We left Nauru Island full to the gills of phosphate rock for part discharge at the port of Brisbane and then the remaining phosphate at Port Kembla, just south of Sydney. We retraced our journey down into the Coral Sea, then bearing west towards Brisbane, then entering the inside of the Great Barrier Reef and sailing down the coast to Brisbane.
Loading the phosphate rock in Nauru had taken only 36 hours but unloading in Brisbane was a different matter, the process was slow in 1952, 14 days to discharge half of our cargo. The Port of Brisbane is situated at the mouth and lower reaches of the Brisbane river. I can remember very little of where we were berthed. It was certainly not in the Port area, our berth was on the southern bank of the river with no other shipping in sight. There was a railway line nearby with passenger facilities; we used this facility to go into Brisbane city further up river. Our berth was in a desolate area with nothing but phosphate storage facilities and possibly crushing facilities. There were many large sheds I remember and not much else.
I do remember going up to the city a few times but not much else. The city I understand today is modern in look; in 1952 the city buildings were old and to my young eyes had an almost ugly, tired look to their heavy, dull stone facades.
The last evening of our stay, quite a few of us went up to the city for a night out, for a few beers followed by a visit to the city dancehall packed full of young Australians. To cut a long story short I got parted from my shipmates and I fell in with a friendly bunch of young Australians. Late in the evening I asked by chance if there were trains running to where we were berthed. Someone piped up that they were going last train in that direction and to stick with them.
Later getting on the last train and seated I again asked if the train would be going past the Phosphate berth and a number of voices now piped up with a resounding “no”. A few started to ask the reason when they saw the look on my face. One of the group said “ look you can have a bed at our place for the night. Its on the veranda but the mosquito netting works pretty well and we will see what we can do about the problem in the morning”.
I remember waking up around 4.30 in the morning and thought about my situation. Thinking what if the ship sails early morning? I hopped out of bed and found my new friend snoring happily. After 2-3 shakes he came to and I asked him to point me in the wharf direction. He took me up to the main road ad said to follow the road until I came to a certain land mark, I forgot what, and turn right at the junction which would take me directly to the wharf.
I set off down the road at a steady pace, the sun was up, it was summer After 30-40 minutes walking I could hear a rattling in the distance. I came to a side road on my left and I could see the cause of the rattling. A number of wagons were loading milk bottles for street delivery from a bottling plant. I walked the few yards down the side road to the building and stuck my head through the door and a man looked in my direction and asked what he could do for me. I quickly told him my story, he said I was going in the right direction and it was still quite a long way to walk and the sun would soon be getting hot. I asked him if there would be a nearby taxi I could call. He scratched his head and said “not at this time of the morning”. As I turned away he said “wait a minute, I’ve got a good mate who is a taxi driver. I‘ll see if I can rouse him and see if he has any ideas. He knows the area well. The phone rang and rang and then he said into the mouth piece, “is that you Bob?” (I used the name Bob I haven’t a clue what his name really was). It was Bob. They talked for a while, discussing my problem.
Then the milkman said “ you’ve been up a while now, Bob, how about doing this your fella a good turn and bring your taxi round and help him out” as he said this he turned to me and winked. There was silence, then the milkman held the phone away from his ear and left it there for a while. I could hear a raised voice coming out of the phone, but couldn’t hear what was said. Bob sounded angry. All the time the milkman was smiling. After a while the angry voice slowly died away. The milkman said into the phone “You’ll be round in 10 minutes? You’re a good cobber, Bob.
The milkman and I talked for a while until we heard the slam of a car door and a ruffled fellow walked in, in shorts and shirt. The milkman greeted him with “ I knew I could depend on you, Bob, to get this young fella out of trouble”. You’re a real good mate, one of the best. By this time Bob had half a smile on his face and he said” come on young fella, we’ll get you down to the wharf before that ship sails.
On the way to the wharf, Bob told me all about his best mate, the milkman and when we reached the wharf Bob didn’t want to take anything for the journey. We argued for a while until I told him to have a few schooners of beer with the milkman for the help both had given me.
With a wave I headed for the corner of the large metal building, turned the corner and there was the “Tynebank” still moored to the wharf. I needed not to have worried, the second mate was passing as I climbed the gangplank, he stopped when he saw me and said “thought we had lost you last night… jumped ship“. I laughed and asked him what time we were sailing and he said, “probably early this afternoon”
I have always liked Australians and still do. They are a cheery bunch and I found, easy to get on with. Always ready to give you a hand.