Port Melbourne’s early aviation history
Kevin O’Reilly, aviation historian, shared his astonishing collection of photographs and deep knowledge of his subject with members. What follows is not an account of Kevin’s wide ranging talk – just some observations arising from it.
The Shaw-Ross aerodrome was the first to be licensed. The proximity of the aerodrome to Princes Pier and to the bay was a surprise. As described in The Argus: ‘From the New Pier Port Melbourne to the aerodrome of the Shaw-Ross Company is only a few hundred yards westward. Behind, where the aerodrome is built, the ground is sandy and flat, and makes a good landing place for aeroplanes’ – as shown in the picture below.
|‘Flyers of Time’ collection – Kevin O’Reilly|
In 1920 Major Harry Turner Shaw and Lieutenant Hubert Galsworthy Ross founded the Shaw-Ross Engineering and Aviation Company behind the sand dunes on Ferry Road, Port Melbourne. In May 1921, Fishermans Bend Aerodrome became the first licenced aerodrome in Victoria. Later that same month, on 22 May 1921, Lieutenant Ross crashed into “a small cottage, half hidden in the sand rises between the aerodrome and the pier” in which he and two passengers were killed.
The Argus of Monday 23 May 1921 gives a detailed account of the causes and circumstances of the crash. This resulted in one of the first air crash investigations in Australia.
Kevin’s current research interest is Charles Daniel Pratt, aerial photographer. Pratt’s output was so prolific that its hard to know where to begin exploring his body of work, all online at the State Library of Victoria. Starting with the Society’s current interest in Kitchens, there are seven amazing pictures of great clarity of the complex from various angles, showing sites of interest such as the Port Melbourne Football Ground.
Sources and more information
Kevin O’Reilly (2012) Flyers of Time
State Library of Victoria, search by Charles Pratt