Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat…

Have you done your shopping? Do you know a history-buff, Murray River enthusiast or book-lover?

Harnessing the River Murray: stories of the people who built Locks 1 to 9, 1915-1935 could be ‘just the thing’ for some on your Christmas ‘gift list’!

You can read a sample of the text here: SAMPLE-Harnessing_the_Murray

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lock 7 Christmas tree from dawn glenn collection

Lock 7 Christmas tree c 1932 showing a large number of Christmas stockings at the base, one for each child.

On page 48 of Harnessing the River Murray, the Christmas celebrations at Lock 9 are described: ‘On Christmas Eve, the eagerly anticipated Christmas tree was erected on the lawns next to the men’s quarters and decorated with toys, balloons and Christmas stockings. Little electric bulbs illuminated the tree which sparkled amid the surrounding darkness as more than 120 children excitedly greeted Father Christmas, (Oliver Edwards), who arrived in a car to distribute a toy and stocking to each one. There was plenty of fruit, lollies, and cool drinks for the children and the adults enjoyed the music and dancing.’

Rest in peace Maxwell George Pearson

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.

Max Pearson sharing a story from lock-building days.

Max Pearson sharing a story from lock-building days.

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.

Can you help with a song?

OK I need your help. Put on your thinking hats! I have this photo from Lock 7 school taken about 1932. The girls are dressed as fisher-women and holding cut-out cardboard fish. (herrings) Somebody who was there could remember words to this effect: “where are you going to my pretty lass, we’re going to sea, sea. After the …. Into the sea of jewels.” I would like to find out the name of the song so I can look it up and possibly find the words and tune. (Maybe you can even identify some of the girls: the girl second from right at back is my mother Evelyn Rains.)

Lock 7 school girls as fisherwomen c 1932

Lock 7 school girls as fisherwomen c 1932