THE Wonthaggi Mine Whistle has been out of action since before Christmas.
The council says it’s the State Coal Mine who is responsible for the whistle.
However Steve Harrop of Friends of the State Coal Mine, who has repaired it before, has been recovering from surgery.
Repairs are likely to take place when Steve is fully recovered and when an elevated work platform is supplied.
The Bass Coast Shire have offered services of their platform to the individuals who can repair the whistle.
Local journalist of the time, the late Tom Gannon wrote the following piece to commemorate the demise of the famous mine whistle, when the mine closed in 1968.
The whistle on the roof of the power station virtually ran the town…and was described as having between a ‘Peep” and a ship’s dirge.
For 55 years it has directed the working hours of miners. They called ‘His Master’s Voice’ for it regulated the lives of thousands of people, and we in Wonthaggi loved it.
The steam that gave the whistle voice will not be available after 5am on February 3 when the power station dies as the State Electricity Commission takes over the supply to the two mines and 182 consumers.
What has the whistle meant? Well, to the people of Inverloch eight miles away it meant the rain was on its way when they could hear it. The tone of the whistle was a dignified compromise between the “beep” of Puffing Billy and the dirge of an ocean liner. To dairy farmers the 6am whistle meant bringing the cows in to be milked. It was the day’s longest one 45-second blast at 12-second intervals.
To most, the 7am whistle meant out of bed.
When the 800 students at the secondary school heard the midday whistle they knew lunchtime was 10 minutes away. Watches were checked by the 3pm blast, but it was no less accurate than any other (the right time was determined by the 10am signal over 3DB anyway).
When mothers heard the 3pm whistle they knew the children would soon be home from school.
Preparation for the evening meal began at 4pm.
If ever a powerhouse attendant forgot to sound the whistle and someone would phone him up and say: “What didn’t you hear it?”
The whistle wasn’t missed terribly at weekends or holidays, but it was sweet music when the mine resumed.
When work began again on January 16 after the holidays, every housewife greeted electricity meter reader Hughie Farrell, 42, with: “Isn’t it nice to hear the whistle again?”
Yet housewives cried for joy when the whistle sounded to mark the end of two world wars. And ever since 1918 it has sounded two minutes’ silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
School teacher Jim Glover recalls that in wartime 1942 the 6am whistle sent him and his wife scur, running to an air raid shelter.
The whistle was to have warned for raids. There was an enemy approaching and a set for enemy overhead.
His boss asked power station attendant
Archie Fraser, now 67, and retired if he knew the signals.
Archie said: “Only the first one. After that ‘ll be in an air-raid shelter. The State Coal Mine can get another powerhouse but my Maudie can’t get another Archie.”
When they were courting, the same Archie told Maudie, a nurse at the local hospital, that he would give her a toot on the (then) 8pm whistle. Sure enough, after the long single blast came two peeps.
Archie’s boss at home heard them and telephoned a reminder that 8 o’clock whistle was one long blast.
In those days Maudie, and most single girls in Wonthaggi, had to be home by midnight.
The 11.30pm whistle gave due warning. The midnight whistle broke up many cuddling couples.
To Joe Soppitt, 64 retired… the only miner whose son ever became a doctor… the whistle was a symbol of past power.
He recalled: “Forty years ago 1600 worked at the mines, and the town depended on them. Today one secondary industry alone employs as many as the 180 at the SCM.”
To Roley Kavanagh, 39, electrician… he and other torso-bared sunbaking apprentices didn’t get off the power house roof before the 12.30pm whistle went off.
Frank Turner, 45, dentist, will miss the power house chimney more than the whistle.
“No golfer ever hit off the 130-yard second at Wonthaggi without studying the smoke,” Frank recalls.
To Goff Jongleboed, 64, golf course green keeper, recalls the late Jim “Nugget” Connelly, “Nugget” a colourful 18 stone mine foreman could talk for hours. For how many hours Goff decided to find out one night (he was off work the next day).
At 11pm, “Nugget” began to tell the inside story of the mine disaster of 1937 when 13 men were killed. Seven hours later still telling the story.
“Nugget” broke off with “I’ll have to go now I’m on day shift.”
The six o’clock whistle sounded.
The town’s historical society hopes to display the whistle and other mining relics in a museum.
The society and the National Trust are trying to get the gracious 13-room home of the general manager as a museum.