Book Review by Eric Nigol, Fishermans Bend Business Forum

A book resting on someone's lap, the book is titled Making it Here' by David F. Radcliffe

Port Melbourne has been a hub of innovation and industrialisation since the early twentieth century. “Making It Here” provides a unique look into the lives of the early settlers who undertook difficult circumstances to commence businesses and industries which provided the foundation of much needed services in an evolving city.

The gold rush in the 1850’s provided an impetus for the creation of businesses due to the vast population explosion around the Melbourne area and this book captures the imagination and inventiveness of four engineers engaged in the setup of fundamental trades and manufacturing in the Port Melbourne and Fisherman’s Bend area.

The book follows the lives of four engineers Otto Schumacher, Alfred Harman, Albert Longoni and Fred David, each involved in quite different industries, and each overcoming the hardships of everyday life to ultimately succeed in their future endeavours.

Otto Schumacher introduced flour mill technology and developed unique improvements to existing equipment. Considerable effort was expended in overcoming the threat of imported equipment and establishing a viable business in Port Melbourne extending to the outer reaches of Victoria.

Alfred Harman was engaged in the setting up of engineering works initially providing repair services to all manner of mechanical equipment in Port Melbourne, extending his expertise to the manufacture of specialised winching equipment for the forestry industry. As his career progressed, Harman developed a series of steam powered equipment such as
excavators and various models of railway engines. His innovations were a common sight on constructions sites well into the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Albert Longoni was a more technical engineer emigrating from Switzerland having completed newly established engineering degree qualifications.

Longoni provided a more sophisticated design approach to equipment manufacture which centred around the manufacture of materials handling equipment ranging from conveying systems, numerous crane systems and the establishment of Australian cement manufacture.

Fred David became an established authority in aeronautics and was fundamental in the development of the early Australian aircraft industry during World War 2. His aviation background acquired in Europe, provided the necessary grounding for the local fighter aircraft designs developed during the war years. Australia had to develop a locally produced fighters as overseas British and American manufacturers were fully engaged with aircraft production for the European campaign while the pacific war was on Australia’s doorstep. Fisherman’s Bend became the proving ground for
these successful aviation developments.

The backgrounds of each of these engineers were significantly different and David Radcliffe has provided a fascinating insight to their methodologies and the families that supported them. The individual stories showcased the difficulties and successes experienced by each of these men as well as the contribution they made to Australian manufacturing in Melbourne. The reader will recognise the early brands of products, some of which are still in existence today, and the manufacturing remnants of which can still be seen in the Fisherman’s Bend. The interesting stories presented by David Radcliffe demonstrates the will and tenacity and will of men who were driven by goals to create locally made innovations with an enthusiastic ‘we can do’ attitude that was crucially necessary at the time.

“Making It Here” is an engaging book providing a detailed insight into the development of technology by local manufacturers. The relevance to the areas of Port Melbourne and Fisherman’s Bend is very significant as many of the developments captured in this book linger today in the brands and businesses that are still found in Fisherman’s Bend. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of early manufacturing in Melbourne.

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Join David Radcliffe for a Heritage Talk event about his book Making it Here:


Tuesday 30 April 2024 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (UTC+11)


Emerald Hill Library
195 Banks Street , South Melbourne VIC 3205

Secure your spot here.