Port Fairy pays tribute to an old friend at SS Casino commemorations

When the SS Casino went down in wild seas off Apollo Bay, the people of Port Fairy felt as though they had lost a friend.

Over 50 years the veteran steamer had made 2500 voyages from its home port across the perilous Bass Strait, before coming to grief on July 10, 1932.

People gathered at the monument to the steamer at Port Fairy’s King George Square on Tuesday to remember the Casino and the 10 crew members who lost their lives when it sank 86 years ago. 

Paying tribute: Harriet Syme, 11, and Gus Syme, 8, lay a wreath to remember the 10 people who lost their lives when the SS Casino sank in 1932. Picture: Christine Ansorge

Paying tribute: Harriet Syme, 11, and Gus Syme, 8, lay a wreath to remember the 10 people who lost their lives when the SS Casino sank in 1932. Picture: Christine Ansorge

The bell on the top of the cairn rang out for each life lost and a wreath was laid as part of the annual commemoration.

Port Fairy Historical Society member Angela Syme said the steamer got into trouble in nine-metre seas as it attempted to reach the pier and a large hole was ripped in its side.

The loss was felt heavily in Port Fairy and the wider Western District.

“The Casino was loved by the people of Port Fairy,” Mrs Syme said. “The townspeople were shocked at the news that the Casino had sunk in Apollo Bay and many members of the crew had drowned. It felt to all the townspeople like a dear friend had died.”

The arrival of the Casino and the hustle and bustle of cargo being unloaded was a sight not to be missed by many of the town’s younger generations. The ship’s cargo varied with the seasons, in summer it was packed with wool, at other times it was crammed with onions, potatoes, butter and milk powder.

The SS Casino.

The SS Casino.