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Monday, March 4, 2024

Historian brings Holdfast Bay past to life in new book

The changing face of Holdfast Bay since European settlement in 1836 to the current day has been captured in print with the publication of Sea Change – a pictorial history of the City of Holdfast Bay.

The man behind the book is Jim Blake, a long-time volunteer with the Holdfast Bay History Centre who has dedicated more than 10,000 hours over the past two decades to ensure the community has access to the area’s history.

He spent hours researching, photographing and writing the Sea Change book, which was first published in 2012.

A second edition has now been published with many more pages and photos added.

“I always thought we’d reprint in 25 years or so but there’s been a significant number of changes in just the past 10 years,” said Jim, who was joined by Holdfast Bay Mayor, Amanda Wilson, at a special book launch held at Glenelg’s Bay Discovery Centre (Jim Blake and Mayor Wilson pictured).

The book includes photos from the late 1800s and drawings by John Skipper. He was an artist who arrived on the Africaine, the first passenger vessel to anchor in Holdfast Bay, in 1836.

“I’ve been heartened by the number of people who have become interested in the history of Holdfast Bay as a result of the book – that’s the thing that I’ve got most out of volunteering,” says Jim.

He grew up near Glenelg North and began researching his own family history not long after the History Centre opened in 2000.

“In the early days we spent a lot of time trying to preserve the collection, and now we’re more about trying to make it accessible” said Jim, who has called Brighton home for almost 30 years.

In 2010, Jim led a group of volunteers who dismantled and reassembled a historic beach bathing box.

Bathing boxes were once a common sight at Glenelg, Brighton and Seacliff but many were destroyed in the 1953 storm. Bathing Box #20, which is now on the ground floor of the Bay Discovery Centre, had sat in a Burnside backyard and was used as a cubby house.

“It was an interesting project and whenever I go down (to the Bay Discovery Centre), I often see people who are really fascinated by it or had no idea that (bathing boxes) existed on our beaches,” Jim said.

The second edition of Sea Change is available to buy from Glenelg’s Bay Discovery Centre, both Brighton and Glenelg libraries and the Brighton Civic Centre.

All proceeds are donated back to the Holdfast Bay History Centre and Glenelg’s Bay Discovery Centre.

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