Captain Barry Thompson’s reminiscences about Port Victoria (Sea Breezes, April 2014) in Australia’s Spencer Gulf made for a most interesting read.
He also mentions that the Finnish barques Pamir and Passat loaded there in 1949, for what was to prove to be the very last Grain Race from Australia to the United Kingdom. On arrival at Falmouth and Queenstown respectively, the barques were ordered to proceed to Penarth, my boyhood home town in South Wales. The Passat arrived first but I lacked sufficient courage to ‘mitch’ school in order to see her come into port. The following Saturday (6th October 1949) was a fine Autumn day and that is when the Pamir arrived. Along with a few of my school mates, we saw her locking through the harbour basin and into the dock where she passed her near sister Passat on her starboard side. The Passat still had her crew on board and so when the barques passed, both crews gave three resounding cheers for each other’s ship. Even after 65 years my memory of this is as clear as a bell.
Apart from proceeding to and from their respective discharging ports (Barry and Avonmouth) the barques were to remain in Penarth for about 18 months. During the early days of their stay with us, we small boys spent quite a lot of time on board. Both ships were alive with rats which could be seen scurrying about the decks and so we lads were appropriately armed with air-pistols and sling shots. Not that I can remember anyone ever actually hitting one of the rodents. We must have been rotten shots!
About five years after seeing the Pamir and Passat berthed together at Penarth I was serving my apprenticeship on board a tramp motor-ship called Trevose. After discharging a general cargo at Melbourne we were ordered to proceed to Wallaroo for a cargo of grain. Wallaroo is just ‘up the road’ from Port Victoria and having retained my interest in sailing ships I thought I would like to see the port where the Pamir and Passat loaded their final Australian cargoes. My fellow apprentice, Tony Wyatt from Swansea, said that he would also like to have a look at Port Victoria and so we duly asked the Mate, Mr Peter Morrison from Oban, whether we could have a day off. A friendly wharfie having kindly agreed to drive us to Port Vic and back to Wallaroo. Wishing to smarten the ship up for her arrival home the Mate, however, thought that the pair of us would be more gainfully employed in painting the ship’s side and so ‘over the wall’ on stages we had to go. Consequently, I never ever did get to see Port Victoria.
Many years later, as Master, I again met Peter Morrison who was then employed ashore by The Union Steamship Co of New Zealand Limited. He remembered our time in Wallaroo but had forgotten about our request for the day off. Anyway, with a laugh he apologised for being so mean. The third apprentice in the Trevose, all those years ago was George Neilson from Edinburgh. Well, George and I are still in touch. I wouldn’t mind contacting Tony Wyatt though, that’s if he is still ‘on deck’!
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Bay of Plenty 3112, New Zealand