Story by Graham Williams
As a first year electrical apprentice I was sent to Port Hedland in 1960 to carry out the electrical work on a large group of new State houses being built by George Thompson. I was left by myself to do the work, lived at the Esplanade hotel, and really looked after by a couple of the site carpenters. George Thompson built the houses in the old main incoming street Anderson I think, also some in Sutherland St overlooking the beach where we built a fish trap of fence posts and wire fencing. We would wait for the tide to go out and then nearly always had a choice of the fish to eat, caught turtles and other things as well.
I remember the painting contractor Jimmy Nicolakis from Geraldton rowed a dingy over to Finucane Island and came back with the greatest array of large and coloured sea shells. I added lights and bases to some of them and gave them away as presents.
After completing the State houses, we upgraded St Cecilia’s Convent and Father O’ Sullivan presbytery before he left for Good. By the way because I had spare time on the job I did the mail run into town each day and got some small items for the carpenters from Elder Smith. One day the police sergeant asked me would I give him a lift back to the station. There he said come in Graham, what for I asked……so I can give you a drivers license….was his reply.
One day I met the Bill and Flo Kane’s family from Kingsmill Street, Port Hedland.
In my spare time I was allowed to help Bill refuel the aircraft at the Port Hedland Airport so got to know one of the best men of the Pilbara. Bill Kane owned and trained RED WARRIOR, the best horse to race in Port Hedland, ref. Ron Solly.
I remember Bill well because once a month an old Aboriginal mate of his would walk in from the De Grey for his pension payment. Before leaving he would go to see Bill, do a little garden weeding and be handed a large meat and salad sandwich with one only large bottle of Swan Lager. Bill would sit by his side under the shade of a tree and it was so clear how much they meant to each other. Bill must have told him I was a new migrant so the next thing was an invitation to attend a corroboree going to be held on the De Grey River bed to bring a young man into adulthood. What an great invitation this turned out to be. We sat a good distance away from the actual scene but could clearly see and hear all the ceremony. This night made me realise what a great gift we have in having such wonderful people alongside us.
I have just read Jack McPhee’s life story and learned how cruel and uncaring our early government institutions were to all these people especially in the Pilbara. The best any white person can do is to give our Aboriginal brothers and sisters a big smile and a handshake when possible.
Written on 23 May 2017
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