Footscray Wharves and Environs

River People

Maribyrnong River 2017

Bill Jennison

Bill Jennison says he felt like the most privileged kid in Australia living down on the docks. There was so much to do and most of it was fun. Bill’s family lived there in the thirties when he was just a lad.

He recalls catching shrimp every Sunday morning for breakfast, swimming for miles, and the many odd jobs to be had. Bill said mearly everything his family and friends did revolved around the river- ” That was our life our life was the river”. He loved life.
Later he returned to work for Michaelis Bayley Tannery as an engineer and stayed for more then thirty years, to Bill this area is just his backyard. He has been retired for eight years now but still spends many days here, visiting friends, giving talks and tours or just to stroll around in his backyard.

A deeper study of the history of the river banks could only be enhanced by talking to those who have a more intimate relationship with the life here. Standard research practices give us facts, figures, observations, ideas which can in their own way throw new light on current concepts and myths. Men and women may be a bit hazy on facts but they can give us colour, feeling and unexpected meanings to flesh our those facts.

George Seelaf

George Seelaf lived here as a youngster too. His father broke up boats for a living, among other things.

George loves the river too. He says he loved everything he did on it, swimming, rowing or working because it gave him a certain feeling of inner strength and a sense of freedom.

George says it gave you ideas because you became very conscious that it was ever flowing when you lived near it. He says it was always interesting and full of surprises, like seeing the porpoises which used to come up the Maribyrnong years ago.

Peter Somerville

Peter Somerville says he feels cleansed when he gets out in his tour boat, the Blackbird, with his son Warwick. He compares it with the way Glen must have felt when he landed on the moon.

Peter runs tours along the Maribyrnong and points out points of interest along the way. He says it is amazing how just being in his boat on the river can sweep away all kinds of negative feelings and miraculously lift him out of any bad mood. It is so clear it is noticeable.

In the realisation of his own lifelong dream to run a boat, Peter has opened up a forgotten trail to hundreds of others from a community, which has come to ignore Melbourne’s ‘Cinderella River’.