Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Transport of a Less Hurried Age; Crossing Rivers by Punt Was Something I Looked Forward to A[euro]" a Boy's Treasured Ritual of Sorts

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Transport of a Less Hurried Age; Crossing Rivers by Punt Was Something I Looked Forward to A[euro]" a Boy's Treasured Ritual of Sorts

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Lindeman

I HAVE called this story The Punts. Today, sometimes, people a younger ones in particular a pull me up and say they are not punts; they are ferries. They may well be ferries but we called them punts.

I remember when the punts ruled the Clarence and its tributaries. In the mid-1930s there must have been more than 20 of them. As a child I recall two of them well.

One was at South Hampton, near Junction Hill; the other at Seelands, where Rogans Bridge now crosses the river.

The operators lived in small, unpainted, weatherboard houses, not much more than huts, adjacent to the landings. I don't think they even had a garden.

There was no regular timetable. Travellers called the punt man out when they wanted to cross.

In this respect, South Hampton was more advanced than Seelands.

It had a bell on a post under a jacaranda tree, on the opposite side of the river to the house. As a boy, it was a privilege to get out of the car and ring the bell, and maybe climb the tree while we waited.

Seelands was not as well equipped. The approach from the Seelands side was quite long and steep. Dad would stop the car half way down, form a megaphone with his hands and acooeea a a wonderful long drawn-out sound that travels great distances in the bush and especially over water.

We would watch to see if the punt man appeared, and then drive down to the landing and wait.

These punts did not have motors. A steel cable was stretched across the river and over a windless-type wheel turned by hand to drag the punt across the river.

My father would get out and stand on the opposite side of the handle and help to take us over. This was also a chance to get the latest gossip. The punt man knew everything that was going on in the district.

I longed for the day I'd be big enough to turn the handle. …

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