerned, has been established, and many applications have been made for leases on what must become a manufacturing area of great importance, giving employment to thousands of workmen.' (p344)
Rootes Factory in Salmon St
Harold Paynting Collection State Library of Victoria

The photograph above shows the Rootes factory under construction. The extensive plant covered almost an entire block and became the headquarters for manufacture of aircraft (principally the Beaufort bomber) by the Department of Aircraft Production during WWII. It reverted to car manufacture after the war.*

*Port Melbourne Walk booklet produced but the Art Deco & Modernism Society 

Three . . . of Port

Sometimes you just can't find the right word. Take icon, for example. Many Port Melbourne people have had enough of the word 'icon'. 'Iconic' as new developments are often described, is almost guaranteed to get people's backs up.
But back to Port. In this photograph, three Port (what word would you use?): the beacon, the newly restored Stothert & Pitt crane and the chimney of Harpers Starch Factory. Icons of Port. They so clearly show how history gives meaning and identity to a place. At one time, the Starch Factory chimney was the landmark, but as this photo shows, it is now dwarfed by the hmas apartments.
the beacon, the crane and the chimney
Stothert & Pitt were 'cranemakers to the world', based in Bath, a place more usually associated with Jane Austen. The two 3-ton Stothert and Pitt electric wharf cranes with 80 foot operating radius were erected at the outer end of Station Pier in 1949.
The Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust shows these cranes on Station Pier in a 1927 photograph - an earlier type?

from the Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust
Corrections and additions always welcome.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fishermans Bend - the past and the future

PMHPS's head is spinning with thinking about its submission to the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area Draft Vision, so this week's post is about .... Fishermans Bend!
PMHPS will argue that an understanding of the environmental/natural history of Fishermans Bend is fundamental to planning for its future. So lets look at this 1864 map before the Coode Canal went in and altered the course of the river.
See the swamps and sandy terrain, the relationship to the Yarra River, the emerging city and the Sandridge township.

This is how one resident, writing in 1935, recalled the area:
'Fishermans  Bend was a fine place, almost in its primitive state, a great resort for sportsmen, rabbits, wild duck and other game being plentiful. Thick tea tree scrub grew on the south side of the Yarra from the present timber dock almost to the mouth. Three prison hulks were moored in a backwater since reclaimed half way over to Spotswood. A jetty ran some distance in to deep water on the south side, and the prisoners would row over to get supplies brought from the city. The Bend was a fine grazing ground; hundreds of cows and horses were grazed there paying so much a head to the local council, which employed a herdsman. The position was held by Mr Anthony Rodgers. Fishermens houses occupied the beach frontage almost to the mouth of the Yarra' (Sandridge recalled Age 9 2 1935)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fishing business

Dugga Beazley
In the late 1980s, with great change looming in Port Melbourne, Dugga Beazley spoke to documentary maker Richard Crawley of his fear that a time might come when he would no longer be able to run his fishing business from Dow St. That time seems to come every few years when newcomers complain about his business or his trailer. Once again, his operation is under threat after the Council's crackdown on trailers being kept on the street.
The Beazleys have fished in Port Melbourne since the earliest days of white settlement. Dugga Beazley knows the Bay like few people alive know the Bay - its fish, its winds, its currents, its moods. He knows details about the history of the Bay - the storms, the wrecks, the boats. He has been fishing since he was 13 years old - 60 years on the Bay.
He is a very proud Australian, and one of his proudest moments was leading the flotilla of boats up the Yarra River for the Commonwealth Games.
We invest heavily in protecting our built heritage but don't seem to have the means of celebrating and protecting our living heritage. We should be nominating Dugga as a living treasure rather than hounding him off the street. Keep him on the street where he can share those stories rather than locking him away behind a wall. We have so much to learn from him - lived knowledge you can't find on an iPad or in a book.
Every boat he paints has a story – many that begin right here in Port. Once he was painting The Volunteer. 
The Volunteer was built by Jesse William Merrington at 121 Liardet Street* around 1920 and 21. It was originally owned by the Merrington brothers before being sold to George Beazley. Merrington's boat shed was located on the shores of the Sandridge Lagoon** A further boat, The Enterprise was built off the moulds of The Volunteer at 41 Nott St, Port Melbourne during mid 1930.
'Oo roo' as Dugga would say.
Re-Living the Early Days, The Age 2 February 1935
Ida Campbell writes in (an unnamed) newspaper 27 January 1983
Dugga Beazley
* also known as Kyme Place
**where the pumping station is now on Esplanade West

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Port in the twenties - a difficult, suffering place

Former Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent is such a fine speaker. He talked about Whittaker in the Port Melbourne and wider social and political context of the late 1920s. In case you missed his speech at the Allan Whittaker commemoration on Friday 1st November, this is what he said:

"Port Melbourne in the twenties was a place of considerable poverty.  It was a place where men were engaged in what was regarded as the most menial of labour possible in the community and the area was regarded as one of those to which no one would ever aspire.The depression hit early in Port Melbourne and it hit very hard, and it hit particularly the members of the two waterside worker unions that operated in this region. They both suffered because there were reducing cargoes well before the depression actually was recognised and there was a militant effort by shipowners to reduce the conditions under which they had to work and live at that time.
So it was of its very nature a very difficult and increasingly difficult environment for them. The men who gathered at Hogans Flat had been waiting for a vessel to arrive so that they were eligible for the pick up. There was a real effort at that time by the shipowners to have the pick ups conducted twice a day so that you had to be available virtually all of the time.
The men who came down on the 2 November had been assembling for four successive days without being picked up at all. Among them was Allan Whittaker. Allan Whittaker was not a well man. When he was subsequently admitted to hospital following receipt of the gunshot that actually killed him, he was described by the doctors as underweight and malnourished.  The people here were very close to starving, and he was one of them.

Although there was anger and there was violence among the men who gathered that day, and that can’t be put to one side, there was a very different level of violence employed by the police. And of course Whittaker was not a man himself who would have been involved in any of the violent acts because he simply would not have been well enough. Apart from anything else, he limped fairly badly because of the gun shot that he had received at Gallipoli some twenty odd years earlier.

So picture it. Here’s a man malnourished, underweight and on the only accounts that we have of what occurred at the time he was standing on the extreme edge of the group and to the rear. He was shot. He was shot according to the coronial inquiry from the front. That is highly unlikely to have been the case. Only a very very poor inquiry was ever conducted into that matter. This was not a shooting by the police that the authorities wanted investigated genuinely at all. So he never achieved justice during his lifetime and only very limited recognition in the years to follow.

But his story, and who he was, and what happened on that day impacted very powerfully upon the Port Melbourne community.Now I was born into that community only eight years afterwards, and it was still a poor difficult and suffering community at that stage.  It was a place of considerable poverty. And of course I was born into a waterfront family.

But the remarkable thing about what occurred at that time, and which is not simply the story of one man, is that there was a bonding, a linkage between those people who remained with the Waterside Workers Federation in the very very difficult period of almost twelve years that followed that particularly shooting.  Because quite a few defected. Quite a few left the industry entirely.

Those that remained, those that lived in this area of Port Melbourne, formed a very very powerful community and a community that had its effect right across our industrial scene for the many years that followed.
I don’t think anyone should underestimate the significance of the struggles which occurred at that time. The courage that it took for men and women to hold together when they could easily have joined a scab union and defected and given away their principles and given away their community.
But they didn’t do that. And it took a very special kind of courage and it ought to be memorialised, it ought to be understood, we ought to be inordinately proud of it.

There are lots of things in our Australian history of which we should be massively ashamed - some of them are occurring at the present time - but this is certainly not one of them."

Allan Whittaker Commemoration at Princes Pier, Port Melbourne
1 November 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Melbourne Cup Special

Melbourne Cup Day prompts this recollection from member Helen Barry:

“Mum was a milliner. She was busiest at racing time. I always went to the Melbourne Cup with her. We used to walk past the members’ enclosure trying to spot the hats she had made.”

Rose with her future husband, Norman Barry 
"Rose Welsh began her apprenticeship as a milliner at Susanne et Cie at 179 Collins St, Melbourne in 1925.  She was lured by the high class milliner Thomas Harrison, known as ‘the Czar of the Millinery world’ to his shop and workroom at De Vere et Cie, the Block Arcade, 262 Collins Street. She became ‘head of the table’ as they called it. She worked with him for ten years until she married.  By the time she left De Vere she was the overseer of the girls making the hats and regarded as a leader in her profession.  Thomas Harrison held her in high esteem and presented her with a silver tea and coffee service on a large silver tray which was openly displayed in the showroom of De Vere for the customers to admire. She used to take hats in hat boxes on the cable trams to customers through the city. On one occasion, she stitched a hat to a client's head using her hair. It was to look as though the wind had blown it onto her head.

After her marriage Rose - now Barry - worked from home for Lola Canning in the Block Arcade. She made hats from her Garden City home well into her 80s. Her last employer was Wendy Mead who worked out of Toorak. She made hats for Lillian Frank and Pixie Skase. Wendy Mead would tear out a page with a hat on it from Vogue and Mum would then make it. Many a hat was shaped around this wooden block. After mum had made the hats, dad would deliver them.”
Explore further
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria's on-line gallery of the hats of Thomas Harrison. Rose Barry's hand may well have been at work in some of those hats