I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published September 23rd 2013
Melbourne's Landlocked Tall Ship
In her prime the POLLY WOODSIDE would have cut a fine figure under her full complement of 1,110 square meters of sail and carrying valuable cargo across the world's oceans.
The POLLY WOODSIDE was in service for 58 years before being laid up in Melbourne prior to restoration
Today she is a much loved tourist attraction and an integral part of Melbourne's South Wharf redevelopment.
A three-masted iron-hulled Barque she was built in Belfast and launched in December 1885, towards the end of the era of great sailing ships, and named after her owner's wife Mrs Marian 'Polly' Woodside.
Situated in the former Duke and Orr Dry Dock POLLY WOODSIDE is the centre-piece of Melbourne's redeveloped South Wharf entertainment precinct
In her 19 years service with William J Woodside & Company the POLLY WOODSIDE made 16 voyages between Britain and South America, including several difficult passages around Cape Horn, generally carrying cargoes of coal and wheat.
In 1904 she was sold to a New Zealand based company, renamed RONA and operated between Australia and New Zealand carrying general cargo.
The RONA changed hands twice more during her time in New Zealand and, during World War 1 commenced carrying cargo to San Francisco and return, a route she plied until the early 1920's.
By then the future of sailing ships as a viable form of transport was all but over and RONA was laid up in September 1921. Sold for service as a coal barge in Australia she arrived in Sydney in October 1922 before being towed to Melbourne in March 1925. From then until 1943 RONA served as a bunkering vessel, carrying coal to ships in the port.
During refurbishment of South Wharf and construction of the Melbourne Convention Centre POLLY WOODSIDE was temporarily berthed nearby on the Yarra River
In 1943 she was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy for duty as a barge in New Guinea. She remained there until 1946 before being towed back to Melbourne and many more years service as a coal bunker.
In 1962 the National Trust of Australia proposed a plan to save RONA and, in 1968, purchased her for the princely sum of one cent.
At the time RONA was the last vessel of her type afloat anywhere in Australia but it would take an estimated 60,000 man-hours spread over 10 years and involving a small army of volunteers before this grand old lady of the sea was restored to her original glory.
In 1978, permanently moored in the former Duke & Orr Dry Dock and re-assigned her original name, the POLLY WOODSIDE opened for public inspection. In 1988 she became the first merchant ship ever to be awarded the prestigious World Ship Trust Medal in recognition of her historical significance and the standard of restoration she had undergone. In March 2007 she was added to the Victorian Heritage Register.
With POLLY WOODSIDE its central feature South Wharf is Melbourne's latest riverside dining and entertainment precinct
In 2006 work commenced on a $1.4 billion redevelopment of South Wharf which included construction of the Melbourne Convention Centre and refurbishment of the Dry Dock, boardwalk and Heritage Listed former cargo sheds.
Melbourne's original tall ship - POLLY WOODSIDE
Today the POLLY WOODSIDE sits in a purpose built cradle in the 1875 vintage Dry Dock, the intriguing centre-piece of Melbourne's newest vibrant dining and entertainment precinct and the major attraction of the Melbourne Maritime Museum. The ship is open for educational and group bookings, weddings, private functions and children's parties.