Rocks Ferry Sign ; 2014/002


Wauchope Museum


Rocks Ferry Sign

About this object

This sign, which reads, Please blow car horn for ferry service, is a reminder of the historic Rocks Ferry which crossed the Hastings River from the Wauchope side to Redbank. The sign was located on the Wauchope side of the river. As with rivers up and down the east coast, the Hastings River presented both advantages and disadvantages. People could travel by boat up river but for those who needed to cross the river at any point along its length, it presented a difficulty. After years of debate as to its location, the ferry began operations in 1910 and continued until construction of a bridge started in 1983.

The Rocks Ferry punt was operated using a cable attached at both banks which passed through a large rope-lined wheel on the punt and was initially cranked by hand. In later years a motor was installed on the punt. It was a vital connection for the many families living in Redbank, Ennis, Hursley, and Rawdon Island. The ferry is well remembered by those who used it to get to school, to work, for shopping and for transporting goods or livestock. They also remember the inconvenience of finding the ferry on the other side of the river – an inconvenience reflected in the sign’s message. John Eggert, long-time resident of Redbank remembers that those on foot or bike with no car horn to blow, simply yelled out “Punt-o!’.

Using the ferry was not always plain sailing and accidents did happen. At times vehicles ended up in the river while trying to get on or off the punt and taking livestock across could be difficult to say the least. In this high rainfall area, the flooding of the Hastings River made ferry operations dangerous and sometimes necessitated the inconvenience of closing the service. The punt was on occasions washed away down the river by floodwaters. The lives of those who operated the ferry were not easy as they were on call at all hours.

The sign was rescued when the ferry closed and is our only tangible connection to that very important means of crossing the Hastings. The story of the Rocks Ferry, evoked by this sign, reflects many aspects of life and society on the upper Hastings because of the variety of people who used the ferry and the various things the ferry carried, from school kids to pigs. It also emphasises the difference between the very easy access we enjoy today and the problems of river crossings in the past.

Sue Frost
11 July 2014

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