In the summer of 1960 my mother and father, sisters Carole and Lynda visited Port Essington. They were taken there by my dad’s uncle Bart Hedstrom. Carole, Lynda and Bart are featured in this 8 mm clip that my father shot.
The following year almost every building you see here was destroyed in the final disastrous fire of 1961 - the death knell of Port Essington. Unlike the Phoenix, Port Essington did not rise from the ashes but remains still alive in the hearts of those with memories of her once storied existence.
To quote Ernest Harris in his remarkable history of Port Essington - ‘Spokeshute’:
‘ The riverboat and dugout canoe both belong in the past .The gillnetters in their old fish boats have sailed into history. The old canneries, derelict and abandoned, will never be rebuilt. They all belong to an age gone by.’
My very first conscious memory in life occurred in 1943 when I was 2 1/2 years old. To this day it still has a dreamlike quality about it. We lived in a float house (1940 - 47) along the tracks between Inverness Cannery and Port Edward. One night I was dreaming that the net loft was burning down when suddenly my mother woke me up. She got me dressed up and we started walking up the tracks towards the cannery. In the distance we could see a fiery glow in the sky. We arrived at the cannery to witness the net loft being consumed in flames. I’ve never forgotten that moment.
The rebuilt net loft. This picture was taken in 1964.