Home from Portland

It was great to get reacquainted with Portland.  Apart from a quick overnight trip about 15 years ago, I had not visited since the 1970s and 80s with most of my time then spent around the harbour and foreshore.  The town really has not changed, but now, compared to when I was a pre-teen on Sunday afternoon outings, I have a greater appreciation of Portland’s history.

It did turn out that some of those Sunday afternoon outings were to witness events that are now ingrained in the history of Portland.  At one time, around 1979, we drove from Hamilton to Portland just to see a live sheep export ship!  Sounds boring, and it probably was for an 11-year-old, but a storm was brewing.  The following months, into 1980 saw protests, black banned transport companies, and disgruntled meat process workers from the local Borthwicks abattoir.  The issue was the talk of the Western District and beyond, at a time when the Western District “rode on the sheep’s back”.

Another visit was to see the ongoing construction of the Alcoa plant, now a familiar fixture on Portland’s landscape.  Construction began in 1981 and smelting began in 1986.  The arrival of Alcoa was a milestone in Portland’s history, offering employment and growth.

Over a series of posts, I will share some of what we saw on our recent visit, including the early architecture of Portland, the Cape Nelson Lighthouse, Bridgewater, and the Old Portland cemetery.

It will be a busy month.  As well as school holidays and extra “real” work for me, there will be a January Passing of the Pioneers and I will be joining my fellow geneabloggers for the Australia Day 2012 blog: Wealth for Toil.   I also will be posting my family’s stories, which is really why I’m here.  I just get a bit sidetracked.  I will share the stories of Sarah and Walter Harman, two more of the children of Joseph and Sarah Harman.   I am already looking forward to February when school returns, so I can have a rest!

Just to give you a taste of what is to come, this a photo I took of the Cape Nelson Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage.

Cape Nelson Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage

2 thoughts on “Home from Portland

  1. Great to read, as a Portlander born and bread. I worked at Borthwicks at the time and was very active in the protests to live exports. Looking back i can only say, thank god no one was killed either by the trucks or by the attacks from the police. Because they never held back when the cameras were not on them. Many of us went home from the picket lines with cuts and bruises a man on a horse weilding a batton can do alot of damage,.


    • Hi Phill

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear from someone who was there during those times. It was probably one the darker times in Portland’s history. I was only about 12 then and living in Hamilton but I remember it well. It was on the Channel 6 news nightly and on front pages of The Hamilton Spectator. It must have been a difficult time for those of you on the picket line and you are right, it is a wonder no one was killed.
      I hope you come back again. There maybe something else about Portland that may be of interest you.


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