We had a great upbringing as kids. We were poor but we had clean clothes, all second-hand … . But we always had plenty of food and loving parents which was extremely important, something that a lot of kids haven’t got these days.
Mike Scott talking about his childhood in the 1950s and 60s
With the reclamation of the shoreline and the development of New Wharf in the 1830s, Montpelier Retreat became home to a close-knit working class community. They worked around the waterfront, had little money and large families.
We had a lot of friends in the street … We were called ‘Dead End’ kids, the underclass to a lot of people. The other side of Parliament Square thought we were all bad people, all criminals. … We used to play in the laneways along Salamanca Place. We’d play on the fire escapes … swing up and down on these great metal steps … Then someone would come and say ‘Get away, off you go!’ So we’d jump off and run away and find another one. – Mike Scott
Despite the poverty, people pulled together. Widowed at 40 with 7 children
Mum always had a halfway house … She would take anybody in, anybody that was down and out … She would put them up overnight. Even some of the old winos who used to be in Franklin Square sleeping on a bench … Mum wouldn’t see anyone without a bed. … She would put them up and if she had any spare cash at all, she’d try and help them out with something. Our Mum would give you the last cent from her purse. – Mike Scott
We used to walk around the slipyards all the time – watch them build boats, it was fascinating.
We would sit there watching them build boats at Mures … And old Sharkey Taylor and Featherstone’s.
We used to swim around there too – it was all part of our playground. We used to do a lot of swimming around Secheron. There were some old cement bags in the water off there and we used to dive off them. …
The other thing we used to love doing on the waterfront when we were kids – we’d love to go down when the May Queen and other ketches were unloading timber. We’d sit on the stacks watching them unload and they’d say ‘Come on – move on to the next one, you boys. We’ve gotta load more on that one …’ It was fascinating watching them unload timber from Dover … Chestermans had it then, it was where the May Queen is now.
When the fishing boats came in with couta, there would be a lot of people lining up – there were a lot of poor families who lined up for the couta … The couta with the worms were the best ones! You always asked for worms!
We used to get sent down to the wharf for fish – pink couta. We used to take a billy down to get split scallops. I can still remember 8 shillings for 100 scallops. They were beautiful big scallops and they used to give us extra as we were family … We used to eat them raw on the way home. The fishing boats used to sell them as well.
– Mike Scott talking about his childhood in the 1950s