Yesterday I posted a picture of a bronze plaque commemorating the old Cottesloe Cable Station. There was a second circular bronze plaque nearby, mounted on what appeared to be an upturned section of painted sewerage pipe. It commemorated the visit of Dutch sailors led by Willem de Vlamingh to this part of the coast on 5 January 1697. The plaque was unveiled by the Australian Governor General, Sir Paul Hasluck on 5 January 1974. Someone must have thought it was too long to wait until the tricentenary year in 1997.
The 1974 Vlamingh plaque
There’s long been conjecture over whether or not it’s in the correct location. Some historians have gone to their graves believing it should be further north, others think it should be further south. My view is that any sailor who wanted to land a small wooden boat on the jagged limestone reef in front of the Cable Station would need to have been out of his mind.
Indeed there was much excitement several years ago at the much sandier Leighton Beach to the south when a deposition of reenactment enthusiasts stepped ashore in a small boat and tramped up Buckland Hill. It might have been 1997, but I’m unsure. I have a glowing letter from the organising committee about the tricentennial celebrations for that year:
Mr Paul Weaver. Vice President, Australian Association for Maritime History
On behalf of the de Vlamingh Tricentennial Committee, I would like to thank you for your generous support of and participation in the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the epic voyage of exploration by Willem de Vlamingh to our State.
The celebrations were a great success providing a tremendous opportunity for all Western Australians to come together in celebration and acknowledgment of our rich and important maritime heritage and unique history.
The scope of the activities was far reaching, ensuring rewarding involvement and contributions from many sectors of the community. Events included the International Colloquium; the Aboriginal Map Project; the WA Maritime Museum Exhibition; various tours and dives to shipwreck sites; the Rottnest Island, Swan River and Dirk Hartog Island Commemorations; the Dutch Community Festival and unveiling of a de Vlamingh Statue; the laying of the Duyfken keel; and the redesign of the de Vlamingh Memorial and Park. A special commemorative stamp and a silver bullion coin was also released in honour of the occasion. All events reflected the significance of the tercentenary and enjoyed wide community support and interest.
The committee was particularly honored and pleased with the success of the visit to Western Australia by His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, whose visit brought much excitement and further fostered the high level of relations enjoyed between the people of the Netherlands and those of Australia. We were equally delighted with the enthusiasm and willingness of the Netherlands Community of Western Australia to support the visit by the Prince of Orange and to come together with all Western Australians to acknowledge and celebrate the spirit and events of exploration which brought Willem de Vlamingh to our shores.
I enclose a Certificate of Achievement in recognition of the valued contribution made by you to the celebration of this important historical event and once again thank you for your support and achievements in ensuring the success of this unique occasion.
Yours sincerely... Chairman, De Vlamingh Tricentennial Committee - 18 March 1997
I should confess I don’t recall doing much apart from mentioning the celebrations in the AAMH newsletter; and there was a small matter unbeknown to them of the taxpayer funded Aboriginal map project appearing to have been inspired by graphic material in my former honours thesis not being acknowledged - but it’s all water under the bridge now.
Opposite the old Cable Station is another Vlamingh memorial in the form of a tall, but grotty concrete spike. It bears a plaque revealing it was visited by members of the Dutch royal family on 27 May 1978. In this case a couple of pictures replace another thousand words:
The Vlamingh spike was once visited by a relative of Santa Claus
There’s also another plaque nearby, an el cheapo non-bronze one with a map which was installed as part of the 1997 tricentenary action. It was unveiled by a silvertailed Liberal MP named Colin Barnett who is now the state premier; but not for much longer. He’s just returned from China with the exciting news that he wants to move heaven and earth to establish a Chinese-owned steel mill operated by Chinese guest workers in the north of the state. For a while now the press have nicknamed him “Half-cocked Colin.” I’m guessing he’ll soon be relegated to political history forever.
The 1997 Vlamingh plaque
I wrote a piece about Willem de Vlamingh’s 1697 sojourn to Rottnest Island for Fremantlebiz- 25 November 2008.
© MMIX Paul R. Weaver.
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