Warren Cox was born in 1947 and grew up in Millers Point. In his interview he talks about school, childhood, sailing, swimming, fishing, billy carts, hotels, changing demography and many other aspects of life on The Point. Like his father before him he worked as a wharf labourer and he talks at length about working conditions, safety, and unions on the wharves. In the excerpt below he recollects both noxious trades and serious health hazards associated with waterfront work.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
Asbestos, you didn’t know they were unloading it. Just bags of stuff, just all powder and stuff, you didn’t know what you had. You just went down the ship and [you did] whatever they were doing. Jackie Flood, one of the foremen, he said to me one time that in the old days they were doing the hides and they were just all bundled together and wired up and this juice used to just run out of hides. He said they would be stacking it up and there would be maggots and everything. He said it was terrible. They’d have to push it round and put it on trucks and stack it all up, and you’d stink of it. I remember him telling me one time the juice would be coming down, the juice would be about two inches thick on the deck of the ship and you’d be walking through it and all. He said it was terrible.
They didn’t have showers, they used to just go and get the billy and wash themselves off with that before they went home. They never had showers or anything. We used to clean the gear up when the ships finished, and roll all the nets up and you’d get dust off that and you’d be breathing it in, so it could have had asbestos in it or anything. You wouldn’t know what they were unloading. Like I said we took truck loads of gear to the ship before it started, and the ship would come in and they’d work and we’d go and clean it all up and carry it back. If anything needed repair the gear man would repair it and stack it all away for the next time, and put it on different ships. But as I said you wouldn’t know what cargo they were unloading or anything.