Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stan the Man at Port Victoria S.A.

What a pleasant and informative day. Retiree and ex-geography teacher Stan Squires, for the Maritime Museum at South Australia's "last of the windjammer towns" Port Victoria, gave our 30-strong group a heap of great background to the extraordinary days of the "so-called"grain races. Steel hulled sailing ships - most of 'em 2000-4000 tonners - plied commercially between Europe and Port Victoria from the 1920s until the last such voyage in 1949.

Wind-driven multi-mast ships since then are, rather, the wonderful sail training tall ships, or else the rarely built replicas of historic vessels (like Australia's New Endeavour).

Here's a thing! One of my companions, Graham May from Yorketown, told me of spending a magic couple of hours aboard Viking, as a teenager, immediately prior to her setting out on that last 1949 season voyage; and another well-known local man John Edwardes from Edithburgh, pointed to the famous 1933 photograph of no less than 14 sailing ships, - the big windjammers as well as the smaller craft for lightering (loading) - at anchor off "Port Vic", and named three of the ketches on which John himself worked from 1956 into the 1960s. He (a man of many skills) was a "lumper", hand-loading the bags of grain into the boats at Edithburgh Jetty.

I asked John if he was related to the Gerry Edwardes who was one of the last grain agents at Port Victoria, and who features in the film The Last of the Cape Horners, but he thought not although the surname spelling is the same. One thing about the Yorke Peninsula is that if you dig back enough in time, you probably ARE related.

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