History snippet 11
Seeing the Merri Creek in flood this week was an opportunity to visit the archives and learn from history.
Most of you will know that our latest Life Member John Mayne has many a story to tell of the early days of canoeing at the club. But one story that he hasn’t volunteered is reported in a newspaper article uncovered this week by Tony Payne in the History Project. It appears that on Grand Final Day in 1960, a young Jon (21 years old) and a friend, Des Bumpstead, set off from Coburg Lake in a canoe on a very swollen Merri Creek. Just after passing under Heidelberg Road Bridge the bow of their 16 foot Canadian canoe nose-dived, filled and capsized.
His pal was swept away but fortunately found a spot to clamber ashore. Jon however clung to the canoe for a while but eventually ended up clinging to a clump of willows midstream of the surging floodwaters.
His paddling partner had spotted him and dashed off to get help. According to Jon, Des ran to the nearby Fairlea Womens Prison and then next door to Fairfield Hospital seeking access to a phone. Denied by both, he then flagged down a lady motorist on Heidelberg Road, thankfully she gave the wet and bedraggled youth coins for a public phone to then call D24 (‘Triple O’ for Police in the day, youngsters!). Two brave police rescuers spent 2 hours trying to get a safety line to Jon but each time were swept off their feet. A young Boy Scout bystander had managed to throw Jon a life jacket but immediately the willows gave way and Jon was swept away toward Dights Falls. With a stroke of luck a big turbulent eddy pushed Jon into the bank and he was able to clamber ashore and head back upstream to the group of rescuers and waiting media (or is that paparazzi Jon?) where he proved that recent reporting of his drowning was but ‘fake news’..
Jon was quoted as saying that they had set out on the trip for fun and believed the creek was manageable and also added that he had never owned a life-jacket!