Wednesday, 8 June 2011

When I was a child we lived

for several years near the sea. It was near what is known as the Port River and Outer Harbour.
The Port River is actually not a river at all. It is an inlet of the sea. It gets silted up and has to be constantly dredged. It can still take good sized vessels, although not the largest sort. The Outer Harbour on the other hand can take boats like the Queen Mary.
Our family has a close association with the Port River. My great-grandfather was, along with a colleague, responsible for making the first shipping maps of the river. He was a ship's pilot. I am not sure what his qualifications were but the maps were used as the basis for all the shipping maps of the area until computerisation took over. I assume they must have been accurate.
His son, my grandfather, knew many of the ships' captains. He made uniforms for them. Most of the local people knew him too. (Many of them were his customers because "suits off the rack" were still pretty much unknown and not considered to be good form.)
Many of these people had jobs which were, one way or another, associated with the shipping trade. They might be "wharfies" who, pre-container vessels, worked physically hard or the head of the local Lloyd's office who spent most of the day sitting in an office.
"The Port" was a busy, vibrant place as the ships came in past the power station at Osborne and the cement works a little further along. There were sandhills and expanses of land still unbuilt on. In the other direction there were sugar works where the children used to wait for sticky pieces of sugar cane. My brother and I used to roam the district pretty much unimpeded - along with all the other children. Even I was safe because people knew who we were and where we came from. I could ride my tricycle right along the track to the beginning of the "new bridge" (which went up) but not quite as far as the "old bridge" which swung around. Both bridges were manually operated to let shipping through.
The "new bridge" is now the "old bridge". The old one does not exist. The sugar works do not exist. The sandhills have gone and the land has all been built on. Children no longer roam the district doing little or no harm. They are herded by anxious parents into cars and ferried to adult supervised activities. The teenagers do graffiti instead of going fishing or roller skating illegally across the bridges. The train goes less frequently and no longer goes along the spur to Semaphore.
We plan to take my niece and nephew and their partners back there this weekend. My niece and nephew also lived there for a short time. They left too young to remember what it was like even for them. In their absence the area has changed yet again but there are some things which are still there and they want to see them. They want to see them before it is too late.


Sheep Rustler said...

Coastline maps were always made by sailors for thousands of years, long before cartographers were trained!

catdownunder said...

True - I wonder how accurate some of them were! But it seems Great-Grandpa's were good enough for them to go on using them.