Thomas c. 1920s
Photo courtesy of Vicki Rule
Memories of a sensational whale hunt that took place in Port Phillip Bay 35 years ago are recalled by the death which occurred at his home in Cole-street, Williamstown, recently, of Mr. Thos. Washington Aitken, aged 77. With five other men, all but one of whom have died, Mr Aitken harpooned a large whale on the Williamstown back beach. They were in a skiff which was connected with the harpoon by 70 fathoms of rope. Rushing madiy around the bay with the boat in tow, the whale ultimately rose to blow near the Heads. It was then dusk, and the chase had lasted since daybreak. Fearing that the monster contemplated a dash through the foaming 'Rip' the hunters cast adrift from it. Several days later the carcase of the whale, still carrying the harpoon, was found on the beach at Rye. It measured 30 ft. in length. Mr. Aitken spent 45 years as boatman to the Port Phillip pilots. Previously he served on the gunboat Victoria, the first unit of the old Victorian navy.
The Daily News (WA), 18 October 1929
Born 20 July 1864 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.
Married Catherine Bligh in 1889. (7 children)
Died 5 October 1929, Williamstown Victoria.
Name: Thomas Washington AITKEN
Date of Birth: 20th July 1852 (1864 also recorded but doubtful)
Place of Birth: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Occupation: Mariner and Port Phillip Pilot Service for 45 years
Marital Status: Married
Wife: Mrs Catherine AITKEN,
64 Cole Street,
Enlisted in the Victorian Navy at Sandridge 31st December 1882 and noted HMCS Victoria.
Served 32 hours to the quarter ending 30th March 1883. Several other similar quarters noted.
Served 31st September to 31st December 1884 when last noted for 22 hours. Conduct described as Very Good throughout.
Noted parents Thomas Washington and Annie (nee HUILL) AITKEN.
Died 5th October 1929 aged 77 years.
Buried Williamstown Cemetery, Victoria.
Noted son Stanley Ernest in World War One.
Researched at the National Archives of Australia 27th June 2013. Not located Series B5537, 5532, 5534, 5487, 5492 Parts 1 and 2 and 5494.
Noted Series B5493 and civil records.
Research by Neil Smith courtesy of Frank Noonan.