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from Rob Legg Yachts

Boating Stories

by Rob Legg

20: My most memorable birthday.


Edina ran bay trips from Hobson’s bay to Geelong up until the winter of 1938 when she was taken out of service.
She was built in 1854 in iron, and had lasted 84 years, and that says a lot in favour of iron as a durable material in ships.

It is strange how, as you become older, the mention of a name will trigger a memory in clear detail of some event or happening from a long time ago. Just this morning there was a mention on the news of some new harbour facilities at Geelong, and here I am writing about a birthday treat in 1937.

I had been obsessed about boats ever since I can remember and way back then, and unknown to me, my mother had seen an advertisement for an excursion to Geelong on the “Edina”.

It was summer and my eighth birthday was not far away. I had been informed by my mother that we would be visiting a great aunt and staying the night at her place on the day before my birthday. I was not very impressed, as messing around down at the river was a much more inviting idea. Unusual too that my father would be taking the day off work just to visit relatives.

My great aunt was a cranky old lady and lived in a little stone cottage in Williamstown. I don’t think that she cared much for little boys, and I was miserable with no mates around and nothing of interest to do. I was looking forward to going home as early as possible the next day.

Here it was the next morning, and my birthday, but nobody seemed to have remembered. Worse still we didn’t seem to be headed toward the station, but in the opposite direction. When we came in sight of a pier, it didn’t seem so bad at all, because there at the end of the pier was a ship spewing a lot of black smoke from its single funnel. What was this? My father produced some tickets, and we were directed up a gang plank. We were going to Geelong on a real ship.


Edina as she was during her forty year run
between Williamstown and Geelong.

Edina as she was launched in 1851. She was to become
the worlds oldest Propeller driven steam ship.

My excitement knew no bounds. I had never really been on the sea before, although I had spent plenty of time day dreaming about it. Money was very scarce then, and Australia was still in the grips of the great depression, so my father must have saved for months for this trip.


Edina was a main transport and supply link with Geelong and carried most of the heavy cargo at the time, as seen here loading wool
that was to be transferred to one of the clipper sailing ships loading in Geelong. On the return trip her cargo included fresh produce and fish .

We found seats in the saloon where a women was playing a piano. it overlooked the foredeck and we watched as the last of the cargo was being loaded. When the cargo was secure and we were clear of the harbour, to my surprise and excitement, a huge square of canvas was hoisted on the mast in front of us. This was great! It was far better than the chaff bag sail I had erected on a tin canoe down on the Plenty River.

I must have spent most of my time just watching the sail and the water, except for the time spent when we went to watch the two stokers shoveling coal from the chutes behind them to the fires under the boilers, and this left enough impression on me that I decided never to become a dirty stoker, but I was disappointed not to be allowed to see the engines.

All I remember of Geelong was lunch and a long wait while the cargo was removed and the disappointment of being told that there would be no sail hoisted on the way back. As for the rest of that trip, I think I fell asleep most of the way home, and it must have been quite late when we arrived home, but I am certain that it was most likely that it was this day when I was struck by the sailing bug.

Two years after that trip on the old “Edina” our family found better times, and my father was able to afford to take us for a week’s holiday to Portsea down on the southern end of Port Phillip Bay, and we were to go on the steam-driven paddle steamer “Weeroona”.


Weeroona. You can see the walkway that ran around the outside of the ship and between the paddles and engine room.

I seem to remember being rather disappointed when we first boarded “Weeroona”. I had never been among such a big crowd of noisy people, and we were told to go to the back of the ship on the lower deck, and found seats near the middle isle. The ship was packed, it was hot, and everything seemed in turmoil. Not at all what I was expecting.

I couldn’t see anything, so wandered off and found a walkway on the outside of the cabin we were in, and it continued around to where one of the paddles was turning. I had to have a look at this! What a thrill.

Opposite the paddle wheel was a big window, and thru that window was the engine. Nothing was between me and that beautiful steam engine except the glass. You could see the whole engine. All the parts were going up and down and the oil was dripping off the wicks from the little tanks; there was just a hissing sound and a little steam escaping, and there was a man in clean white overalls with a big oil can smiling at me.

Yes I would become an engineer and work on a ship. What a job that would be! That ambition stayed with me for another five years. I went to a technical college and as soon as I was old enough to take up an apprenticeship left school, but the week before school finished the boys who wanted to take up a trade were shown over their places of future employment.

We, “would be” marine engineers, were taken to “Tynes Iron Foundry“ where we would have served out our apprenticeships. Suddenly realism struck home, and I think we all made the same decision. No thank you! That would be the nosiest, dirtiest place in Australia, and I would not go back to that school! There was a war on, and there must be better things to do.

It seems to me that I have come the complete circle now, and back to where the RL story commenced.

And that is where all this nonsense about boats started! (My father’s words, not mine)

I still remember the old Edina and Weeroona very well!

Note. The Weerooma disappeared soon after that, and a rumour persisted that the Americans took her over and used herin New Guinea. Maybe she was sunk?


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