Captain Gray, Master of the Paddle Steamers
From the collection
Scrapbook of Captain Harry Gray: Master of the Paddle Steamers PS Hygeia and PS Weeroona
Captain Gray kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of various shipping events and stories on Port Phillip Bay from 1888 to 1976 which was donated to the PMHPS by Joyce Gray of Swallow St in 2004. The clippings include newspaper articles which feature Captain Gray and the scrapping of the Hygeia off Port Phillip Heads and airmen being rescued by the Weeroona.
Captain Gray’s family pasted his death notice into the scrapbook in 1981.
The Society also holds photocopies of Captain Gray’s handwritten memories of his life written in his 90th year.
‘When I look back on the good old days when you could enjoy a full day on Port Phillip Bay for 2/6 from 9am to 7pm and breath the tangy salt air. When you could move around with freedom of movement enjoy dancing music and every convenience on board, meet plenty of good friends…’ Memories of Captain George Harry Gray
Captain Gray joined the Hygeia as an Ordinary Seaman in 1907 and at the age of 36 was made Master and served for 7 years. He transferred to the Weeroona and was the last Master of the Weeroona when she sailed on her final voyage on the bay on 2nd March 1942.
The Hygeia (1890 –1931) and the Weeroona (1910-1942) were two of the largest and most famous of the purpose built excursion paddle steamers, which sailed down the bay from Port Melbourne to Sorrento, Queenscliff, Portarlington and Geelong. Both built in Scotland they operated everyday in the summer carrying nearly 2,000 passengers each voyage. They were popular for day trips, with holidaymakers and trade picnics
‘ Butchers, bakers, confectioners and others had their picnics down the bay to Sorrento. There were also moonlight trips run by 3DB with dancing, community singing … bar and meals’ Sylvia Gleeson They can Carry Me Out
Fitchett, T. K. 1973 Down the Bay: the Story of the Excursion Steamers of Port Phillip. Adelaide, Rigby
Gray, G 1978 Photocopies of memories
They Can Carry Me Out: Memories of Port Melbourne: as Recorded by the Vintage Port: Worth Preserving Project.1991 Vintage Port: Worth Preserving Project. Port Melbourne
I would love to see this scrap book or a facsimile of it. Would that be possible?
My great grandfather William Cumming was the supervising engineer who oversaw the building of many ships for Huddart Parker.
One of those was the Weeroona, although he was less involved in that build than others like the SS Zealandia, his last, which was sunk at Darwin in the first bombing raid by Japan. His speciality was screw steamers, not paddle steamers.
I think the Weeroona was largely modelled on the Hygeia which was built 3 years before he commenced working for HP after around 10 years with Adelaide Steamships. I’ll have to check my notes, but I think he re boilered the Hygeia at some point. Cheers. Bruce Cumming
Thank you for your interesting comment Bruce.
Subject to COVID restrictions we are open each Tuesday between 10am and 1pm at Port Melbourne Town Hall, Bay Street. You are most welcome to visit and view the scrapbook.
THE ARGUS – Tuesday 18th February, 1908 page 7.
The Tramway Picnic was held at Sorrento, travelling by the boat ‘Hygeia’
from Melbourne for the days outing.
My Grandmother Grace Bignell ran in the 75 yard Ladies race and came 1st.
Thanks Sandra. Congratulations Miss Grace Bignell. Isn’t Trove a wonderful resource. Amazing to think that over 1,400 people counting the families of the Tramway workers would travel to Sorrento for their annual picnic.
My grandfather worked on the Weeroona as she was being built in Glasgow and he sailed on her maiden voyage from there to Melbourne in 1910. He continued to work in the engine room for the next 30 years. I have looked at the scrapbook of Captain Harry Gray and it is well worth a visit when (& sometimes it feels like IF) we are every free to visit.
Nayda Kelly (McLaughlin)
I have in my possession a bronze ashtray with a impression of the paddle steamer on one side and a inscription on the back with the words P.S.Hygeia scrapped 1931 are you interested , regards Paul
Thank you Paul. I will forward your offer to the chair of our Acquisitions Committee for consideration.