Michael Ferrante’s recent story about the dredging that will give ships 24-hour access to Broome port in all tides elicited a flurry of responses from nostalgic readers. Most, writes STEPHEN SCOURFIELD, mentioned two ships in particlar.
MV Charon was built in Dundee, Scotland, in 1936 — her hull bottom strengthened specifically to allow her to sit on the WA mud at low tide. The ship was requisitioned and made more than 30 victualling trips between Australia and Milne Bay in New Guinea during the Pacific War. This included taking live sheep to New Britain for army units re-occupying Rabaul. When MV Charon returned home, it plied our coast through the 50s and 60s.
There was a sister ship, MV Gorgon.
Grayden Clack "read with interest your article on the state ships of yesteryear". He attached the above picture of the MV Gorgon, "taken in 1959 by my parents who sailed on the ship as part of their big trip of the Far East after my dad won the Charities.
"They probably were on the Gorgon just for the Singapore to WA leg. This picture is probably taken at Derby (but might be Broome)."
Joyce Brand was prompted to dig out this picture of the MV Charon, which she took at the Derby wharf in May, 1960. The couple on the right are her parents. “We were passengers returning to Fremantle from Singapore,” Joyce adds. And she has also sent me The Blue Funnel Line brochure which shows the MV Charon’s routes. “The influence of the tides has always fascinated me,” Joyce says.
Pamela Goff writes: “It was delightful to see the photo of the Charon. My sister and I became West Australians due to our father being appointed master/captain of the MV Gorgon (the Charon’s sister ship) following WWII, then the MV Charon, for about 11 years in total.
“Those two ships travelled from Fremantle to Singapore calling in at the north-west ports. They were popular for young people to explore a different Singapore from today. Also, school boarders in Perth were transported back to their parents for Christmas holidays and vice versa.
“The larger Centaur replaced both ships on the Fremantle to Singapore run. The previous Centaur (requisitioned) was the hospital ship sunk off Queensland during WWII.”
Ron Nell writes that his family arrived in Fremantle from Singapore on the Charon in April 1948. “We were migrants from Burma (Myanmar). I was 11 years old at the time, and have enjoyed living in WA since then.”
Ron was with brother Peter, sisters Colleen and Angela, dad Oscar and mum Muriel (Girlie) Nell. His father had been the superintendent of Government House in Rangoon (Yangon).
Ron adds: “I was able to see the Charon at times when she visited Fremantle over the years and on one occasion the Ark Royal was in Freo at the same time.
“A lot of memories came flooding back especially the Broome encounter, I remember looking over the side of the ship seeing the sea bottom for miles around; wow what a sight, I remember we took on several head of cattle on to the ship from Carnarvon.”
Ron, who is well known for a career of more than 55 years in the photographic and camera industry in WA, including many years working with his friend Ron Frank at Camera Electronic, adds that his sister Angela was born in Perth in November 1948 “a true Aussie kid”.
He writes: “I will be 83 in December. I will have been married for 60 years in February to Patricia, my lovely wife.” And all that, of course, flows from the voyage on the Charon.
What’s in the names?
- In Greek mythology, Charon was the Ferryman of the Dead, an underworld demon in the service of Hades.
- Gorgons were monster figures. Poet Homer spoke of only one, but Hesiod wrote of three, including Medusa, with her hair made of snakes.