Almanac (Local) History: Three Geelong Vignettes




St Mary of the Angels Basilica, Geelong. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)



Pig Market, McKillop Street, City


Behind St Mary of the Angels Basilica, Yarra Street, where I regularly went to church as a kid, there’s a flat rectangular area that has been a car park for as long as I can remember. You enter it via McKillop Street. I worked as an usher at the Geelong Village Cinema complex in nearby Ryrie Street in the 1980s and early 90s, while I was at uni. An older female work colleague would say that she’d parked in the Pig Market, which I presume the area actually was about one hundred years previously. It’s now commonly referred to as the Haymarket Car Park. Haymarket, Pig Market – one doesn’t exclude the other, I suppose.



Cheetham Salt Works, Moolap, c. 1925-35. (Source: Wikipedia.)



Cheetham Salt Works, Moolap


For me, one of the most beautiful, memorable and iconic Geelong sights was connected to the Cheetham Salt Works on the shores of Corio Bay in Moolap. (Or, if one wants to be geographically pedantic, the south-eastern part of Corio Bay which is called Stingaree Bay). Dominating the salt works area were a large complex of rectangular pools in which the salt was in various stages of being harvested. As I remember it, the pools gradated from the normal blue-grey colour of sea water to the most beautiful pink hues as the salt content became more pronounced. The overall effect was something like an artist’s palette. There was also, often, visible white mountains of newly harvested salt nearby. The scene was particularly gorgeous as the light lessened around dusk or increased after dawn. I saw this sight many times, as my father worked shift work at the aluminium refinery at nearby Point Henry, and we often went past the Saltworks area in the family car to pick him up or drop him off. The Moolap salt works operation began in 1888 ceased in 2009.



Queen’s Park Bridge, Geelong. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)



Canoe Tree, near Queen’s Park Bridge, Highton


I don’t know if the layout of Queen’s Park Golf Course has changed in recent times but, in the old days, if you drove the ball about 350 metres in a straight line off the tenth tee (ha!), you would have landed it on the banks of the Barwon River near Queen’s Park Bridge, just next to a dead tree with a long, narrow canoe shape carved out of it – by local aboriginals in times long past, the way I was told the story. For obvious reasons, then, people I knew called it the ‘Canoe Tree’. (I assume it is still there.) This tree was on the opposite bank of the river to where there was once a rope attached to a branch of another tree. As kids, we called this rope the ‘Tarzan Rope’ and we would climb the tree and swing off it, landing in the middle of the river if we’d judged our release point correctly.



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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.

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