During Victoria’s colonial years, transport by sea was the major means of carrying cargoes and passengers. In Port Phillip, small sailing vessels were important even after the turn of the century, but steam vessels quickly became preferred because of their ability to offer timetabled services. Geelong was an important settlement from the earliest times, and a very busy trade by steam ships between there and Melbourne began in 1854 with the little steamer Express. A regular steamer service continued between the two ports until the end of the 1930s, carrying cargo and commuter passengers.
There was great excitement when, on January 3, 1888, a new steamer arrived at Melbourne to begin her career on the Melbourne to Geelong service. This steamer, the Courier, went on to spend the whole of her 39-year working life on this run and was an extremely popular ship. She departed each day from No.2 Berth, Queen’s Wharf, at 10am (11am on Sundays) for Portarlington and Geelong, arriving at 12.30pm and departing from Geelong at 4pm. Large saloons and dining rooms, fitted out in the style popular at the time, provided for the comfort of passengers, and a large promenade, covered by a permanent awning, extended to the stern.
An important part of the service for shippers – and for her owners – was the carrying of cargo. Wool bales were common after shearing time, while vegetables and produce for the Melbourne markets, fodder, and cement for the building trades were carried throughout the year. Large volumes of parcels formed a major part of the cargo on every passage.
Courier was built for Huddart Parker & Co. as a passenger-cargo vessel for the Geelong run by Swan & Hunter in Newcastle, UK. With a top speed of 17 knots (31.5km/h), she was one of the fastest ships in Port Phillip. Competition from the railways and from road transport resulted in her owners selling the ship to a Melbourne shipbreaker in December 1927. She was stripped of her engines and fittings and her hull was scuttled in the Ships’ Graveyard outside Port Phillip Heads on March 29, 1928.
BY MAURIE HUTCHINSON
President, Peninsula Ship Society
T: Maurie Hutchinson 9787 5780
The Peninsula Ship Society cannot invite visitors to meetings until further notice.