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  • Writer's pictureBill Manning

Where it all began

Several people have asked me about my early experiences since my last blog regarding the Halvorsens. Well, in 2000 I retired from PwC (accountants formerly Coopers and Lybrand) I did my Genealogy. In doing that I was aware that my uncle Ted Manning was named Edward Quilliam Manning and I set out to find my forebears named Quilliam.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
Capt. John Quilliam RN (1771-1828)

After some searching, I found Lt John Quilliam RN (1778 to 1829) a Manxman who served with Admiral Nelson on HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar. He originally met Admiral Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen where he successfully commanded a fireship sent into the harbour to set alight the Danish fleet. He so impressed Nelson he was invited to serve as a Second Lieutenant aboard the flagship HMS Victory. At the battle, the Victory was dismasted at the mizen mast and the fall destroyed the steering gear. Lt Quilliam was ordered by Capt. Hardy to man the tiller below decks so became known as the man who steered the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar.

My father Herbert William Manning (1919 to 1957) was a pharmacist at Milson’s Point in Sydney. We lived on the waterfront at 27a Elamang Ave. Kirribilli (a suburb next to Milson’s Point). He owned a 30ft sailing boat “Arial” which was commandeered by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1942. In the same year, my father joined the RAN Reserve as a Lieutenant and took the Sydney Harbour Hegarty’s 50ft ferry “Seeker Star” to Darwin and the Timor Sea in the air-sea rescue flotilla.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
HMAS Air Chief

In 1944 he returned to Sydney to take command of HMAS Air Chief a 63ft fast patrol boat and returned to Darwin and the Timor Sea on air-sea rescue work. Among other duties, he ran the supply lines to ‘Bull’ Tailor and his commandoes in Timor. He returned to Sydney in 1945 and came ashore at our house at 27a Elamang Ave. He was then stationed at HMAS Shropshire for 3 months while he trained a group of WRANS to crew the Admirals barge to take Lord Gowrie ashore on arrival in Sydney to take the salute at the WW2 victory parade in Sydney. Incidentally, Wally Burke my wife’s father joined the RAN Reserve as a Lieutenant with Dad and served on HMAS Strahan a corvette again in Darwin.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
Dad and myself on the Dragon in about 1950

Dad was a member of the Sydney Amateurs Sailing Cub before the war and he joined the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in 1949. He had Ted Haddock build a Dragon class yacht for himself. His crew were Lynn Hines and Mervin Wood. The photo below is of my father and myself in the Dragon in about 1950. We built the dinghy towed behind in the garage at 27a Elamang Ave.Dad also sailed with Bob Bull in two Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races in the 1950s on ‘Christina’ and ‘Nocturne’.

For activities on a rainy day I would board a Sydney ferry at Kirribilli Wharf and travel around the Neutral Bay run to High St, Neutral Bay, Kurraba Wharf, Kirribilli Wharf to Circular Quay, stay on the ferry to Cremorne Wharf, to Old Cremorne, Mosman, South Mosman, Cremorne, Circular Quay and back to Kirribilli. The point being one did not have to pay a fair if one did not alight at Circular Quay. The trip took about one and half hours.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
The steam driven Kanangra ferry

I must add the highlight of the trip was to stand in the rain outside beside the helmsman and get invited inside to the wheelhouse as a 9-year child. Once inside there was a steam-driven ‘donkey’ engine that provided power steering to the ferry. If lucky you would be allowed to steer the ferry 270 degrees around Robson Point actioning the steering with lots of steam from the power steering filling the cabin. I believe this trip can be done today as the ferry schedule has not changed.

Cotton sails were a curse because they had to be washed and dried after each use. So on a Monday, my task was to take the three dragon sails 400 metres to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron to wash and dry the sails on the lawn. On a hot day, the soles of my bare feet would burn on the footpath.

In addition, I would be the assistant tender driver at the Squadron. I would assist Harry Bridges who was in charge of the tender to put the canvas covers onto the ‘Janet Martin’ and the ‘Hiawatha’. These were very heavy covers for a 9-year-old lad and took hours to put on. Janet Martin was sunk at Batemans Bay and ‘Hiawatha’ sold to Rolly Tasker modified and sailed as ‘Siska’. I also drove the tender.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
Rolly Tasker’s Siska

Another task at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was to assist Ron Atkin the boatyard manager to slip the eight metres Norske and Saskia. They were both slipped weekdays out on Mondays and in on Fridays.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
Norske and Saskia an oil painting by Ian Hansen at RSYS

I was allowed to drive the winch to slip and traverse the boats.

When Harry departed and Bart took over as the tender driver in the 1950’s I was sailing Bob Sloman’s 12-foot skiff “Varuna” out from the boatshed at number 29 Elamang Ave. On many occasions, I would capsize the boat and Bart would rescue me in Neutral Bay. He never complained about this arduous task. Incidentally, my son William also drove the tender at the RSYS in the 1990s.

 Bill Manning Blog - Where it all began
Gordon Ingate always said this was me driving the tender in 1959

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