Industrial disputes were commonplace in those days, as they have been in more recent times, and shipping companies and their vessels were often directly or indirectly affected by these disputations that could be either local or national in nature. During February of 1913 both affected the Wimmera:
THE POSITION IN HOBART.
So far the “no-overtime” strike of the waterside workers has had little effect in Hobart, as the Huddart-Parker Company’s steamer Wimmera has been the only vessel to require working since the men assumed their present attitude. It was thought, when the Wimmera arrived that, in view of the extra large cargo she brought, she would have to take back with her most, if not all, of the 700 tons of coal she had under hatches. This would have meant a serious shortage of the fuel in Hobart. But the prompt action of the owners, in putting on double gangs to work the ship, enabled them to effect the discharge, not only of the large general cargo, but of almost all the coal as well, only a very small quantity being left in the vessel. It was also found practicable to get on board all the outward cargo, and the Wimmera sailed at 5.30 o’clock yesterday afternoon, instead of at noon, a matter of merely five hours’ delay. As regards the other vessel discharging cargo here, the large steel barque Carmanian, with a cargo of timber from Gefle, the cessation of overtime work makes no difference to her, as she was not in any case working after hours.
The Mercury, Thursday, February 12, 1914
The “Wimmera” is alongside at the city wharves with an extra large cargo, including coal for Hobart’s manufacturing and other needs. To-morrow, if she is to keep her timetable, she will have to sail away again with the coal still in her holds, and will be lucky if her general cargo has been got ashore. Meanwhile the report reads: – “During the evening the wharves all looked very silent and deserted.” My lords of Labour had “downed tools” at five o’clock, and gone home. Little they reck what becomes of the Wimmera, or the manufacturers, or the city’s trade. Somebody, somewhere, has issued an order, and, like sheep going through the same hole in a fence, they must follow their leader. Like the gallant Light Brigade-
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why-
– theirs but to obey their leader, wherever and whoever their real leader happens to be, which is, perhaps, a detail none of them could supply if asked. The strike now existing in a plurality of States gives the Arbitration Court locus standi for compulsory convening a conference, and we are glad to see that such a conference has been called for to-morrow. But, whether the sword of Mr. Justice Higgins is in haste to smite or “yet doth linger,” it seems to us that the public and those especially concerned will have to think seriously about acting for themselves. The fruitgrowers, who see their livelihood in jeopardy, are becoming decidedly anxious. Messrs. Jones promise definitely that “when the freight comes along, the labour will be there.” And with the prospect of earning a solid pound a day like the lumpers there certainly should be volunteers for the work when the big ships are here, strikers or no. Mr. Henry Jones says the trouble with the inter-State steamers will have to be got over in the same way if the trade of the port is not to be stopped. But here we have an inter-State steamer practically hung up, and at other ports steamers are leaving light, with the consequence of troublesome dislocation of trade in all directions. …
The Mercury, Tuesday, February 10, 1914 (editorial)
On her immediate return to Sydney the Wimmera‘s operations were once again affected:
REFUSE TO SIGN ON.
The departure for Hobart of the steamer Wimmera, of the Huddart, Parker line, has been postponed until 6 p.m. to-day, owing to a dispute with the firemen. The men’s six months’ agreement terminated on Monday, and new articles should have been signed. Because, however, of one of the twenty being promoted to the position of greaser, in preference to those who were his senior, the nineteen would not sign the fresh articles, hence the delay. The vessel left for Newcastle yesterday afternoon with a new stokehold crew, and will return to Sydney this morning to take in her cargo for Hobart.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, February 25, 1914
AUCKLAND AND SYDNEY
Further particulars of the changes in the Sydney-Auckland service proposed by Huddart, Parker, Limited, came to hand from New Zealand by the steamer Tahiti yesterday.
The three vessels engaged in this service are the Maheno, of the Union Company’s fleet, the Riverina, and the Victoria. The latter is a much smaller vessel than the others, and for some time past it has been hinted that she was to be replaced.
The Riverina recently replaced the Wimmera in the Sydney-Auckland-East Coast service, and it has been decided that she shall run between Auckland and Sydney only, and that the Victoria shall be the connecting steamer between Dunedin, East Coast ports and Auckland. The Riverina, after reaching Auckland on March 15, will not proceed to Southern ports, but will return to Sydney on the following day. The change has been made in order to cope with the growing passenger traffic, and is expected to prove a popular one, as the vessel carries three classes of passengers, and has a reputation for fast steaming. A further change is probable in the near future in this service, when the steamer Maheno is to undergo an overhaul. It is understood that the vessel will proceed to Port Chalmers early in April, when her turbines will be removed and two sets of the latest pattern of high-pressure turbines will be installed. This, it is stated, will guarantee a speed of over 15 knots in fine or rough weather. It is also stated that one of her three propellers will be dispensed with. The steamer Manuka, which has just completed an overhaul, will in all probability relieve the Maheno in the Sydney-Auckland service.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, March 5, 1914
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Wimmera was still operating on the Sydney to Hobart run. Up till the outbreak of war, the Huddart Parker Company had operated on three routes between Australia and New Zealand. The first of these was from Sydney via the north of New Zealand to her first port of call, Auckland. The second route, also from Sydney, proceeded via the Cook Strait to the first port of call, Wellington. The third route ran from Melbourne via the south to the first port of call at Bluff. A month after the outbreak of war, Huddart Parker altered their New Zealand timetables and the change in operations saw both the Riverina and Westralia placed into the New Zealand coastal service and to remain for a period only in those waters.
At the end of October 1914 the Wimmera took up a new route. Leaving Melbourne every third Saturday she was to sail to Hobart before proceeding via the Cook Strait to Wellington then to Lyttelton, Dunedin, Bluff and back to Hobart and Melbourne. At the end of April 1916, Hobart was dropped from this itinerary.
WIMMERA’S ROUGH PASSAGE.
After a lengthy voyage of 108 hours, characterised by heavy westerly gales and mountainous seas, the Huddart, Parker and Co.’s steamer Wimmera arrived at Hobart from the Bluff at 2 o’clock yesterday morning. She was then about 43 hours longer on the passage than is usual. Captain H.J. Kell found it necessary for the greater part of Sunday, and up till 2 o’clock on Monday afternoon, to ease the vessel up considerably. Leaving the Dominion port at 2 p.m. on Friday, the Wimmera ran into heavy weather within a few hours. The wind increased in violence as the vessel proceeded, and reached its highest between Sunday and Monday, when a strong gale was encountered, and lasted for several hours, with little sign of abatement. However, as Monday afternoon wore on the elements moderated sufficiently to allow the vessel to make more rapid progress. At this time the Wimmera was about 300 miles from her destination, and thence to port the wind was south-west to south, with moderate to confused seas. The vessel was in light trim, and this made progress slower than would have been the case if the holds had been more heavily laden. After coaling and taking in a quantity of general cargo, the Wimmera sailed at 10 a.m. for Melbourne.
The Mercury, Thursday, December 10, 1914
In August/September 1916 she was overhauled at Dukes Dock in Melbourne and underwent Lloyds No. 3 Survey. At a total cost of £4825 : 4 : 5, the Wimmera was again chipped and painted and repairs effected throughout. She was again rated as A1.
On 1st November 1916 coal miners in New South Wales began a strike. Resultant coal shortages caused widespread difficulties not only to the community but also to businesses including shipping firms. Huddart Parker was forced to reduce or cancel their services and a number of their vessels remained tied up. The Wimmera, on her return to Melbourne from Bluff on 22 November joined her sister ship, the Victoria, and others, in having her schedules cancelled until further notice.
After a forced sojourn of over six weeks she was returned to service on 6 January 1917 to sail to Wellington and South Island port before returning to Melbourne. At the same time the Union Steamship Co.’s Paloona, which had also been alongside due to a shortage of bunker coal, was to sail from Wellington en route Melbourne.
Shortly afterwards the Wimmera was transferred to another route. On this occasion she replaced the Westralia and was to operate out of Sydney, departing there each alternate Wednesday and sailing to Auckland-Gisborne-Napier-Wellington-Lyttelton-Dunedin and returning via the same route.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021