Altona Meadows Streets - History

Named after the three mast schooner, the Alma Doepel was launched in October 1903 on the Bellinger River, NSW by Frederik Doepel and was operated by him in New Zealand Trade from Sydney until 1915. In 1916 she was sold to Henry Jones and Co. and traded between Melbourne and Tasmania. The Alma Doepel would carry preserves and timber to the mainland, usually Melbourne. On the return to Tasmania she would bring jam jars and glass bottles (for tomato sauce), explosives (for the mines), bags of Victorian wheat and assorted household goods. The explosives that she carried came from the Truganina Explosives Reserve in Altona.

In 1927 Alma Doepel was reported as having made the fastest crossing, by any sailing vessel, between Melbourne and Hobart, taking less than two and a half days.

The Alma Doepel continued in this serve until 1943 when she was commissioned by the Army to carry provisions to troops stationed in Darwin and New Guinea. She continued in this service until 1947 when she returned to her previous service of carrying goods across Bass Strait. In 1947 her masts, which had been removed by the Army, were restored but not her square yards.

Her return to Bass Strait took her to the Tasmanian east coast port of St Helens. The entrance at St Helens was barely deep enough for her entry, but often proved difficult when Alma was fully loaded with the local timber (Eucalyptus regnans or Mountain Ash). Post-war housing had created a huge demand by mainland builders who could not get enough of it. Also the timber was turned into fine furniture for the post-war prosperous homemakers.

As well as timber, the Alma Doepel continued to carry preserves to Victoria and bottles and explosives back to Tasmania. Due to unpredictable weather conditions, a passage of Bass Strait was rarely made in one run. Usually Alma Doepel sheltered on the way at various anchorages in Victoria, on Flinders Island, Cape Barron Island, Banks Strait, or at any of the indentations along the east coast of Tasmania. A whole passage could take two weeks (and three weeks on one occasion). Alma Doepel would generally undertake about seven round trips between Tasmania and Victoria every year. Alma’s last interstate trading run ended on 21 February 1959.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Argonaut Place is named after the ketch Argonaut II that was associated with the Truganina Explosive Reserve transporting explosives to various ports around Australia.

Argonaut was a 174 ton general cargo ketch built in 1947 by Arga Shipping at St Helens, Tasmania and launched on 5 May of that year.

On one of its early voyages, the Argonaut II sailed from Stanley Tasmania to Port Adelaide, a total of 500 miles, in a record time of 59 hours for the total voyage (The Age, 9 April, 1948). In its early years, the ketch was used to ship cargo between the northern Tasmanian ports, Melbourne and Port Adelaide, South Australia. The ketch was known to use all of her sails when the winds were favourable crossing Bass Strait.

The ketch was not without its mishaps. The Age (15 September, 1952) reported that during a voyage from Sydney, whilst negotiating heavy seas, the rudder broke loss and was swept away. The quick thinking crew hastily ripped up the fore and aft hatch beams and covers and made a jury rudder. The temporary rudder was manipulated by pulleys. After sending a signal for assistance, the freighter Jillian Crouch came to her aid and towed the Argonaut II to Melbourne. However just as they were coming through the heads the tow line broke but before and damage could occur the tow line was repaired and both ships continued to Port Melbourne.

After finishing its service with the Explosive Reserve, the Argonaut II was sold and sailed to Magnetic Island in Queensland. Her new owners renovated the ketch into a floating restaurant and her new life began. In 1978 she was destroyed by fire while at anchor in Horseshoe Bay. She sunk in 6 metres of water about 300 metres from an inlet at the eastern end of the beach. The wreck is marked by a warning buoy but now has only an old oil bottle tied to the marker chain.

Calcutta Street was named after the British Naval ship HMS Calcutta that visited Port Phillip in October 1803 with the objective of establishing a new settlement. The HMS Calcutta as the ‘Warley’ launched in October 1788 and then sold to the Royal Navy in 1795 and converted to 56 gun vessel and renamed the HMS Calcutta.

Sometime between 1802 and February 1803, the Royal Navy had the Calcutta fitted out as a transport ship for convicts being sent from Britain to her penal colonies in Australia. The Calcutta  sailed from Spithead on 28 April 1803, accompanied by the Ocean, to establish a settlement at Port Phillip.  Calcutta carried a crew of 150 and 307 male convicts, along with civil officers, marines, and some 30 wives and children of the convicts. The voyage took the Calcutta via Teneriffe (13 May), Rio de Janeiro (19 July) and the Cape of Good Hope (16 August).

While the Calcutta was moored at the Cape of Good Hope, a vessel arrived with news that Britain was now at war with the Batavian Republic. The colony’s Dutch commodore sent a representative aboard the Calcutta to demand her surrender. While the representative waited, the Captain of the Calcutta (Daniel Woodriff) spent two hours preparing her for battle. He then showed the representative her sailors and marines at their guns, and advised him to inform the colony commodore that “if he wants this ship he must come and take her if he can”. The response from the Dutch commodore was that he gave Woodriff 24 hours to leave, saying that he “did not wish to capture such a large number of thieves” referring to the number of convicts on board.

On 12 October, the Calcutta finally reached her destination at Port Phillip. David Collins, the commander of the expedition, found that the soil was poor and that there was shortage of fresh water which, in his opinion, made the area unsuitable for a colony. Collins decided to move the colony to the Derwent River (Hobart Town)on the south coast of Van Diemans Land (Tasmania). Captain Woodriff refused the use of Calcutta for this additional voyage, arguing that Ocean was large enough to transport the colony, and that he was under orders to pick up naval supplies for transport to England.

In December Captain Woodriff sailed on to Sydney where he took on a cargo of lumber. At midnight on 4 March 1804, Woodriff landed 150 of his crew and marines to assist the New South Wales Corps and the local militia, in suppressing a convict uprising in support of the Castle Hill convict rebellion, a revolt by some 260 Irish convicts against Governor King. The Calcutta left on 17 March 1804, doubled Cape Horn and reached Rio de Janeiro on 22 May. In reaching Rio, the Calcutta had thus circumnavigated the world in ten months three days. She arrived back at Spithead on 23 July. In September 1804 the Admiralty again fitted out the Calcutta for duty as a cruiser.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Image: HMS Calcutta and the Ocean at anchor in Port Phillip, from a painting by Dacre Smythe

The SS ‘Edina’ was the longest serving screw steamer in the world and is one of the most remembered vessels that plied the waters of Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay, and it is this ship that lends its name to Edina Grove.

The SS ‘Edina’ was a screw steamer, built by Barclay & Curle, in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1854. ‘SS’ being an abbreviation for ‘Screw Steamer’ signifying that she was propelled by a steam engine rotating a single propeller, or ‘screw’ as it was known at the time. Her active service included the North Sea trade, ‘Crimean War’ (1855), Victoria’s west coast run, New Zealand to Melbourne trade, Queensland coastal trade, and of course, the Port Phillip Bay runs between the years 1880 to 1938.

Less than a year after her launch, the Edina was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and became the HMS Edina and used to carry ammunition, horses, stores and supplies from Deptford, UK to the Black Sea. A year later she was returned to her owners (Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet Co Ltd) and renamed SS Edina and returned to her cross channel runs to Europe.

In November 1862 she was purchased by T. Callender & A. Walker of Melbourne, and after having her ‘screw’ removed sailed to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in March 1863. She was then on sold to Stephen G Henty who put her into service sailing from Melbourne to Warrnambool and Port Fairy and here commenced her checked history of collisions and near disasters.

She was at anchor in Lady Bay, Portland, on the 18th April 1863 when a tremendous gale sprang up in the early morning from the south-east, and for several hours the Edina was in a perilous position. Throughout that day huge waves broke over the vessel as she lay on the beach, and doing much damage to her bulwarks and fittings. Three days after her stranding – the Edina was afloat again. Temporary repairs were effected and the steamer left for Melbourne via Warrnambool.

On 30th April 1869 the SS Edina struck ‘Lonsdale Rock’ at The Rip at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, with many passengers, 120 pigs, bales of wool, and a full cargo of dairy produce on board. Only one week earlier, the Clipper ‘Hurricane’ struck the same rock. The SS Edina was very lucky to survive and after passing through the Heads she headed onto Williamstown with pumps working during the entire passage up the bay. After being repaired and getting into good working order, after her narrow escape at Point Lonsdale, she had another serious mishap on her passage from Warrnambool (17th June, 1869). She entered Port Phillip Heads about half past five on the morning of the 19th June, a bleak winter’s morning and had calm weather up the bay until nearing Point Cooke, when it became thick, and in a few minutes the steamer was in the midst of a dense winter’s fog. While going at full speed she grounded in shoal water on Point Gellibrand, fortunately she took the ground near where the mud punts deposited the sludge and silt dredged from the Yarra, and the bottom where she embedded herself was soft, with no rocks. With the assistance of the tug Resolute, she was freed and continued to port.

In October 1873, after running a trial trip in Port Phillip Bay, the SS ‘Edina’ resumed the coastal run to the western ports of Victoria under the command of Captain J. F. Featherstone. Unfortunately it was during this voyage that Captain Featherstone fell ill and sadly passed away. In 1875 the Edina went to Queensland to transport trade along the Queensland coast, but returned to Melbourne to complete trade within Port Phillip Bay between Melbourne, Geelong and Portarlington.

On the 29th April 1898 the SS ‘Edina’ collided with the SS ‘Manawatu’ off the Gellibrand lightship, near Williamstown, sinking the latter ship. The Edina was making her usual trip from Geelong to Melbourne with about 70 passengers aboard, most of whom were women and children, and the Manawatu was proceeding out of the Bay to the West Coast of Tasmania, and was also carrying passengers. Whilst the Edina suffered serve damage she was able to be returned to Williamstown for repairs. It was only a year later that the Edina, on her way to Geelong and the Excelsior, coming up the bay to Melbourne struck in a thick fog that hung over the Bay. The Edina struck the Excelsior on the port side amidships, and the Excelsior sank within a quarter of an hour. The Edina is almost uninjured, but she will be immediately placed in dock to be again checked over.

The next sixteen years, until July 1924 were reasonably uneventful for the Edina, but in that month she ran aground near Williamstown during thick fog as she bore down on a reef near the Gellibrand pile light. Then on the 10th August 1928 the Edina struck the tug ‘Hovell’ at the entrance to the Yarra River, and sank the tug. She remained in service until 1938 and then sat idle for approximately a decade, when in 1948, at the grand age of 94 she returned to active service. Finally, in 1957 Gilberts (Asia) Agency (Victoria) Pty of Melbourne acquired the SS ‘Edina’. She was broken up at Footscray, and her remains beached at Coode Island, aged 103.

Bibliography

  • Portland Guardian’ (Vic) – Romance of the Edina – World’s Oldest Screw Steamer, 30 June 1941
  • Geelong Advertiser (Vic) – 29 Sep 1899
  • Geelong Advertiser’ (Vic) – Mishap to Edina, 11 July 1924
  • Argus’ (Melbourne, Vic) – Article Edina to Serve Again 9 July 1948
  • Mercury (Hobart, Tas) – Shipping Disaster off Williamstown – Edina & Manawatu in Collision – Sinking of the Manawatu – Edina Stranded – No Lives Lost, 29 April 1898
  • Bathurst Free Press & Mining Journal’ (NSW) – Collision in Port Phillip – The Edina Sinks the Excelsior – All Hands Saved – Melbourne, Tuesday, 12th July 1899
  • Age (Melbourne, Vic) – Edina’s Last Yarra Trip – 16 Jul 1938

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Huia Close was named after another ship that is linked to the Truganina Explosive Reserve and the Altona Bay area. The Huia was built in 1894 as a timber carrier, by James Barbour, at Aratapu (popularly known as Barbour Town), Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand, for Messrs. E. Mitchelson & Brothers. James Barbour was a multi-talented craftsman and seaman and Huia was his largest ship.

The Huia remained on the Kaipara – Lyttleton run, in New Zealand, until 1912. She was then purchased by the Nobel Explosive Company for the trans-Tasman run, to carry explosives and general cargo. For safety reasons, the benzine engine was converted to kerosene. It was around this time that she began her service from the Truganina Explosive Reserve.

In 1917, Huia returned to Australia. After arriving in Melbourne from Auckland, she continued on to Hobart, making the crossing in a record 48 hours. Later in the same year, the Huia made the longest ocean crossing of her career, from Auckland to San Francisco with a load of copra and rubberoid roofing.

Huia became a favourite vessel in Australian waters from Cairns to Fremantle. Her owners kept her in top condition and under the command of excellent captains.

The Huia has given good service for many years and is the proud holder of the sailing ship record passage between New Zealand and Melbourne. She also does the Bunbury-Melbourne trip in favourable weather in less than nine days.

During her 57 years of service, the Huia experienced stormy passages, near disasters, lucky escapes from death and some tragic losses of lives. On January 20th, 1949, at age 55, the Huia was paid off. In early 1950, she was sold to the newly formed Huia Trading Company, registered in Suva, and put into service carrying passengers and cargoes between the south sea islands. At 1:00pm on January 26th, 1951, Huia sailed from Port Noumea for Vila with a pilot to take her through the hazardous Woodin Canal and Havannah Passage. At 7:30pm, the pilot was taken off, leaving the schooner just inside the reefs but with a clear passage ahead. With the change of watch at 8:00pm, the course was altered, it being thought that the reefs were cleared. At 8:42pm, the Huia came to a grinding standstill on Komekame Reef on the southern side of the Havannah Passage.

The next morning she was full of water. In spite of pumping and jettisoning cargo, she lay hard over on her port bilge at high tide and there was no way that she could be towed over the underwater ledge. The decision was then taken to abandon her. No sooner had the last three crewmen been taken into the lifeboat than a swell lifted the schooner and then dumped her onto the top of the starboard anchor, stoving her in. In the days that followed, she held together as her cargo was salvaged and plans were made to fill her hold with empty drums in the hope of floating her off, but she started to break up – and then fire took a hand again. Huia was burnt to the waterline and a few days later an intense cyclonic storm swept her away. The last sailing ship to be used in the trans-Tasman trade was gone.

Back in the 1800’s at Mornington, a small seaside town on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, the main event of the day was the arrival of one of the Paddle Steamers at the Mornington Wharf. The local hotels and guest houses sent wagonettes and porters to the pier to escort guests to their establishments. When the paddle steamers departed to continue their journey to Sorrento, a procession of porters, trolleys and passengers headed towards the Main Street.

Paddle Steamers were a luxury form of transport on Port Philip Bay in the late 1800’s. They were used to transport tourists from Melbourne to Mornington, Dromana and Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, and Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula.

By the turn of the century, there were 3 Port Phillip Bay paddle steamers in operation, the Ozone, the Hygeia and the Weeroona.

The Hygeia was built by Napier, Shanks and Bell of Glasgow in 1890 for Hubbart Parker and Company, and was designed to compete directly with Ozone. She was 300 feet long (92 metres), built of steel and weighed 986 tons. She was capable of 22 knots under full steam and considered the most luxuriously appointed paddle steamer ever built for Australian service.

Licensed to carry over 1600 passengers, Hygeia operated for 40 years servicing Port Philip Bay. She had a promenade deck, licensed saloons, luxuriously appointed dining rooms and a barbers shop. The Hygeia was taken out of service in 1930. During her time she was involved in a few incidents. In 1894 she was involved in a collision with the tug, Sprightly and then on the 8th December 1911 she collided with an unnamed cutter on Port Philip Bay and a few days later on the 22nd December was stranded at Sorrento.

The Hygeia was laid to rest after being stripped of all her fittings at Barwon Heads just outside the western head of Port Philip Bay in June 1932.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Investigator Grove is named after the HMS Investigator that in 1802, under the command of Matthew Flinders, became the first ship to circumnavigate Australia. Investigator set sail from Spithead for Australia on 18 July 1801, calling at the Cape of Good Hope before crossing the Indian Ocean and sighting Cape Leeuwin off South West Australia on 6 December 1801. The expedition put into King George Sound (Albany) for a month before beginning a running survey of the Great Australian Bight, which stretched 2300 kilometres to Spencer Gulf.

On 21 February 1802 a tragic accident occurred when a shore party which included Ships Master John Thistle, midshipman William Taylor and six seamen were lost when a boat capsized attempting to return to the ship at dusk in choppy waters. No bodies were recovered. Flinders named the headland Cape Catastrophe, and the area which he had anchored Memory Cove.

Proceeding into the gulf, Flinders surveyed Port Lincoln (which he named after his home county in England). Working eastwards, the HMS  Investigator next charted Kangaroo Island, Yorke Peninsula and St Vincent Gulf. On 8 April, at Encounter Bay, a surprise meeting with ‘Geographe’ under the command of Nicolas Baudin was cordial, the two navigators being unaware the Treaty of Amiens had only just been signed, and both still believing that their two countries were still at war.

Sailing eastward through Bass Strait, “Investigator” visited King Island and Port Phillip (hence its link to the area) before continuing along the east coast and arriving at Port Jackson on 9 May 1802. Investigator spent the next ten weeks preparing and took aboard 12 new men, including an aborigine named Bungaree with whom Flinders had previously sailed on the sloop Norfolk. On 22 July Investigator left Port Jackson, sailing north in company with the brig Lady Nelson, however the “Lady Nelson” sailed poorly after losing her keels and Flinders ordered her back to Port Jackson.

Investigator hugged the east coast, passed through the Great Barrier Reef and transited Torres Strait. Flinders did complete the circumnavigation of Australia, but not without the need to lighten the ship by jettisoning two wrought-iron anchors. These were found and recovered in 1973 by divers at Middle Island, Archipelago of the Recherche, Western Australia.

Prior to being named the ‘Investigator’ the ship was known as ‘Fram’ and served for about three years as a collier before being purchased by the Royal Navy.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

The Lady Nelson’s link to the area of Port Phillip Bay commenced in November 1801. On her second voyage south from Port Jackson, under the command of Lt. Murray, the Lady Nelson was required to again survey the coast to the south and to fill in a number of gaps in maps of the Australian cost at that time.

Land was sighted on 19 November that turned out to be Flinders Island, in the Furneaux Group, off the north-west tip of Tasmania, and not the Kent Group as intended. Lady Nelson anchored between Store House and Cat Islands in the Babel group of islands, off the east coast of Flinders Island, and remained there until 24 November.

From the Furneaux Group, Lady Nelson headed for the Kent Group and anchored in West Cove on the eastern side of Erith Island. Lady Nelson remained in West Cove until 4 December during which time the channel, now known as Murray Pass, was comprehensively surveyed using her boats.

From the Kent Group Lady Nelson headed north-west, passing Wilson’s Promontory and Cape Liptrap and anchoring in Western Port on 7 December. Bad weather detained Lady Nelson in Western Port for several days, during which time she had to re-anchor several times.

A light easterly wind enabled Lady Nelson to leave the anchorage in Western Port on 4 January. After stopping in Elizabeth’s Cove to replenish water casks, she followed the coast to the west. The next day they saw a headland bearing west-north-west, distant about 12 miles and an opening in the land that had the appearance of a harbour north-west 10 or 12 miles.

Lady Nelson sailed to within 1½ miles of the entrance and from the masthead Murray observed a sheet of smooth water and he recorded ‘it is apparently a fine harbour of large extent’. Murray did not attempt to approach any closer to the harbour because of a fresh on-shore wind. Not being able to enter, the as yet unnamed Port Phillip, Murray continued west towards Cape Otway but was unable to make any further progress westwards due to a south-westerly gale and headed for calmer waters to the eastern side of King Island.

The Lady Nelson departed King Island on 24 January and sailed north heading for Cape Otway, however bad weather again intervened and she turned east following the coast sighting both Cape Shanks (Schanks) and Grant’s Point before returning to Western Port. On 31 January 1802 Lt Murray sent a launch with six men and provisions for 14 days provisions and water to examine the entrance to the large bay sighted earlier in their voyage. The launch returned 4 days later reporting that they had found a channel that would provide safe entry into the bay. On the 14 February 1802 the Lady Nelson left Western Port and by noon that day the ‘new’ harbour was entered and was named by Murray as Port King, however Governor King renamed it Port Phillip after the first Governor of the colony Capt. Arthur Phillip.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

George and Alice Missen

Missen Court is named after pioneer settlers to the area George and Alice Missen and their family. George Missen, had been a colonist of 63 years, was very well known across the districts of Altona, Werribee and Rockbank. He was by turns a publican, farmer, businessman and local politician. He had owned the Rose and Crown Hotel at Rockbank, and was also associated with the Metropole in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and the Point Hotel in Dynon’s Road.

Point Hotel owned by George Missen

He was engaged in farming pursuits at Rockbank and Melton and also owned a considerable amount of land at Altona. Georg Missen was a farmer and former shire councillor (1893 to 1899) of Wyndham, which was re-named Werribee in 1909. He had bought land and settled on the Altona estate in the 1890s, bringing his dwelling with him and re-erecting it on the corner of Queen and Sargood Streets. In conjunction with Alice and his eldest son William John, George combined farming with a district butchering business. Alice Missen was usually listed in rate books as the occupying tenant of the beachfront farm at Altona to the west of Fanny Street (renamed Rayner Street). It was for this farm that George Missen in 1899 obtained a shire permit to boil down fat, which suggests that animal slaughtering was being done.

George Missen not only brought his family and business to Altona he utilised his knowledge and experience serving in local council. On the evening of 20 March 1915 between thirty and forty of them responded to a call to meet at George Missen’s house. They formed a local action committee to press for renewing the railway, for a government road extending west from Nellie Street to meet the road to the powder magazine (now Maidstone Street), and for the establishment of a school, either full or part-time. He believed that on some matters a combined approach was needed, and thereby the seeds of community were sown.

Mr. George Missen died in Nurse O’Neill’s private hospital on Wednesday as a direct result of an accident sustained at Rockbank some weeks ago. As was previously reported in these columns, Mr. Missen fell whilst getting into a sulky and broke his leg. He was 83 years of age, and the injury refused to mend. Mortification set in, and he died rather suddenly in February 1921.

Research: Graeme Reilly (ALHS) 2020

Having begun to establish the new colony of Port Phillip in 1835, John Batman returned to Launceston and chartered the barque Norval for £300 a month to ship supplies and livestock across Bass Strait. Norval Terrace owns its name to this vessel and its contribution to the new colony of Melbourne.

Following the charter of the Norval, by Batman, it made the first of several trips in November. Her captain, Robson Coltish, recorded that Batman, who then accompanied her, planned all the fittings, pushed the work on quickly, and showed a perfect knowledge both of the Saltwater River and the Yarra Yarra River. Captain Coltish, of the barque Norval being 300 tons, had brought to the colony the first stock of the Port Phillip Association. “After taking on board”, says he, “five hundred sheep, and about fifty head of cattle, we sailed for Port Phillip. We had a quick passage across the Straits, about thirty hours. We entered Port Phillip Heads about eight or nine o’clock in the morning, and anchored at the mouth of the Eastern Channel, Mr. Batman wishing to go ashore at Indented Heads, to see some men he had left there on his last trip. While waiting for Mr. Batman, we got the long boat out and had her rigged as a cutter, to go ahead of the ship, to sound. As soon as Batman returned, who brought with him a quantity of fresh vegetables his men had grown, we proceeded up the Eastern Channel under easy sail, the long boat going ahead and sounding. We got safely through the channel about dusk, and then shaped our course, by Flinders’ chart, for Hobson’s Bay, and anchored there about two o’clock in the morning. At sunrise, we got the boats out, four in number, and loaded them with stores, tents, &c, and started for the Yarra. Mr Batman, passengers, and myself going ashore.”

When Batman reached the Yarra, he found his main camp on the north bank. During a brief visit, he landed extra hands, as well as livestock, and weatherboards fit for a house on Batman’s Hill, to which he brought his wife and seven daughters when he settled there in April 1836.

Bibliography

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

O’Brien Court, Altona Meadows was named to recognise the contribution of John Francis O’Brien to the progress and advancement of the Altona area. John was born in Footscray in 1890,  and married Agnes Harrington in 1919. For some years he was employed in the Taxation branch of the Civil Service. Later he set up in business as a public accountant and taxation adviser working and living in Moonee Ponds. He was also the general president of the C.Y.M.S. and the brother of Reverend Fr. Peter O’Brien, the parish priest of St Teresa’s Essendon.

John and his family moved to Blyth Street, Altona around 1926 and quickly became involved within his new community. Adding to his profession as an accountant he purchased the picture theatre ‘The Strand’ situated on south east corner of Pier and Queen Streets which became the venue for a number of charity events and progress meetings. As a businessman of Altona, he was relied upon to advance the progress of the town. In 1928 when Altona was to be finally directly represented within the Werribee Council, John O’Brien was elected along with David Grieve and Charles Cherry. His profession as a public accountant and auditor has fitted him by training to have a full knowledge of financial matters, and his opinions were to be valued at the council level. Early in 1937 a committee was formed by Father Ken Morrison, St Mary Help of Christians, to purchase land for a new church site closer to Altona Railway Station. Two influential members of the committee were the Altona Riding Councillors, David Grieve and John O’Brien. The committee purchased land fronting Sargood Street and Railway Street North.

John O’Brien also served the fledgling Altona Community Hospital being one of the organising committee to get the hospital off the ground via a contributory and subscribers plan in 1932.

But in March 1937 a tragic car accident was to end the life of John O’Brien. Returning from a visit to his uncle’s, Rev. Fr. Joseph O’Brien the parish priest of Mortlake, the O’Briens were involved in a car accident near Colac in which John was killed. John O’Brien died leaving a wife and four children (Gerard, Mary, Margaret and Peter). John O’Brien is buried within the Fawkner Memorial Park.

Research: Graeme Reilly (ALHS 2020)

Ocean Court was named after the Brig Ocean, an English merchant ship and whaler built in 1794 at South Shields, England. Her connection with this area was that she undertook a voyage where in 1803 she accompanied the HMS Calcutta to Port Phillip to establish a colony. These two vessels were to establish the settlement under the leadership of Lt. Col. David Collins. The Calcutta transported convicts, with the Ocean serving to transport supplies.

The British Government chartered Ocean from Messrs Hurry & Co as a supply ship and she carried 100 people along with supplies needed for the settlement at Port Phillip. The people on the Ocean included Captain John Mertho, nine officers, 26 seamen, eight civil officers including a surveyor, a mineralogist, and a group of free settlers. Many of the free settlers had skills that would be of value to the new settlement – five were carpenters, two seamen, two millers, a whitesmith (works with white or light coloured metals such as tin or pewter), a stonemason, gardener, painter, schoolteacher, pocketbook maker (maker of wallets and covered notebooks) and two servants.

The Ocean and Calcutta left Portsmouth on 27 April 1803 and reached Santa Cruz on the Island of Tenerife (Canary Island) on 17 May 1803. Both ships sailed from Tenerife on 21 May and arrived at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on 29 June. While in Rio, Captain Woodriff of the Calcutta sent five marines under Lieutenant Sladden to help maintain order on the Ocean for the rest of the voyage. According to Reverend Robert Knopwood’s journals, ‘Mr. Hartley, a settler had behaved badly’ – and it seemed there was little love lost between some of the free settlers and Captain Mertho. They apparently regarded him as a tyrant, while he thought they were intractable. Both the Ocean and Calcutta left Rio on 19 July 1803.

The Ocean, the slower of the two ships, was directed to sail direct to Port Phillip if she lost contact with the Calcutta. The ships did lose contact so Ocean did not put in at Cape Town and sailed through the Southern Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean. She experienced frightening weather conditions for 77 days. Twenty days out of Rio, George Harris recorded that ‘for many days we could not sit at table but were obliges to hold fast by boxes and on the floor and all our crockery were almost broken to pieces, besides many seas into the cabin and living in the state of darkness from the cabin windows being stopped up by the deadlights … I was never so melancholy in my life before’.

The Ocean finally sighted land on 5 October she was on course and off Port Phillip. She arrived into Port Phillip on 7 October 5 days before the Calcutta.

While at Port Phillip, a number of convicts escaped. According to Rev. Robert Knopwood’s journal six convicts escaped from Sorrento on the evening of 27 December 1803. The settlement was in the process of closing down at the time, HMS Calcutta had already sailed for Port Jackson in New South Wales and the Ocean was preparing to sail for Van Diemen’s Land. The escaping convicts cut loose a boat from the Ocean and succeed in getting to shore where two were recaptured, one (Charles Shaw) was shot and seriously wounded. One escapee (Daniel McAllender) headed back to Sorrento and arrived in time to be taken on board the Ocean. One convict by the name of William Buckley decided to return to the beach alone and continued to follow the bay round to the opposite head in the hope of seeing and signalling to the Ocean, but by this time it had left. Buckley lived with the aborigines in the area for 32 years and was next seen in 1835. Buckley’s improbable survival is believed by many Australians to be the source of the vernacular phrase “Buckley’s chance” (or simply Buckley’s), which means “no chance”, or “it’s as good as impossible”.

When this settlement was abandoned, the Ocean, in two journeys, relocated the settlers, convicts (from the Calcutta) and marines to the River Derwent, Hobart Town in 1804.

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Piri Grove was named to recognise the connection of the schnoor Piri with the Truginina Explosive Reserve.

Built in 1917 at Balmain, New South Wales, by Morrison & Sinclair Limited, the Piri, prior to being conditioned for the purpose of carrying explosives, was the motor ship Tangaroa.

It brought explosives from the Truganina Explosive Reserve for the Mines in the 1950’s to Greymouth and Westport, the above photo was taken at Greymouth. The Piri was originally a Topsail Schooner with two masts. The demand for more speed forced the sailing shipowners to equip their vessels with modern marine engines so they can maintain a good average speed under all conditions.  As a number of her trips were in Bass Strait, lying right in the “roaring forties”, power was a necessity as the Strait has the reputation of the worst sea in Australia.

All precautions are taken on board the Piri to safeguard against the natural danger of her cargo. Members of the crew, who are specially selected, wear rope-soled shoes while working in the hold to prevent the possibility of causing sparks through bootnails striking against other metal. The schooner is wood lined throughout.

Like other ships the Piri had her share of mishaps. In February 1929 while sailing down Port Phillip Bay to the Heads, she appears to strike a submerged object which damaged her crank shaft and propeller forcing her to return to Melbourne. At the time, the Piri was owned by Nobels Pty. Ltd., was sailing for Greymouth New Zealand having discharged her cargo of explosives at the Altona powder anchorage. In March 1929 whilst on her way to New Zealand from Melbourne she lost the function of her rudder. Being about 10 miles off Sydney Heads she signaled for assistance and was towed into harbour for repairs.

It appears that the Piri remained in New Zealand, after this voyage, to ply the New Zealand waters as a cargo vessel. However, after an absence of nearly seven years the Piri, one of Australia’s biggest and fastest trading schooners was recommissioned by the Nobel company to join the Huia in the transportation of explosives from Australia to New Zealand.

It appears that on her final voyage on route from Melbourne, she lost her rudder 400 miles off Cape Reinga and eventually reached Auckland under a jury rig. There she stayed until she was laid up in Auckland towards the end of 1957.

Ralph Court was named to acknowledge the contribution to the community of Altona by Albert (Bert) John Ralph. Bert Ralph was born in 1905 in Redfern, Sydney,

Albert (Bert) John Ralph

New South Wales to parents Albert John Ralph and Mary Ann Gertrude Ralph nee Frost.

Bert married Hannah Louise Beeden (1910-1960) in 1939 just at the outbreak of WWII in which Bert served from 1939 until the end of 1943 in the 2nd AIF obtaining the rank of Sergeant. Following the war, the family moved to Altona where they initially settled into a house in Nellie Street (Civic Parade) and Bert continued working as a carpenter. It wasn’t long before Bert began to get involved in various community activities. The family were active members of St Mary’s parish, but their support did not stop there. In 1947 Bert started the Boy Cadets of the St. John Ambulance Brigade in Altona, a society that he would go on to support throughout his life. After the loss of his wife Hannah in 1960 he remarried a few years later to Ruby and they both volunteered their time to a number of local organisations.

When he retired, Bert gave support to the Altona Senior Citizens and also the Altona Community Hospital. Bert served as the secretary and treasurer of the Seniors over different times and Ruby served as President for one term. Ruby also operated a trading table at the Senior’s clubrooms known as ‘Ruby’s shop’. They were both awarded life membership of the Seniors.

Research: Graeme Reilly (ALHS 2020)

In 1977/78 Bert service to the Hospital was acknowledged when he was awarded Life Governor. In 1984 the Altona City council award Bert with their Citizenship Award in recognition of continuing and unstinted community service as an officer and member of St John Ambulance service commencing 1947, and of Altona Senior Citizens’ Club since 1970. He also received an award from St Johns Ambulance for his long service to the organization.

Albert (Bert) John Ralph passed away in 1986 and is buried within the Altona Memorial Park.

Rebecca Crescent is another street named after a 19th Century ship that sailed into Port Phillip to establish a new settlement. The 30-ton sloop Rebecca was launched in 1834, and was built by Captain George Plummer at his boatyard on the banks of the Tamar River at Rosevears, just north of Launceston, Van Diemens Land (Tasmania).

In 1835, owned by Robert Scott and chartered by John Batman, on behalf of the Port Phillip Association for his first voyage to Port Phillip. Sailing from Launceston, on the 10 May 1835, under the charge of Captain A. B. Harwood, he landed in Port Phillip Bay on 29 May 1835, where, later on 6 June 1835, John Batman entered into a treaty with the aboriginal people for use of their land and chose the site of the future city of Melbourne, known as the Batman Treaty.

After leaving a small party at Indented Heads, Batman returned to Launceston, on the Rebecca and announced his treaty to the colony at large. John Helder Wedge, who was also a member of the Port Phillip Association, then sailed to Port Phillip on the Rebecca to explore the country, landing at Indented Head and then sailing up the Yarra River, which he named.

It is believed that sometime later in October 1835, Samuel Anderson, a pioneer of Western Port, purchased the Rebecca for the use of the partnership of Anderson and Massie who operated from Bass in Victoria after Samuel Anderson established the third permanent settlement there in 1835.

The Rebecca had achieved fame as the vessel which had taken John Batman to Port Phillip in 1835 to establish the ‘village’ of Melbourne.

On 20 March 1839, in a gale at Cape Portland, Tasmania, the Rebecca ran aground. All hands landed safely and salvaged the cargo, but the vessel became a total wreck.

A memorial to the Rebecca was unveiled in 1954 near the site of George Plummer’s boatyard of the Tamar River at Rosevears, Tasmania, recording its role in the founding of Melbourne.

 

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)

Back in the 1800’s at Mornington, a small seaside town on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, the main event of the day was the arrival of one of the Paddle Steamers at the Mornington Wharf. The local hotels and guest houses sent wagonettes and porters to the pier to escort guests to their establishments. When the paddle steamers departed to continue their journey to Sorrento, a procession of porters, trolleys and passengers headed towards the Main Street.

Paddle Steamers were a luxury form of transport on Port Philip Bay in the late 1800’s. They were used to transport tourists from Melbourne to Mornington, Dromana and Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, and Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula.

By the turn of the century, there were 3 Port Phillip Bay paddle steamers in operation, the Ozone, the Hygeia and the Weeroona.

The PS Weeroona was the last of the Port Philip Bay paddle steamers to be built. She was launched by A.S Inglis of Glasgow in 1910 for Hubbart Parker and Company. She took 70 days to complete her maiden voyage from Glasgow to Melbourne via the Suez Canal, Jakarta, Thursday Island, Brisbane and then Sydney.

Larger than the other two paddle steamers, the Weeroona was 310 feet long (95 metres), constructed of steel, weighed 1412 tons and licensed to carry 1900 passengers. Again she was extremely luxurious with spacious promenade decks and impressive lounges and dining rooms.

The Weeroona serviced the resorts of Port Philip bay until 1942 when she was purchased by the US Navy who intended to refit her as a convalescent and accommodation ship. Departing Melbourne in 1943, the Weeroona travelled under her own steam to Sydney and then she was taken under tow to the Philippines via Brisbane and New Guinea by the US Navy. However, following the end of the war, the Australian Government purchased Weeroona from the US Navy, briefly using her for service until she was sold for scrap in 1951. She was stripped and sunk off Berry Bay in NSW.

 

Research: Graeme Reilly (Altona Laverton Historical Society)