My last trip to Tasmania
Driving a new E.J. Holden station wagon, I booked my car on to the large vehicle transport ferry Princess of Tasmania, from Melbourne to Devonport on the north coast of Tasmania, my life was on a roll, with a new Holden, my first trip to Tasmania, considered to be a gun shearer, and a shed to go to with United Grazers shearing contractors, arriving in Launceston i met with a couple of other shearers who directed me to the Victoria Hotel, they said that was the hotel where all the shearers drank and usually met on the weekend's, Bill Greig the biggest and most respected contractor in Tasmania used it as his office, I met up with Bill and he offered me a job but I told him I already had a shearing run lined up with United Grazers, Bill was like a Father figure to all the Shearers, he had a key to the hotel.
The following day I was to begin shearing with United Grazers, my time with them was short, some of the shearer’s were trouble makers real union cranks, they didn’t want to start shearing for some petty reason, I hung around for a few days, then the next week was still the same, so I decided to pull out, I telephoned Bill Greig and asked him for a job, after reasoning with him why I left United Grazers, he gave me a job out of Swansea on the East coast, I fell in love with Swansea and returned many times.
I remember one Sunday morning, a few other shearers and myself were having a early morning drink in one of the bedrooms at the Victoria Hotel, Launceston where we stayed on weekends, Bill poked his head in the door and made a fatherly comment, he would look at you like a father looking at a Son who has just got into mischief, but we all thought of him as a great bloke one of the best I have met.
The people in Tasmania at that time i thought were like a different race, or country a new breed different to Mainland Australians, some of the stories you here, One I remember, we were all sitting around a large table having our evening meal, in the farmers home where we were shearing, he was a tall lean looking character, dressed like a poor man and his speech was drooled, the house was nothing fancy a large room with a long wooden bench table, stories and jokes were being told by the shearers every time we sat down for a meal, then the Owner of the farm had his turn, he told us about someone who went to Hobart, he leaves off the H and pronounces it as Obart, from Swansea you drive down the east coast road to Hobart, you arrive at the Derwent River, Hobart can be seen on the other side, as the story goes this bloke arrived at the Derwent River where there is a small town, he stayed for the weekend, then he goes home and tells his friends he went to Hobart and Could see the light of Melbourne, actually he could see the lights of Hobart not Melbourne.
Since then they have built a Bridge over the Derwent River, the pillars are so tall out of the water like stilts, a ship could pass under it, when I first went to Hobart in 1963 they had a temporary floating bridge, one of my later trips I predicted a Ship would run into the Bridge and bring it down, my prediction came true years later.
My last trip to Tasmania
I had a brain wave to start a business manufacturing Shearers Trousers, and to do this we needed specialized side seam machines, they would have to be purchased in Melbourne,
I left Perth with my wife at that time, and baby Son Lance, I was driving a EA Ford Sdn.with a V8 motor, my plan was to find shearing in Victoria, buy a caravan then head down to Tasmania, with a few contacts I found a job shearing around Mansfield with a contractor named Harris, his Son John was supposedly a champion Shearer who won several competitions, well I mentioned to Harris I was looking for a Caravan and he said I have one you can buy, he was actually using it for his office and I don’t know why he would want to sell it, the only reason I could think of, he would make a good profit on the sale, on inspecting the Caravan, it was just what I wanted even better than I expected, with an Annex, TV Aerial, gas bottles, it was in very good condition, I immediately said yes I would buy it from him, and I gave him a Deposit, when the time came to pay the balance and pick it up, he had taken off the annex and TV aerial, the tight bastard, but i thought it was still a good deal, a couple of weeks later i drove to Melbourne on my way to Tasmania, we stayed at a caravan park near Melbourne. the lights on the Caravan did not synchronize with the Car so i had to change the wires on the coupling, and it was a cold wet night, this had to be done in the rain and was not an easy task. We were going to Tasmania the next day, on the transport ferry Princess of Tasmania so i had to fix the lights before i drove through Melbourne.
I sold the Caravan before leaving Tasmania for a profit, then i saw a boat on a farm and brought it back to Perth, i used the return ferry crossing for the boat and not the caravan, they didn't pick it up on the ticket, it was a windy day when we were embarking, and the breeze was blowing and the ticket was flapping, he overlooked the fact i was returning with a boat.
Buying a Boat in Tasmania and towing it back to Perth
Shearing at a shed on the East Coast between Swansea and Bischeno, and driving through the farm where I was Shearing on my way to town, i noticed a boat on a trailer siting in the paddock, looking like it had been there for some time, asking around I found the owner with some difficulty and offered him 150 pounds with a little haggling we decided on 200 every one happy I went back a fiew days later on my way to Launceston and picked it up, I was driving a EA Ford V8 sdn, very soon after hitching the trailer with the boat attached and was to learn it would be impossible to tow it any distance at a reasonable speed, as the trailer didn’t have any springs, it was jumping all over the road, so proceeding at about 10mph, I reached a small town called Cranbrook where I found some one who could fit a set of springs, leaving the trailer and arranging to pick it up at a later date, I proceeded onto Launceston where I spent most of my spare time, I was married at the time and my wife wasn’t impressed, after the shearing was finished in Tasmania I was gong back to Perth as I came to Tasmania this time with a purpose to buy sewing machines in Melbourne, that is another part of my life I will explain in another chapter, well the trip from Tasmania with the trailer was unusual I guess, as I had to cross the Bass Strait on the Princess of Tasmania vehicle ferry with return ticket from Melbourne to Tasmania and return to Melbourne, the ticket was for a car and Caravan that I took to Tasmania, i sold the caravan, so preceding to embark with the boat, I was a bit apprehensive thinking I would have to pay for the Boat trailer, it was a cold wet and windy day so when the bloke inspected the ticket I held the corner of the ticket which was blowing in the wind and he didn’t see it was for a caravan. I used the boat to carry some of the extra luggage we had accumulated on the way, besides a heap of smoky quarts I had collected from a tin mine while shearing near Gladstone.
The lights weren’t working properly on the boat trailer, so sneaking my way through Melbourne we found a Caravan Park we rented a caravan and the following day we would go looking for sewing machines, we found the machines we were looking for and it was quite a experience to go through the company’s display and see all the different Sewing Machine,s, I don’t remember exactly what we did the proceeding days but I know we went to Millicent where my Brother was living, stayed there for over a week and I think our welcome was wearing a little thin, his wife Margaret would send her Daughter in quite often to ask us when we were leaving, so it was time to move on, back to Perth.
The drive overland crossing the Nullabore
The boat and trailer towed well considering, I never had a spare wheel for the trailer as they were an odd size, larger than the ford I was driving, and guess what, yes, I had a flat tire on the trailer, lucky me the spare wheel on the ford fitted perfectly except for the boat wheel being a larger size the trailer was leaning to one side, every where we pulled up for petrol we were getting funny looks and smiles but nobody was game to make any comments, I was probably the first person to tow a boat over the Nullabore, especially without a spare wheel, it wasn’t till we arrived in Norseman that I was able to find a second hand tire and wheel that fitted the ford and trailer.
We came across a care broken down on the Nullabore, a lady and two children were waiting for her Husband to return, he had been gone for two days looking for parts to fix there car, they were without water so we gave them our spare water, they looked so destitute, and it was bloody hot.
Then we broke down, and a couple gave us a tow for about eighty miles to a garage,they wouldn't take any money, it turned out to be something simple i could have fixed, i dident tell them, because i would have looked stupid, we saw the funny side later, we talked about it how this would be a good way to travel free.