93["Fremantle to Port Darwin", The West Australian, Thursday 24 July 1913, page 9]



(By H.P.L.)

Leaving Fremantle on June 14, for Darwin and North-West ports, I must say it was with a certain amount of prejudice I boarded the Government steamer, having heard so many adverse reports concerning this ship. It was therefore with much surprise that I learned for myself that, with one exception, these adverse reports were without foundation. Rome was not built in a day. I am not a Government official. I have never seen Mr. Scaddan or his colleagues; so that anything I may say is quite non-political. I had already travelled eight times as far as Wyndham by the beautiful ill-fated Koombana, the Allinga and the Bullarra, and I consider I am in position to judge. The s.s. Western Australian is a perfect sea-going ship. The cabins (saloon) compare favourably in size and appointments with those (except the special luxurious cabins) of the mail shipping companies, on which I have travelled. The saloon with its beautiful satin-wood inlaid panels and carved pillars and the splendid piano could not be excelled anywhere. The cuisine and attention are pretty well perfect. The cabins being amidships, one feels scarcely any motion and hears little of the noises which are usually a part of sea travelling, and she is an 18-knotter. The Nor'-West coast is always interesting, the good people so genial and hospitable, and I have already described the glorious scenery of the King River and its majestic rugged grandeur. If one passes at night, the scene is indescribably lovely, with the native camp fires sending up their lurid lights. Passing the Ord and Forest Rivers, the same weird seascape meets one. Among our passengers were two Scotch families, immigrants, and saloon passengers. One was that of a young mother and four wee braw bairns. It speaks well for the possibilities of Western Australia that the father of these bonnie bairns a working man was, after two years' residence in this State, able to pay their fares to the Nor'-West, saloon, so well is he doing. As an old Nor'-Wester remarked to the writer, "There is always plenty of work and good pay up North for steady men." Farther along the coast I met a second young immigrant perfectly happy, he tells me with his young wife and two bonnie bairns, earning big wages! and yet still further on I came across yet an other immigrant, his wife and four lovely children, happy and contented. Two at least of these families are highly connected, the wives being refined gentlewomen, ready to settle, and put up with the isolation and hardships of a tropical climate to be near and help their husbands.

On we skim swiftly to Darwin. The harbour is perfectly glorious, surpassing a long way that of Sydney--and Sydney is certainly extremely lovely. Darwin itself is like most tropical towns, with its spacious bungalows and bamboo-screened verandahs smothered in tropical creepers or ablaze with purple bouganvillea is refreshing to look at. The house of Mr Gilruth, the Administrator of the island, stands on an immense eminence overlooking the opal-coloured harbour. Then there are the cable extension buildings, the wireless station, the stone built banks, and five hotels, the wide, well-made streets and large stores, and Chinatown, with young, old and middle-aged Chinese walking about, or sitting under the trees which line the streets.

Being winter, the morning and evenings were cold, but the days hot, at least to us. Yet the people and the children look well and healthy.

To those seeking curios, Darwin holds out many attractions, and the writer in conversation with a resident of six years' constant residence in that town learned that under circumstances, notably that of temperate living, it was possible for white people to remain in perfect health. My informant mentioned the case of five women folk who have resided in the Northern Territory for twenty years, with few changes and yet kept well. Gold abounds, so said my informant, and only awaits willing hands and brave hearts to seek. There are two schools--State and Convent. And so we wander back by the enchantingly lovely banks of Darwin Harbour, and look at the setting sun, the wonderful sunset of the Northern Territory, and the coming of night with its still more amazing starlight. Back to our ship which lies at the jetty awaiting the incoming tide to bear us back again on the placid sea. Back to the sea with its lack of worries, to the ship with its kind good commander, its courteous officers and engineers. One wonders if ever again one shall walk by Darwin's lovely harbour.