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.
Williamstown is only 8km from the centre of Melbourne but somehow it feels like a completely different place, with Melbourne visible across the water.
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.
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.
No sign of the Shenandoah, but there was another controversial ship- the Steve Irwin, part of the Sea Shepherd fleet.
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.
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.