Port Pirie landscape. Samphire flats, the Indian Pacific railway line, the Nyrstar smelter chimney and the smelting works.

A few nice Travel Clothing images I found:

Port Pirie landscape. Samphire flats, the Indian Pacific railway line, the Nyrstar smelter chimney and the smelting works.
Travel Clothing
Image by denisbin
In one sense Port Pirie predated Port Wakefield as wool from Booyoolie, Beetaloo and the Crystal Brook sheep stations was loaded onto ships along the mangrove lined creek here from 1847 but it was not an official port. The wool loaded here was only transhipped to Port Adelaide in these early decades. The government surveyed and created the town of Port Pirie in 1871 with the port becoming fully operational in 1872. It eventually out grew the tonnage and size of Port Wakefield and Port Augusta in the late 1880s and 1890s because of railways and mining. Unlike ports Augusta and Wakefield, Pirie had a huge fertile hinterland which was especially suitable for grain farming. The first railway snaked out from Port Pirie in 1874 to Crystal Brook reaching Jamestown in 1878 and Peterborough in 1881, Laura in 1884 and Booleroo Centre in 1910. Then the discovery of silver, lead and zinc across the border in NSW at Broken Hill in 1884 led to a new railway to the SA border near Broken Hill in 1887 to link with a private NSW railway to Broken Hill. Consequently Port Pirie handled wool from sheep stations beyond the farming lands, timber and coke for the Broken Hill mines and shafts, smelted ores from Broken which were then shipped to the world, general goods for settlers in the mid North of South Australia and huge amounts of grain. Pirie soon had several flourmills and quite a few grain merchants and sellers and exporters. So from these early years the scene was set for Port Pirie to be the second Port of South Australia which it is today in terms of tonnage handled.

Prior to white settlement the area was known by the local aboriginal people as “muddy creek.” Samuel Germein named the area Samuel’s Creek in 1839. In 1846 it was re-named Port Pirie by Governor Robe after the first vessel to land here. It took on board sheep from the Crystal Brook run leased by William Younghusband and Peter Ferguson. The ship was the John Pirie. Two years later in 1848 Emanuel Solomon and Matthew Smith laid out a private township on land they had bought from the Crystal Brook run which they called Solomontown. But nothing much happened in Solomontown for the next 23 years until the SA government gazetted and laid out a town further along the harbour from Solomontown which it called Port Pirie. This occurred in 1871 but before then the Pirie district became established as a significant port but without a town. Why? Because the port at Pirie, which is one of the best natural harbours in SA, was the export point for the wool cargoes of the major pastoral runs of the surrounding land.

Port Pirie began as the major regional port for wheat as much as wool from 1871 onwards. The first wooden churches emerged, hotels were built and most importantly the government created a new larger wharf in 1874. All the allotted areas were quickly taken up for wheat or wool exporters and timber merchants to bring in the materials to build the new city. In 1874 the telegraph line to Adelaide was established, the first of three flour mills was constructed and a start was made on a railway line to Crystal Brook. Early wharf allotment holders included Dunn -flour millers, Duffield – flour millers, Hart – flour millers, Elder Smith & Co – wool handlers, and several timber and general merchant importers. The first government school, Pirie West opened in 1877 and seven hotels were licensed and operating by 1886. But the story of Pirie’s early growth was related to the railway. It reached Crystal Brook in 1874 bringing in wheat from areas near that town. In 1876 this line was extended on to Gladstone and by 1877 it had reached Jamestown. In 1880 it reached a new rail terminus at Peterborough which was just being established. The steam engines for this route from Pirie were all landed at the Port Pirie wharf. All the new towns in the hinterland added to the growth and prosperity of Pirie. They included: Redhill (1869); Gladstone (1872); Laura (1872); Jamestown (1872); Koolunga (1875); Crystal Brook (1875); Warnertown and Napperby (1877); Orroroo (1877); Booleroo Centre (1879); and Peterborough (1880).

To maintain law and order the first Court House and Customs House (1875) were built adjacent to the wharves. Exports of wheat from Pirie started with over 200,000 bushels in 1873 rising to over 500,000 bushels in 1875 and then jumping to over 1.1 million bushels in 1876. By 1880 Pirie was exporting over 2.7 million bushels of wheat a year. Pirie surpassed the other major SA port – Port Adelaide by 1878 for wheat exports. By 1884 Port Pirie was exporting twice the number of bushels of wheat as Port Adelaide! But Port Adelaide exported more flour than Port Pirie. So within ten years of its founding Pirie was the major wheat port of SA whilst still exporting lots of wool.

By the 1880s the Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists had all established churches. But unlike most other SA towns Pirie attracted two immigrant groups in the 19th century. There were the Italians and the Greeks, long before the post-World War Two immigration to other areas. Why? Because Pirie was an international port. Sailors told stories to friends back home and the first Italian fishermen settled in Pirie in the early 1880s. Most stayed year or two and then returned home to Italy but more kept coming. Around 75% of the early Italian settlers came from one town- Molfetta in Puglia. By 1900 Italian women were settling in Pirie also and the Italian community became a permanent residential group thereafter. Most resided in King and Prince Streets in Solomontown which were known as Little Italy. A Fascist Club was formed in 1929 to support Mussolini in Italy but when World War Two broke out a number of Italians enlisted with Australian troops. The Italian community always worshiped at St. Marks Catholic church and Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church at Solomontown. They established the ritual of the Blessing of the Fleet for early September each year in 1929 .On this date a processions travels from St. Mark’s Cathedral to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church at Solomontown.

A few Greeks settled for short periods in Pirie from the 1875 but a community as such did not emerge until 1912. More Greeks came to Pirie during and after World War One when there was an exchange of territories between Greece and Turkey. When a survey was done of alien Greeks during World War One the majority in SA, lived in Port Pirie, not Adelaide. As Pirie was the centre of Greeks living in SA in the 1920s it is not surprising that the first Greek Orthodox Church in SA was established in Port Pirie in 1925. They employed the first Greek priest in the former wooden Anglican Church. This building was used until the current white painted Greek Orthodox Church was built between 1957 and 1960 in Florence Street. By 1925 when the first Royal Commission into Plumbism (lead poisoning) was held there were 362 Greek men employed in the Pirie smelters alone.

But the factor the sealed the industrial fate of Port Pirie and lead (pun intended) to it becoming the first regional city in South Australia was the establishment of smelters for the Broken Hill silver, lead and zinc mines in 1889.The rich lodes at Broken Hill were discovered in 1883. The SA government decided to cash in on this and built a railway line to the NSW border in 1887 of 3’6” gauge. Several options were considered for such as a line including lines from Morgan or from Terowie or from Orroroo but the line built was from Peterborough connecting with the existing line from Port Pirie. Then all the supplies of timber and food were railed from Port Pirie to Broken Hill providing a boom for Pirie merchants and shippers. There were a number of mining companies in Broken Hill and they adopted different responses to the problem of smelting their ores. Some ore was smelted in Broken Hill but water was limited and fuel had to be railed from Port Pirie. Some was railed and shipped to Port Adelaide but that was expensive. Some was railed to Pirie and then shipped to Germany for smelting. Eventually in 1889 the minor British Broken Hill Company decided to build their smelter in Port Pirie. This was followed by Broken Hill Propriety, the major mine deciding to do likewise in 1892. It took over the British Broken Hill Company smelter and enlarged it. In 1915, the smelting of five companies was amalgamated and BHAS, Broken Hill Associated Smelters developed the Pirie smelters into the largest in the world.

But what was the effect of the 1892 decision to concentrate smelting in Port Pirie? It increased the population and it gave the town a reliable electricity supply. By 1891 Port Pirie was the largest settlement in SA outside of Adelaide with 4,000 people, but the Copper Triangle (Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina) was still the major population area outside of Adelaide with around 12,000 people. But ten years later in 1901 Pirie was by far the largest country town in SA with 8,000 people. The smelters also led to Pirie’s rise as an industrial and commercial centre. The city already had shipping agents, timber merchants, importers and exporters, many law firms, a bustling School of Mines (from 1902) and the usual range of town businessmen. But the smelters brought a bigger professional class to the town of engineers, industrial chemists and smelter managers. Pirie soon had wealth and wealthy suburbs. But it also had many unionised workers. The three main industrial groups in Pirie were the railway workers, the wharfies and the smelter workers. In 1885 a Working Men’s Association had been formed to prevent non-union labour being employed in the town. The first showdown came in 1888 when town businessmen were told that non-union wharfies could not work in Pirie. The shipping companies acceded to the demand. Then in 1890, like unionists across Australian, there was great sympathy with the striking wharfies in London. All three union groups threatened to strike in sympathy and all three groups got wage increases and concessions. The power of the unions was realised and Pirie was hence forth a fully unionised town. In 1891 following this success the unions met and formed a Trades and Labour Council in Pirie which eventually became the Amalgamated Workers’ Association of Port Pirie in 1901.

As the unions came together they realised their political force and as the largest population outside of Adelaide the Pirie workers decided the state election results in this region. Any political candidate had to have their support. Pirie was the only SA town to ever have political muscle as the union members voted as a block. Many later state politicians started out in Pirie and began their political careers there. During the major communist inspired strikes of 1917 in Australia, Port Pirie remained calm. One of the local union leaders and strike organisers was Percy Brookfield who went on to become a Member of Parliament. In 1923 he was assassinated by a mad man on Riverton railway Station. Overall Pirie remained relatively calm in 1917 because of the new smelter manager Sir Gerald Mussen. He established the BHAS shop in the town to offer workers lower prices for clothing and other goods. He later made significant donations on behalf of the BHAS to the Pirie War Memorial Gates depicted above and in 1918 he provided funds, materials and support for the Playground in a Day project. The smelter was the main employer in the city for decades and consequently Port Pire was the largest city outside of Adelaide until the rise of Whyalla in the 1960s. Port Pirie was declared the first provincial city in SA in 1953. It was made the cathedral city of the Catholic Diocese of Port Pirie in the 1953 when the new St Mark’s Cathedral opened and the old cathedral in Peterborough lost its status as such. The Mallyon designed Anglican Church in Port Pirie became the Anglican Cathedral for the Anglican Diocese of Willochra in 1999. Pirie is one of the few regional centres in SA to boast a festival theatre complex, named after Keith Michell, the famous actor who grew up in Port Pirie. Unfortunately Port Pirie no longer has a railway service or station. The original railway station Ellen Street was built in French Empire style in 1902. Then in 1937 Port Pirie got its first direct rail connection to Adelaide via Redhill and Snowtown. Prior to that the rail service to Adelaide went via Peterborough on a very circuitous route. A new railway station opened in Port Pirie in 1967 so that Ellen Street station could be closed down thus ending trains travelling up the middle of the main street. In turn this station was closed in 1982 when the line from Adelaide to Port Augusta was standardised and Port Pirie bypassed. That railway station is now the City Information Centre and Art Gallery.

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