Max Pearson, who has inspired much of my work on researching lock and weir construction history, passed away a week ago; a man with a kind and generous heart and a passion for the River Murray, with always a story of life in the lock camps to share. He will be greatly missed.
My association with Max began in 1998, when I telephoned him in response to an advertisement placed by a committee he had formed to arrange a reunion of lock-builders’ families. (I had intended to take my mother whose father was also a lock-builder.) My initial phone call to Max alerted me to his passion to tell the stories of the transient lock-building communities. Reflecting on this conversation ten years later, Max seemed a very suitable subject for my Oral History Unit interview, which was part of my Masters in History program in 2009.
After the initial interview and project, I was inspired to pursue my research on the subject of lock and weir construction, and Max put me in touch with others who would have memories to share.
The friendship with Max developed over the years as I undertook the writing of a book, Harnessing the River Murray, the stories of the people who built Locks 1 to 9, 1915-1935, due for release on 5 June 2015, the centenary of the foundation stone for Lock 1 at Blanchetown.
I enjoyed many conversations and phone calls with Max.When my archival research threw up a question, I would ring Max and get an eye-witness answer if I could.
On several occasions, I met Max at Lock 7 site, where the little township once stood during lock construction, and he would point out the locations of the various parts of the camp, the school, the oval, the houses etc.
Max Pearson loved the Murray River and its history. He treasured its presence in his life, and I treasure the memories I hold of Max and our shared love of Lock and weir construction history. Thank you Max! RIP.