The Port Welshpool and District Maritime Museum is based around a collection of marine items, maritime relics, official documents, photographs and other pieces of historical
The collection was gathered by Mr. William Bruce McGuire Smith and his sons Richie and Arnie, over an 80-year period of professional fishing in Bass Strait.
Mr. Smith Senior was the first fisherman to base his activities at Port Welshpool. The building that houses the collection was the first permanent home erected in the township. It was the home of the Smith family for the period of their fishing activities.
Built by Mr. J. Avery of Port Albert in 1881, the house was also an unofficial community centre for the people of the village. Mrs. Smith Senior conducted a wine salon and early dances were held in the front room, with music from a piano in the passage and an accordion.
Rev. Betts of Port Albert conducted the first Church of England service
in the district in the house and the first wedding was held under the veranda when Mrs. Smith's servant Jessie Hunter married Jack Gregory. The
home was also a depot for mail before the post office was opened.
|In their work as fishermen, and charter boat operators
servicing lighthouses, and carrying supplies to early settlers around the coast line, Mr. Smith and his sons collected a veritable treasure chest of unusual
items. Among other pieces of maritime memorabilia are sea shells and rare fish that were caught and stuffed. Eventually these items were put on display in glass cases for their preservation and safety and became a private museum that a
journalist in 1929 declared would be valued at over 2,000 pounds.
When Mr. Arnie Smith took over the house and the family fishing boat "Janet Iles" that sailed Bass Strait for 60 years, he continued to add to the collection of marine items, photos and other relics.
|Mr. Arnie Smith also kept diaries to improve his
know ledge of the Bass Strait waters and their fishing catches. These had sketches of the various fish taken, weather conditions and other data that could prove useful. These diaries, hard to decipher because of Mr. Smith's limited education, are part of the museum collection.
In 1975, Mr. Smith decided to retire and handed the home and contents over to the Shire of South Gippsland to be preserved as a permanent tourist attraction for visitors.
|With the aid of grants, the dilapidated building was restored and a Committee of Management formed to look after the
museum and grounds.
The huge task of cataloguing all the shellswas undertaken, using both common and biological names and displaying them in cases so that the public can better appreciate their beauty. This magnificent shell display, together with rare fish and sea birds mounted for preservation, completely fills one room.
|Among the fish on display are flying fish,
sawtooth, deep water flathead, striped tuna, porcupine fish, and species of shark. The rarest of the fish is a strange Opah, a visitor from the Mediterranean, caught by Mr. Smith Snr in 1913.
The Committee also catalogued documents, photographs and restored newspaper cuttings that told the early history of the Port Welshpool township. Old items of furniture and many home utensils were added, together with a display of bottles that would be the envy of many collectors.
|With the help of the Lions Club of Toora, a large tin shed was provided with windows, a concrete floor and lighting, for the display of tools and machinery used
in the early farm life and clearing of the timber.
This includes many hand-made tools, an old treadle sewing machine, a hand separator, cream-can and more antique household items.
The committee has provided a flat for a caretaker to be on the premises all the time and visitors are welcome any day of the week to view the collection, which is constantly being added to by the donations of relics from district residents.
Port Welshpool and District Maritime Museum
Corner Turnbull and Townsend Streets, Port Welshpool
The museum is open on request, and on weekends and public
holidays between 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm.
The caretaker, David Voce can be contacted on 03 5688 1220, and Museum committee member John Woolley on 03 5664 7509 or email email@example.com
Bus trips are most welcome with plenty of room for parking and a lovely area for picnics or a barbecue or just to have morning or afternoon tea in the outdoor undercover cuppa area.
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