Sydney’s oldest wharfie

John Steele

John ‘Scotty’ Steele, lights up his 28 year old pipe.

SYDNEY’S oldest wharf laborer, who works at 91, attributes his long life and good health to “plenty work and plenty beer.”

He is John ‘Scotty’ Steele, Dargnan-street, Glebe, who was born nine miles from Glasgow in 1855. He presents himself every day at Miller’s Point pick-up works ships winches.

“If I stopped working,” he said, “I’d fall to pieces.”

Steele joined the merchant navy and came to Australia at the end of the American Civil War. He got a Job loading sailing ships, taking a sea-going job now and then to relieve the monotony. He was in Samoa during the historic 1889 hurricane.

His ship, the Meeting Waters and 11 others were lost.

“I was lucky,” Steele said. “I was ashore drinking beer with some of my cronies. “Most things round about were flattened, but the hotel in which we were drinking was not seriously damaged.”

Steele has married three times. When he was asked how many children he had, he sucked at his 28-year-old pipe for several minutes.

“I’ve had 12 children,” he said. “Don’t ask me how many grand-children and great-grandchildren I have. They’re all around the place.”

Steele’s wife, whom he married 10 years ago, said: “His only vices are drinking and smoking.”

-Sydney Sun Monday 18 March 1946.


Categories: Sydney Beer, Sydney hotels

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