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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Walsh Bay with ALFRED HOLT & Co’s
AUGUST 1958 to JULY 1959
As a Junior Engineer

Orestes sailed up through the magnificent harbour as the sun was setting and I managed to get some cine film shot as we passed under the bridge and docked in Walsh Bay which was a regular berth for ‘Far East’ ships.

We started on the ‘Tie Rod’ as soon as we FWE’s. Luck was with us and we got the two bits out to use as a pattern for a shore-side engineering firm to make a replacement to fit in a day or so. Job Done! We all showered and went up to town, which was a short walk up some steps passed old colonial houses with tin roofs and ornamental cast iron railings (the place is called ‘The Rocks’). First impressions were not exceptional, but as we were due to sail for Melbourne next Friday there will be more time to look around.

Had your letters, I see Avonmouth’s first game of season was a 9-9 draw. Good news, they have the go ahead for the Severn Bridge, Aust >> Beachley. Thanks for couple of addresses to look up in Australia. Saturday night a couple of us went to a wrestling match, good fun and afterwards beer and ‘T’-bone steak in a Café on Circular Quay, very tasty for 8/-.

Day off on Sunday, so with the 3rd visited his uncle who lives over in Manly, which meant catching a ferry. Meeting his uncle and some of his friends in Manly we continued up to Palm Beach where I tried body surfing, great fun, I only caught one good wave but it was worth the effort. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards paddling kayaks, just off the shore.

Sunday 18th October ’58. On way to Melbourne, if it’s anything like Sydney should be ok. Passed through a school of whales going south, “there she blows”, it’s quite a sight, a big spray, a black back and a tail right out of the water as it dives. Weather now is colder with squalls of rain and a southerly wind almost like an English spring. It’s a good job I packed a couple of woolly jumpers, but didn’t get any cine shots as it was too dull. Looking back at Sydney, it was ok, a bit expensive. Outstanding was the bridge and the beaches, some say the best in the world. Most have changing facilities with lockers and a shower. Last weekend they said there were 70,000 on the beaches as there was some sort of holiday for the start of summer. Also went to a party with some of the lads on the Changsha, one of John Swire & Co China Navigation on the Australia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan run. Very good party and no hangover in the morning, it fiished about 03:00.

Sport is everywhere, most pubs or bars have TV in them. There’s horse racing, trotting, greyhounds etc. Betting? One of the engineers lost £5, my limit is 5/-.

We get into Melbourne tomorrow, in Australia the trips between ports are only a couple of days at the most, the longest being the ten/twelve days from Java to Sydney.

Melbourne, 20th October ’58.
‘Stand By’ is outside Philip Heads the entrance to Port Philip Bay, the 2nd let me take control of the starboard main engine, saying “If you blow any of the cylinder relief valves, giving it too much ‘Air-Fuel’, you’ll stay down and grind them in again”! I “got in rite”, so he was ok.

Orestes berthed at the pier at Port Melbourne where the liners dock, in fact the P&O liner Arcadia is tied up astern of us. A big surprise! As the 4th is getting married in Adelaide his mum and dad have arrived on Arcadia without him knowing. I was talking to his dad down the engine room (I’m on nights) he said he didn’t like Australia and saw no reason why his son couldn’t marry an English girl! Australian girls, I met a few at a party to talk to, mostly nurses from local hospitals, are outgoing and they don’t mind drinking beer! Life here is open air, as the weather is good. You also see Aussie’s on the beaches, nice and sunburnt. But we’re ahead, having just come down from the tropics. So we don’t stand out. It’s easy going into town as Melbourne has a very good tram system. As I’m on nights I went to visit Patrick’s parents, found out his dad is a retired fruit farmer and now lives in a suburb of Melbourne. I had lunch and spent the afternoon talking to his dad in their garden, although only small, has lemon, orange, peach and apricot trees, also of course apple and pear. You can grow almost anything out here. I was taught how to graft fruit trees. Went shopping for a few odds and ends as well.

October 25th ’58. Spent two days in Melbourne and trip to Adelaide was uneventful, but we were all invited to two parties - very enjoyable. Next trip I’ve been promised to be taken spear fishing. Adelaide is amazing as you see old 1920/30’s cars with no rust as the climate is dry.

Sunday 2nd November ’58. Coming down here, we ran through a full gale, never ‘took a green’ although heading into it, Orestes is a bloody good sea boat! Got some good cine shots of albatross with telephoto following us, hope they come out! Portland is about halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne while here Orestes is loading 400 tons of milk products powdered and condensed. I’ve got the day off so will explore as it’s only a small town and in the middle of cattle country, mainly dairy. Just off the ship, along from the pier you can watch gannets diving for fish, you can also see penguins.

Sunday evening quite a few of us went to church (C of E). After the service we were invited to tea and biscuits and social, (people come in from outlying farms etc to go to church.) Almost the first person I spoke too was the mayor (she had noticed my accent) amazingly she was from Bristol and had been out here for 34 years. Well that was that, I spent most of the evening talking to her. She invited a couple of us to visit her small farm, but I had to decline as it was my day on watch. While talking she asked me if I knew Pucklechurch; I said I did; wait for it! The 3rd said he did as well, he’s from Dunfermline, but his brother who is in the RAF lives in Pucklechurch and is only a few doors from the mayor’s sister (small world). The district around looks similar to Devon or Cornwall. At the moment they are building an extension to the harbour to take six ships, development out here is everywhere with jobs for skilled workers. I noticed in the church hall there was a poster “Bring Out A Briton”, there is also a lot of Europeans out here.

Orestes On the go, with short trips ashore, and maintenance. More or less the same routine as coming south. A few parties, cinema, watch rugby and going to pubs etc. Loading in Melbourne then up to Sydney for part cargo then Port Kembla picking up manufactured goods.

Brisbane is only a short stop, just to load meat products in our fridge hold - it’s for the Commonwealth Troops at Butterworth in Malaya. One of the ‘perks’, the shippers give the ship boxes of choice steaks, so the saloon serves steak twice a week, brilliant! Latest news is that we will be dry-docking’ in Singapore, some time.

November 14th ’58. Friday.
Weather warm and those of us who are off duty, are aft, sunbathing and writing and reading, plus some studying. One of the things we wear is flip flops - they are a Japanese rubber sandal and everyone has them on board, the name comes from, as you walk they go “Flip Flop!”. They cost about 5/- in Singapore, I saw some in Aussie for 15/-. Port Alma is about 15 or so miles from Rockhampton, the wharf is serviced by a single track railway, as there is no road, the nearest one is about nine miles away.

The loco that brings out the cargo is an old steam one with a large searchlight on top of the smoke box and you can see it coming for miles as the coastal area is mostly a wilderness of mud and sand flats. Only a short stay, a few hours. We amused ourselves watching the Chinese fishing, they landed two small sharks (about 3ft) and a few crabs. They keep their catch of fish in a holding tank on deck, fed from a deck service line and when they have enough, kill them and hang them out to dry. We were told that hammerheads have been landed here, as well as 200lb groupers! I was talking to a local bloke, who shoots fish. Really! It’s a sort of ‘lung fish’ and you can see them jumping about over the Mud. November 17th ’58, Tuesday, Thursday Island.

The weather was hot coming up from Port Alma so it must be stinking inland where there’s been a drought for a few years with the inherent danger of bush fires, this morning the 3rd says he saw one away in the distance about 02:00 hrs. We are due to drop the pilot at Thursday about 23:00 hrs. Life now has settled to routine! News on the radio is that Britain has the worst smog for years and there is a new type of smog mask! We listen to the radio a lot, England’s cricket team are out here and seem to be doing ok, Fred is popular out here, took a wicket in his first over!

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - March 2015 Issue
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