Lobster Fishing at Beachport with Tony Campbell
Going back to Millicent South Australia, my base when i wasn't shearing, this particular time I returning from Cairns North Queensland on my way to Perth Western Australiai, an earlier posting i wrote about my leaving Cairns and returning to Perth.
Millicent is where my Brother Laurie lived, he was a Plasterer and Tiler, we were good mates as Brother’s should be. I would some-times help him as a Labourer when there was no shearing i enjoyed working with him, he was my hero, as a young man he was a boxer and held the tital as Welter weight Champion of W.A.
Laurie said Tony Campbell was looking for a deckhand on his Cray Boat the "Henty", and would I like to talk with him about the job, this I did and Tony accepted me as his Deck-hand. Before the season started the Cray Pots had to be made, there were already some left over from the previous season that had to be repaired, ropes had to be cut to length and spliced, floats had to be spliced onto the Ropes, this I found interesting, we also had to do some work on the Boat i did this without payment, that was ok by me as I was learning something new.
Tony was a Tough man, I always said since working with him he was born 200 years too late, his wife Pamela was the most gorgeous Lady you could meet, I could have run away with her under difference circumstances, but Tony would have killed me.
Pamela was never very far away, Some- times Tony would be away for a few days and Pamela and myself would be working together ,splicing ropes, and preparing for the season, I don’t remember exactly as she was more interesting than splicing ropes, Pamela was a honey and I was often tempted to race her off to the bedroom, but my better judgment told me behave, i even grew a beard and looked scruffy so she wouldent get too interested, i had a feeling there were vibes between us, Tony was very tough on her, her Son was never too far away, Tony Campbell was a champion Boxer in his younger days, Golden Gloves Champion, and the toughest man I have ever known. i dident intend being his next victim.
Tony’s Cray fishing Licence was registered for about sixty Cray Pots , they were made from steel rods, very heavy, unlike the Western Australian Pots made from Cane.
The Cray season finally began 1965, Tony’s Cray Boat the “Henty “ was only 30 foot long, a wooden pot belly Boat, one of the smallest in Beachport on the South coast of South Australia. Tony arranged for me to register with "Safcol" this is where the Lobsters would be processed, and I received a percentage of the catch.
Had someone told me what to expect I would never have believed them, I was able to share a shack (house) with another Deck Hand from another Boat, a crappy room with a crappy mattress no modern cons. The first day out on the boat was a stressful experience as I had never worked on a Cray Boat or had any experience on any Boat, and especially with a Man like Tony. The bait was in a cold store room, i had to prepare it the night before, cut it up in small chunks depending on the type of bait, early in the morning i had to put it in a trolly and pushed this out to the jetty, loaded it onto a Dingy, and rowed out to the Boat on the mooring. The mornings being cold and the wind whistling around your ears made it a miserable job.
This year was the worst season they have had for fifteen years where bad weather was concerned. I would wake up at 4am and could hear the roar of the surf and dread haveing to go out to sea in a small Boat, there was not many days we didn't go out to pull and bait the pots, the southern ocean is treacherous, we could never predict what the day would bring, most days the ocean was choppy , other days it would have big rolls our boat would disappear in the trough, then there were days where the ocean would be like a sheet of glass. and you could see the shark fins swimming around the boat, these calm days were not very often, one day a rope got around the propeller, it had melted onto the prop with the friction heat, i volunteered to go over and cut it off, unbeknown to me at the time there were so many sharks.
One morning the wind had been blowing all night and the Ocean was building up a surge, the waves were breaking at the enterance to the Beachport bay an excellent Shelter from the Ocean, all the boats had turned back as the waves were too big, we headed out to the breakers, Tony was in the cabin stearing the boat with the motor just idaling slowly we moved closer to the breakers for about ten minuts, Ii didnt believe he would attempt to go out , but he was counting the time between the waves breaking, suddenly he reved the motor and headed towards the breakers, we plowed through the surf and just made it through as a wave broke behind us, we were out past the breakers and heading out to sea, to pull our pots, the only boat out that day from Beachport. Tony would some times pull other pots belonging to other cray fishermen, because we had a small slow boat we were nealy aleays the fiest to leave, and the last to return, this day we could not get back into the bay as the breakers had built up too big, we stayed out all night with little food and no blankets, except for this heavy cotton matting from the Apsel Paper Mill, Tony had dropt the Ancker and we were bedded down for a rough night sleeping in the bildge, in the middle of the night we were woken up with the noise of a ships propellers, Tony went outside and then yelled to me to get up on deck, the Ship was bearing down on us, the Mast light was dead center between the port and starboard lights, this told us one thing it was going to run us over, Tony started the Motor as i pulled up the ancker, not an easy task under the conditions, we had about five minuts to spare. The ship was what they called a Iron Ship and passed us with only meters to spare, then Tony motored the boat closer to shore, this was also dangerous because in the dark we dident know if there were reefs, we could only guess where we were, how we survived that night was a miracal.
Another time we were out and heading home Tony saw all this drift wood the Ships had thrown overboard, he started pulling them onto the Boat as i steered with the motor just ticking over, then the rail broke and he fell in, with his wet weather gear and wearing rubber boots, i reved the engine and came round to pick him up, reaching out to grabed his hand, luckily there was still some rail on the rear of the boat, and he was able to grab the bottom of the rail, getting him on board was not an easy task, good he was strong and tough.
Tony was always on my back and agressive towards me especially if i missed the float, i would have to lean over the boat rail and hook the float or rope floating in the ocean while Tony steered the boat, if i missed it he would have to go round and have another go, it wasnt always easy because of the bad weather, the winch would not work normally and the rope would slipp, i would have to hold the rope and keep the tension on while it was winching up the pots, the rope would slip if the pot got cought on a reef or the current was too strong the tention on the rope was at breaking point, it would slip through the winch and wizz back into the ocean, the coiled rope on deck was a danger if my foot got caught in it i would have been taken overboard with the pot, that year three people drowned on the South Coast, ad one man died by being draged overboard.
One day i told Tony to get off my fucking back, and he did, i believe he respected me for saveing his life, he wasn't liked by most of the other fishermen, some said i should have left him there to drown, it got back to me he could drown himself so long as he didnt drown me, He quite often got into a fight with the Hartley Brothers, they were also cray fishing, he would take them both on, being the tough Man he was most men would avoid him.
The Boat broke down near the end of the season , Tony had to go to Adelaide to get a part for the Motor, i suggested i go with him, i did this so he would came back to Beachport to finish the season, in Adelaide he took me to a licenced restaurant he drank about four bottles of some kind of wine, i didn't drink much, Tony was yodelling and had his elastic sided Riding boots on the table, this reataurant had a floor above and a balcony overlooking the bottom floore, Tony said to me see that balcony, i through a man over that balcony. Two police came into the restaurant the owner must have called them, as he knew Tony from the previous time, Tony saw them and sauntered up to the counter and was talking with them, i could see he was going to flatten thies two policemen. so i walked up to the cops and said he was with me, i said to Tony lets go Tony, and the Cops said get him home or we will arrest him. i grabed Tonys arm and said lets go Tony, he followed me out like i could not believe , knowing Tony, this would never happen had it been onother person, i believe it was because i saved his life. good i saved his life or some one would have had to save mine that night ha ha .but i also admired the Man and respected him as he was a real man, not like some men i have met though my life.
I remember an instance before i new Tony very well before i started working with him, we were in a Hotel in Millicent, Tony was at the bar he had been drinking, i saw him eyeing off these four men sitting at a table haveing lunch together, they were Bank Managers, i could see Tony glaring at them, then he started abusing them repeatedly, none of these Bank managers were game to move or say anything knowing Tony, he applied for a loan and they knocked him back. Tony was educated and a very smart, he owned a Realestate business when i first knew about him, he was concidered to be untouchable. another story he was in melbourne and got bashed by six Coppers, he flew back to Millicent, the doctor said he should have gone to intensive care in melbourne, any other Man would have died.
We met up again in Western Australia, after i had started my Business New Westline Mail Order Co. he phoned me from up North, as he was on a Station and wanted a Metal detector to prospect for gold, as i sold them through my business "Westline", later we met in a Hotel in Perth, he was still wearing his elastic side boots and a ten gallon hat, he was just as tough as when i new him in Millicent, i was told Pamela won Lotto, she bought him A Station up North of Western Australia, i believe she Divorced him and is now living in Adelaide. Tony is now deceased