1912 In Review

1912 could be regarded as the ‘Titanic’ year of the 20th Century. All other international and Australian events were dwarfed in comparison with this epic maritime disaster resulting in the loss of 1500 lives.

Melbourne saw the price of milk raised to 5d a quart because of dearer feed to the horses. A bill was introduced in the Victorian House of Representatives for ₤5 a year maternity allowance for white women. Melbourne’s new amusement park, Luna Park was opened in St. Kilda and just down the bay at Geelong, the Hills Hoist rotary clothes line was invented.Such events probably had little bearing on the daily lives of the townspeople of Sorrento. A glimpse of the pages of newspapers for 1912 reveals the following :-

Collision at Sorrento (January 7)

Last Sunday a collision occurred at Sorrento between the paddle steamers ‘Weeroona’ and ‘Ozone’. The ‘Weeroona’ had already berthed at the pier when the bow of the ‘Ozone’ struck the stern of the ‘Weeroona’. The ‘Ozone’ was not damaged but the ‘Weeroona’ required minor repairs before she could leave Sorrento.



It is believed that the collision occurred due to a gust of wind as the ‘Ozone’ was berthing. Questions are now being raised about the length of the Sorrento pier. It appears to be too small to accommodate passengers disembarking from 2 vessels at a time.

Bather drowned in Treacherous Surf (January 22)

A twenty year old visitor to Sorrento, Alan Hamilton, was swimming with his sister on the back beach below the tramway terminus. Hamilton, from Yea who could swim, was swept out to sea by a large wave. Constable Rawlings was soon on the spot but was unable to recover the youth. His body was recovered five days later. An inquest into the drowning returned a verdict of accidental drowning. However Mr. Buzolich who presided over the inquest stated that warning posts should be erected and life buoys should be placed in an accessible position.

Dispatch Box Missing (January 29)

Sir Walter Bartellot, aide de camp to The Governor General, was travelling on The ‘Ozone’ from Melbourne to Sorrento. Upon arrival he discovered that he had lost a green Moroccan dispatch box containing important letters and documents belonging to Australia’s Governor General Lord Denman. The dispatch box was obviously taken off The ‘Ozone’ by mistake. Its return to Government House will be welcomed.

Road Closed at Quarantine Station (February 13)

Residents of Sorrento and Portsea areas met last night at the Athenaeum Hall to protest against the action of the quarantine authorities in closing the road to the public. The meeting was presided over by Councillor E. Clark.

‘Blood’s Thicker Than Beer’ (March 6)

William Morce charged with being drunk in charge of a horse and dray appeared before Mr E. Clark at Sorrento Court. Before the trial Const. Brennan objected to Clark sitting on the case as he was a relative of Morce and stated that he should step down. Clark would not. The matter proceeded with Clark dismissing the case and telling Morce he should not get drunk any more.

Death of a Pioneer (March 20)

John Watts, a ranger on the back beach working under the late George Coppin, died at his residence on the 18th of March. The funeral held by the Rev. Mr Rodda was attended by a large gathering. Mr Watts’ son, Mr H. Watts, was the president of the local A.N.A. Branch. After the funeral, the disgraceful condition of the road resulted in several vehicles becoming bogged.

Fire at the Continental (April 20)

A fire broke out in the lower bar of the Continental Hotel just after lunch on Friday. A number of residents formed a chain gang and passed buckets of water to the fire.

Continental Hotel

Continental Hotel

After 1½ hours, the fire was put under control. The storeroom where the fire originated was gutted and considerable water damage occurred. The hotel and furniture were covered by insurance.

Rocket Crew Not Required (October 1)

The 37m brig ‘Edward’ met with a mishap by running aground off Beacon Rock near Point Nepean. The ‘Edward’ was on a voyage from Oakwood, Tasmania to Port Pirie, South Australia with a cargo of 200,000 feet of hardwood timber. The Sorrento life-saving corps under the direction of Captain Morgan stood by at Point Nepean from about half past eleven that evening until five in the morning. The services of the rocket crew were not needed as the crew of eight were taken off the ship by lifeboat and landed at Queenscliff at 3.00am. Wave after wave broke over the stern and subsequently the ‘Edward’ broke up. All her cargo was lost.

Body on the Beach (November 9)

The body of a man was found washed up on the back beach of Sorrento. The body was much decomposed and appeared to have been in the water for a long time. The head and hands were missing. The body was that of a tall stout man in grey tweed trousers, brown socks and Balmoral boots. As there were no papers on his person, the body could not be identified.

The year 1912 could possibly be best summed up as a year of accidents both on the world front and local stage. The Sorrento locals witnessed a drowning, a shipwreck, a hotel fire, misplaced Vice Regal property and a conflict of judicial interests.

I just can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

…..’and so dies this year’ (Georgiana McCrae)

From “Georgiana’s Journal”.

Peter Munro