Old salt’s retirement ends family’s proud connection

Main picture: Retiring Fremantle Ports employee Ross Hume. Picture: Martin Kennealey d405369
Main picture: Retiring Fremantle Ports employee Ross Hume. Picture: Martin Kennealey d405369

The connection began in 1903 when Mr Hume’s grandfather was appointed launch master. He served until 1932.

His father started with the Fremantle Harbour Trust in 1915, also in the role of launch master, and spent 46 years piloting the Lady Forrest.

Following in his family’s footsteps, Mr Hume joined as a deck boy on June 6, 1963. He was just 16.

‘I got the telegram to report to the Seamen’s Union, which I did, and they offered me that job on the ferries,’ the 66-year-old said.

‘I started on the ferries, then after some time I was asked if I wanted to stay, get my masters ticket and start to drive the boats.

‘I’ve been there ever since.’

What started as a fill-in job led Mr Hume to work in a number of roles during his career, culminating in his appointment as vessel co-ordination officer, overseeing the berthing and movement of all ships in Fremantle Ports’ 383 square kilometres of water.

It was a hectic role and things did not always run smoothly.

Mr Hume recalled the morning the passenger ship Australis got lost in fog.

‘When I got to the Fairway Buoy, I called the ship and they said they were down in Gage Roads.

‘That was frightening because he could have run over us.

‘He came down somewhere ” where, I don’t know. We never saw him and we don’t know how close it was.

‘I don’t think there was 20 feet of visibility that morning.’

After more than five decades, Mr Hume said it was time to let someone else steer the ship.

‘I’ve enjoyed the whole thing right up until today,’ he said.

‘It will be sad to leave, but the time has come to let someone else have a go.’