I was born at Fiddler's Green, so called by the old bay fishermen because they could always rely on getting fish they referred to as 'fiddlers' in their nets when fishing there. Fiddler's Green was a narrow stretch of foreshore on the land later owned by the Dickie family. (This stretch of shore line is always green because of the seepage down the hill to the waters edge. I am accepting this theory but there are a lot of towns called Fiddler's Green in the United Kingdom)
At Sam Remo, then known as Griffith's Point, I arrived on the scene on September 22nd, 1866. My parents, after "two" years (actually six years) at Churchill Island, having failed to acquire the right of occupying same, had lost their home to a Mr. Rodgers. My father was advised several times to select but he would not bother about it. Mother had made a comfortable home on the little island. It is I think about 160 acres or so. "Four" of my sisters were born there - Priscilla (actually born on French Island when indented to Alex McCallum), Louisa, Kate and Annie. The oldest sister Elizabeth was born in England and R. W. Pickersgill, the eldest of our family, was born in Melbourne. I do not remember the date but it must have been some time in the "forties". (actually April 1853)
We lived only a few years, I believe, at Fiddler's Green, then went on to the Bass where there was a small settlement at the time. My brother Walter was born there and shortly afterwards the family settled down in a home on land father had selected, 163 acres fronting the ocean directly opposite Cape Woolami. It was a lovely spot overlooking the bay and islands on one side and the ocean on the other. At that time San Remo as it is now called (Griffith's Point at the time) was very well timbered with sheoak trees and manna gums and black wattle. As the land was taken up and fenced most of the occupiers (who were as a rule hard up) went in for log fences which was the start of the destruction of the timbered hills. My first recollection of anything at San Remo is our first arrival at the new home. I remember sitting up in the old cart behind the old bay horse "Jock" with a switch in hand to hurry him along.
The stone for building a bank in Melbourne was quarried out of stone from the back of our farm and taken across the farm on sledges cut from the fork of a tree and drawn by bullock teams to the edge of the channel where it curves in close to the bank near the bridge. At that particular spot the vessel could be close to the beach. By the use of some gear rigged up on the ship the stone was hoisted and swung on board. There were no jetties in those days. Where the stones were quarried and dressed and the curving track that was cut into the hillside can be plainly seen today, over "80" years since. It must have been a terrific heavy haul to get the stone to the top of the hill from where it was dressed. Those responsible were not very mechanically minded or they would have had some easier method. There is still a huge dressed block of stone lying on the beach some distance from where it was quarried. It was evidently too heavy for the team to shift - over two tons I should say.
Some years before we came to the farm, a small ship loaded with potatoes and palings from Tasmania for Melbourne, was driven ashore close to the quarry, and just missed striking the rocky headland on either side. She swept in on an even keel, bow first, at the only spot where there was any chance for her survival. The early settlers were shaking hands with each other, plenty of spuds and palings, they will never get her off, but, much to their disgust, a tug came from Melbourne and at high tide they were able to pull her off without any damage. She was resting on a level sandstone bottom. At low tide a track for the tow was cleared of large boulders and, when the tug made fast at high tide and put on the pressure, the spuds and palings passed, much regretted by the sorrowing settlers. The cleared track through the boulders is still plainly to be seen, although it happened over "80" years ago.
Some years previously there had been a vessel lost on the rocky coast near Bore Beach and some lives lost. The vessel was a total loss. The captain's wife, who was accompanying him, was lost amongst others. It was in very early days before I was born. The name of the ship was "John Nussey".
She was a sailing ship, a barque bound for Melbourne with one thousand tons of coal. During a storm in the Straits she tried for the shelter of Western Port Bay, but, for some reason, probably not knowing the Eastern Passage very well, she struck the end of the sand bar near the channel entrance close to Cape Woolamai. She became a total loss though there were no lives lost. The hull of the ship with the one thousand tons of coal did not break up and, owing possibly to the action of the waves, worked its way completely out of sight in the sand. No portion of the wreck was ever washed up on any shores, so it must still be there. I have seen at varying times water worn lumps of coal on the beach below the farm. Many times I have thought they may have been from her.
When I was a boy I often heard from the proprietor of a hotel right on the ocean cliff at Kilcunda, when the coal mine there was being worked, speak of a massive anchor that was to be seen at the foot of a certain high part of the coast not far from the hotel at low tide. There must at some time have been a ship wrecked there, but there was never a vestige of any wreckage to be seen and no-one ever heard of any, so it must have been ages ago.
Contributed by Laurie Thompson ( PPPG Member No. 944 )
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