Celebrating a new public holiday

I bet that Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, was watching the weather forecasts rather anxiously this week. After all, I don’t think that the weather gods favour the Labor Party. I only need think back to the election day in 2010 that brought the Liberal Party’s Ted Baillieu into power.  The rain absolutely bucketed down, breaking the long drought that had dessicated the nation for about fifteen years, and gifting to the Liberal Party an endless source of much glee about the desalination plant that the Labor government had urgently commissioned. (Mind you, I am positive that there will be summers ahead when we all say “Thank God for the desalination plant”)

But the weather gods were kinder on this inaugural Grand Final Public Holiday.  Had it rained, or been one of the bitterly cold days that spring can buffet us with,  it might have been an absolute flop. Certainly the employer groups were grumbling about it and Prime Minister Mal was gloating about the lack of crowds early in the morning.   But instead, the skies were blue, the sun shone, the crowds came out after a sleep-in and a new tradition has started, I suspect.  It was lovely to see so many Dads with their kids on this day, whether they went to the parade or not.

As for us, we caught the train to the ‘other side’ to Williamstown. I felt like quite the tourist, noticing the benighted Melbourne Star ferris wheel (was it working or not?) which can’t be seen from the northern suburbs; marvelling at the size of the cranes on the docks, and wondering which old factories or stockyards had been levelled to yield all this new housing.

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I was surprised that the train carriage still had the configuration of 3-across seats. On the Hurstbridge line (my line) they have removed the third seat so that more people can stand.

Williamstown is only 8km from the centre of Melbourne but somehow it feels like a completely different place, with Melbourne visible across the water.

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When Governor Bourke came down to the embryonic Melbourne village in 1837, he ordered surveyors to lay out two towns: Melbourne after the British Prime Minister and Williamstown (or Williams Town) after King William IV. With its deep harbour, it became the centre of maritime activity. The Alfred Graving Dock and State shipbuilding yard was completed there in 1874, one of the most expensive infrastructure projects undertaken by the Victorian colonial government. Prison hulks were stationed at Williamstown and this was the site of the murder of the infamous John Price, Inspector General of Penal Establishments.

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This is the bluestone morgue, now in Ann Street, moved from its original position on Gem Wharf. It was constructed in 1859, only a short time after the first morgue was fully completed in Melbourne, possibly at the Western end of Flinders Street (an earlier morgue started near Princes Bridge in Melbourne in 1853-4 was never completed). The Williamstown morgue was built using convict labour from the hulks and it was sited on the wharf where the tidal waters could wash away the…um…waste.

Many hotels (many now disused) catered for the port labourers. However, it was notable as we walked around, reading the plaques attached by the Williamstown Historical Society and the Hobsons Bay Council, that many of these pubs were built from the 1860s onwards, replacing earlier buildings.  There’s a lot of new development happening down there again, and I posted earlier about an old house that didn’t survive.

Hotel tricked up to reference the Titanic. I guess someone thought it was a good idea at the time.

Hotel tricked up to reference the Titanic. I guess someone thought it was a good idea at the time.

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The first hotel on this site was the Royal Oak, built in 1852 but it was replaced in 1893 with this rather grand edifice. It has been used as a boarding house for many years.

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This hotel had a picture of the Shenandoah, a Confederate ship which arrived at Williamstown in January 1865 for repairs after damage received while chasing Union whaling ships. The Confederate sailors were feted by the citizens of Melbourne, and protected from arrest by Governor Darling. There’s been quite a bit of interest in the ship for the 150th anniversary of its arrival

No sign of the Shenandoah,  but there was another controversial ship- the Steve Irwin, part of the  Sea Shepherd fleet.

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The Williamstown Tower was built in 1849, originally as a lighthouse, then after it was taken over by the Williamstown Observatory, a timeball was fitted and  it served as a timeball tower between 1861-1926. At precisely 1.00 p.m. each day the timeball would descend, marking the time exactly for ships anchored out in the bay so that they could adjust their chronometers.  Wikipedia tells me that it’s the second oldest lighthouse in Victoria.

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We had a very good lunch at Tick Tock Cafe, followed by an ice-cream sitting in the park, then headed for home.  The train was filled with people who’d been in at the Grand Final parade and good feeling abounded.  The first Grand Final Public Holiday has been a resounding success, I should imagine.

And Hawthorn won.

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4 responses to “Celebrating a new public holiday

  1. I don’t know what all the fuss over the holiday is about, it’s only restoring the Show Day holiday that was taken away by Jeff Kennett. Long overdue IMO.
    BTW Our trains on the Frankston line have a 3/2 configuration too.

  2. Williamstown is always great to visit. Have you tried Altona Beach village as a quieter alternative? It too is a pleasant train trip, although you normally have to change trains. Don’t quote me but as I remember upon privatisation of the operation of our trains Bayside Trains bought Siemens trains, with the 3/2 seat configuration and Hillside Trains bought Alstom trains, with the 2/2 configuration. The problems caused by two different train types still reverberates today. It was the same with new trams. We know who to blame. Also though, seating has been altered but I am not familiar with what has been done.

    • One of my intentions is to catch the bus to Altona- that one that takes hours and goes from Mordialloc to Altona-lthough I think that they shortened the route. If I didn’t want to face hours on the bus to return , I could catch the train home. I have a very humble bucket list!

  3. artandarchitecturemainly

    Despite having been born in Melbourne and having lived here for 75% of my adult life, the western suburbs were a bit of a mystery. Then I got a job in Geelong and spent a lot of time in new suburbs and new regional cities. What a delight!

    Governor Bourke did a great job in 1837 in surveying Melbourne and Williamstown. We still benefit today from his planned, wide streets and preserved green spaces! And you are right that Williamstown’s deep harbour became a delight for yachties, pub sitters, dog walkers, shoppers and traders. Great site!

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