I became interested in old bottles in 1972. I had gone on a bushwalking filming trip to Port Davey in remote South West Tasmania with a work team. Our aim was to film around the Davey River that was virtually unexplored since the early Huon Pine cutters moved out in the 1870s.
One morning Rod, a Canberra university student, went spear fishing. He emerged with a green bottle, which he thought still contained wine. When he discovered it was full of sand he threw it on the beach.
A bottle from one of the first ships
I realise now I should have quietly picked it up, as none of the others seemed interested in it. I raved on for ages about how old and valuable it probably was, as it was embedded deeply in a reef and covered in barnacles.
Rod suddenly became interested in his bottle and started to bargain with me for a sale. I offered him all the money I had which was $5. He decided to keep it and wrapped it carefully in his wool shirt for the rest of the eight-day trip.
I kept hoping he would change his mind and sell it to me but he didn’t. It flew back to Canberra with him, and I later heard he had taken it to the museum to get it dated.
It was very old and dated around the late 1700s. It must have come out on one of the first ships.
And so my collecting began…
Over the last 40 years I’ve collected many old bottles but never one as old as that one.I’ve dug them up in Coen in Cape York and Chillagoe in North Queensland.
I found an old gin bottle covered in barnacles on the beach after a cyclone north of Townsville. I’ve also found old bottles in dried up creek beds at Ravenswood, near Charters Towers.
I’ve dug up some old ink bottles and vinegar bottles and bought a Brisbane chutney bottle at a market in Tasmania.
I bought two Launceston Codd bottles at a garage sale at St Helens a few years ago. They have marbles in them and small boys smashed lots of bottles to get the marble.
I recently bought a metal detector and took it down to the local park. After a while it beeped. I dug up a large piece of iron ore. Pity it wasn’t gold.
Next time I go to Townsville I will use it to try and find a silver watch chain I lost up there in the front yard of our old house.
I met a woman at our local library who told me she knows all the old gold mining sites around Brisbane so I’m going to get in touch and go fossicking with her and maybe I’ll find treasure and get rich.
Wish me luck!