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Everyone has a story to tell

27 Feb 2019

Everyone has a story to tell Image

By Jay Miller, MtSV Heritage Register

Do you have a story or memory in your family archive about the Mission to Seafarers?

During the centenary of World War I many communities have been encouraged and inspired to gather vulnerable and precious memories and their stories.

From the mid-19th century the bays and ports of Melbourne started providing for the needs of seafarers. By 1917 the current Mission to Seafarers (MtSF) at 717 Flinders St was opened – ready for another century of operation.

During the mission’s centenary year there was a marked rediscovery of connections, a linking of stories to family names and ships in its archive.

This has helped us preserve and build on these links. Many friends and supporters and some complete strangers brought us gifts, stories and images that have enriched our organisational history and clarified our perspectives.

Contributions such as these have helped us make sense of the “jigsaw” that tends to be the story of any venerable organisation.

As a result, our heritage archive volunteers are busy researching these links further and helping us to “map” the mission’s timelines and activities.

For example, listing and identifying the heritage properties and locations – many being regular venues for picnics and outings on special days such as New Year and Boxing Day.  

This helps us link to the families who helped the mission. These families include the Forges, generous owners of the famous stores, whose daughters regularly organised concerts and events to entertain and fundraise.

We know more now of families such as the Darvalls, and the Mcphersons, the Ducketts, the Frasers and the Northcotes, the Outhwaites, the Rentouls, the Simpsons, the Tracy and Godfrey and Oliver families, to name but a few very important connections.

It was wonderful to meet and connect further with some of the descendants and relations of these families last year.

Listed in our archives are hundreds of family names of volunteer members and supporters, many essential to the actual running of the mission services.

The parallel establishment in the early 20th century of auxiliary member networks across the state and beyond were vital to the cause of seafarers.

As local “beacons” these advocates acted as important reminders of the work of merchant and naval services.

As a repository and with a historical and heritage archive still being catalogued, it has become clearer that in many ways the MtSV also played an integral role in supporting some key areas of business development and the evolution of Melbourne as a major trading port and state capital.

The sea has always been key, and this is recognised on Melbourne’s coat of arms, displayed on Princes Bridge for all to see.

Not only does the mission aim to preserve stories but it aims to reconnect the many citizens who helped us to transition to the present, and continue services to seafarers. 

We would like to re-connect with and acknowledge the many communities across Victoria that were once part of our network.

There should always be a time for reminiscences and exchange with family or friends’ histories.

We welcome any contributions of these you would like to share about your family links to the sea and especially the mission. Stories or facts can be verbal, written, video or podcast.

Please contact the mission at

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