Sweet smelling Swallows

Sweet smelling Swallows

A recent article in The Guardian Urban Futures wondered whether cities are losing their smell.

That caused me to reflect on how many Port stories are associated with smells.

The fetid Sandridge Lagoon gave rise to virtually a whole vocabulary of smells – here are just two examples:

The ‘stench arising from the lagoon was a nuisance and a menace to the public health’, wrote Town Clerk Crockford in his scrapbook in 1895. In representations to authorities,  ‘The Mayor could assure the Board that when the tide was out, the effluvia arising from this little spot was something abominable.’

The smells associated with the factories on Fishermans Bend made a strong impression on the young Mike Brady when living in the migrant hostel.

‘A blind man could describe the scene, because the inescapable odours of Port Melbourne are penetrating the tiniest chinks in the bus doors and windows. It’s an obnoxious smelling cocktail of animal, vegetable and chemical waste . . .

To the east, stretching almost to the city, is a chain of animal-holding yards and abattoirs. Here, pigs are slaughtered and put through a furnace to burn off their bristles. The stench of burning hair and flesh is compounded as it joins the stink of boiling fat from the Unilever and Cedel soap factories. To the west, a forest of factories . . .  Adjacent to the hostel is the Kraft Vegemite factory. The pungent, yeasty smell drifts over constantly. Vegemite is not the spread of choice at breakfast in the hostel canteen.’

By contrast, the sweet smells of Swallows are fondly remembered.  Jan MacDonald recalled

‘What is that delicious aroma? Swallow & Ariell are cooking their Christmas puddings. We are almost indifferent to the usual everyday biscuit baking aroma, but the Christmas puddings smell really great. The kids all go to the back door of Swallows for a sample.’

Sometimes smells came in combination – Jan MacDonald again

‘The tide has gone out again, leaving the beach covered in streamers, rotting onions and other food discarded by the ships that have left Station Pier. Rats are having a feast. The seaweed is starting to rot in the sun, the smell is terrible.’

Does Port still have smells that are unmistakably Port?


Delbridge, N 2004 Up there Mike Brady Port Melbourne, Vic  Coulomb Communications

Crockford, Edward Scrapbook held by the PMH&PS

Macdonald, J 2002 Salt on the Windows, in PMH&PS calendar 2002


Share Your Story


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comodo SSL