Sunday Strolling

Mallacoota was a lonely place for young mothers during my childhood, the men had the Cricket Club, rifle range and angling for recreation but come Sun­day, the mothers with their children either visited each other or joined up for walks through the bush or to the beach. As they strolled leisurely along, many of the ladies knitted, there was no place for idle hands in those days. Some had Bakelite, sphere shaped containers to hold the wool. These unscrewed in the middle to take the ball of wool of which a strand would pass through a small hole at the top. The container had ribbons attached to fit over the knitter’s arm so there was no fear of drop­ping the ball.

We children would run hither thither searching for wild flowers and the ladies would pick bunches of boronia in the spring and heath in the winter months, especially the wives of the seasonal fisher­men who would take it back to their temporary bark huts and place it in bottle vases. We called the coastal area ‘plains’ not heath lands, that term would come many years later. Because the local men burnt fire breaks each year, the heath would be a blaze of colour as far as the eye could see. Shades of reds,. Pink, which is of course Victoria’s floral emblem, and white. The Rifle Range was to the right of the track to Bastion Point.

Over the years it has also been referred to as Boat Harbour as it ocean was an ocean access when the Entrance was too shallow to navigate. We children always took extra care as we walked down the track to the beach because a carpet snake was the inhabitant of the small gully. My earliest memories are of the Boat Shed which housed the strong life boat and was always in readiness to take to sea if needed. It was set back against the cliff. There was always much speculation as to what really hap­pened to it, when one night the shed was burnt down with not a trace of the boat to be found. Sure­ly there would have been brass fittings or rowlocks among the ashes! It was a tremendous loss as it was a part of our early history when it was used in the loading and unloading of supplies to and from Gabo Island.

We children would beachcomb the shores always looking for shells of every variety and size as it was the years before the trawlers gathered them up in their nets. We would make necklaces with the colourful kelp shells whilst the cowrie shells, after holes were bored in them, also were used for necklaces. The womenfolk would gather the kelp shells, small white cowries and paper oyster shells to decorate their crocheted milk jug covers. The cuttlefish were collected for our fowls. The nautilus shells were a spe­cial find as they were mostly broken on the rocks.

Many a mantel shelf was decorated with mutton fish shells, graduating from the most minute to the largest. It would be many decades later, when our Abalone Industry commenced in Mallacoota that we called them by that name. Part of the fun of beachcombing was finding items from ships particularly the gracious liners which would have left the Port of Melbourne on a Saturday and sail past each Sunday. We would be very excited at seeing them. Light bulbs and bottles were common but not a can or plastic item was to be seen in those pre War Days. Pieces of timber were eagerly sought after and the mantel shelf in this house is made from oregon picked up on the beach. We would be ever hopeful of finding a round glass float ‘lost’ by a fishing boat. There were many times when the kelp was metres high and the odour so strong that Bastion Point was avoided.

With the advent of WWII it became Boat Harbour again when Mione’s and my father, Hugh Brady had the contract to carry supplies and personnel to the Navy and the RAAF Radar station on Gabo. The En­trance was mostly too shallow to cross so an elevat­ed ‘rail line’ was constructed to slip the supplies down to the waters edge. It extended right across the beach to near the little gully. Many a time when there were heavy seas, the boat would be winched up high to keep it secure and many a time, Dad would stay there all night to ensure it’s safety.

Over the years, Bastion Point has served Mal­lacoota well, no only as a place of leisure, but as a Boat Harbour, a vital haven for boats in distress and as an important venue for the trading boats during the 1920s and 1930s when in times of drought the Entrance has been closed. It has always been an essential part ·of our town and hopefully in the years to come, it will continue to be that; shared by all our community.

Leone Pheeney

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