G S Read

One of the stories from the 2011 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.

photo of G S Read Reserve

G S Read Reserve stretches along the foreshore of The Esplanade, Victor Harbor, from King Street to the outlet of the Inman River.

George Septimus Read (1832–1900) arrived in Adelaide in about 1856 aboard the barque Prince Regent as its Chief Officer. It appears that he remained in Adelaide. On 10 April 1857, he married Harriet Ann Murphy, daughter of Thomas Murphy of Port Adelaide, whom he had met soon after his arrival.

From about 1858, George worked as a clerk, firstly at Goolwa, then in 1863 at Middleton, and finally in 1865 at Pt Elliot.

By 1866, George, Harriet and their four children had moved to Port Victor where George acted as an agent for property owners, collecting their rent. Here another five children were born, making a total of nine: four sons and five daughters. The family moved into a stone cottage he had built in Ocean Street, which was later enlarged and known as Seaforth.

Being an astute business man, George purchased Clark & Dodson’s store on Flinders Parade, at the corner of Coral Street, to set up a shipping agency. He quickly expanded the business, and took over the store that had belonged to Acraman, Main, Lindsay & Co, and which later became the RSL Hall (now demolished). In this store, he erected a steam dumping press that could load 1800 bales of wool a day onto ships moored in the harbour. Previously only 200 bales per day could be loaded manually.

George involved himself in community affairs, and was on the committee that was set up to build an Institute in 1867.

During the diphtheria epidemic of 1871, George and Harriet lost two of their daughters: Alice, aged 10, and Rose, aged 4.

In February 1875, a further tragedy occurred when the two eldest boys, George, aged 11, and Frank, aged 10, were persuaded by six of their friends to go swimming in the Hindmarsh River. All but two of the boys undressed and dived in. Almost immediately, two of them were in difficulties. One was pulled out just in time to save his life. George, who had been walking along the beach, heard the cries and raced back to the river only to see his brother Frank in difficulties. He jumped in to rescue him, but Frank was able to get out without help. Tragically, George, although ?resurfacing three times and struggling for breath, quickly disappeared from view. The Reads had lost another child!

Six months later, the toddler, Miriam Alice Rose, died. The baby had been named for her two older sisters who had died two years earlier. Harriet never seemed to recover from the loss of her children, and, a year later, she also died. Her headstone inscription read: ‘A patient and suffering wife’.

George Read remarried a year later. His second wife was 30-year-old Anne Murdoch Bowman. The marriage took place on 3 May 1878 in the home of her father, William Bowman, at Finniss. Six children, two sons and four daughters, were born. However, they also lost two babies, Douglas, aged 20 months, and Florence, aged three months, who died within five days of each other.

In 1881, George commenced a new type of business, the manufacture of bone dust manure. Ten years later, he became Director of the Port Victor Tannage Extract Co (Ltd), which manufactured dust from wattle bark to use in the tanning of leather. A mill was opened in McKinlay Street. Later, the government took over the company.

Gradually, as shipping declined, George became an auctioneer. In 1882, he built Granite House alongside Seaforth on the corner of Ocean and Coral Streets.

In 1886, George, now a wealthy man, built another house near the top of Seaview Road and named it Gooroonga House. The lower storey was bluestone, and the outer walls of the upper storey were limestone. Iron lace decorated the verandahs and balconies, and a bay window afforded views of the sea.

A few years later, George became very ill and died in Gooroonga House on 22 August 1900, aged 68. The funeral was held in the Congregational Church where he had been an organist as well as a member of the Building Committee and Treasurer. His estate was worth about £5,000. His second wife, Anne, died in April the following year.

Acknowledgements

  • Settlers Around the Bay, Anthony Laube
  • South Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages records