Poet, storyteller, author and musician, Martin Johnson to launch book about Williamstown

Williamstown's Arnold Wilson, 96, with son Steve, who features in Martin Johnson's latest book which promotes the township. Photo: Pat Tomley
Williamstown's Arnold Wilson, 96, with son Steve, who features in Martin Johnson's latest book which promotes the township. Photo: Pat Tomley

Long-time poet, storyteller, published author and musician, Martin Johnson's infectious and energetic nature is a lifestyle to be envied.

His recent endeavours include promoting the release of his latest works, a 'Williamstown book - From Rabbit Traps to Cellar Doors'.

It closely follows the re-release last October of his 'Twenty Houses' publication promoting the history and cracking tales of the South Para Reservoir build at Williamstown.

The new book features real account stories from residents and entwined with poetry and photos from one of SA's earliest established villages that Mr Johnson had the privilege of calling his home.

Book excerpt

"In researching for this book, I began to realise that all of the local industries that I grew up knowing, have long gone," Mr Johnson shared.

He refers to the township's dairies, the major sawmills, clay mine, slaughter houses and the butcher shops, plus home-grown bakery, the orchards and flocks of sheep.

'And now trucking transport has been down-sized. Yet still the community is growing, perhaps stabilised by the vine industry.'

'Though along with the machine harvesting of soft-wood pine at Mount Crawford Forest and like-wise of grapes this aspect provides little employment opportunities.

'Using sound business acumen, some locals have diversified to create their own wine labels and cellar doors. And there are a number of bnbs for visitors to the region to stay and then leisurely explore the scenic countryside.

In his book, Mr Johnson goes on to provide a good visual of the town, 'Surrounded by native scrubland and rolling hillsides, combined with a Mediterranean weather conditions, Williamstown does provide an ideal location in which to live and raise a family.'

'With a massive history in logging and milling of local timbers, Mr Johnson also shares how he visited Williamstown identity Arnold Wilson for a yarn at his mill on South Terrace.

'This mill is the last remnants of a once thriving industry for the town when there appeared to be a sawmill buzzing away on every corner," Mr Johnson writes.

'Yep; the air was filled with the smell of freshly sawn wood with sawdust heaps piled high, like Egyptian pyramids.

'Trucks were coming with trays and trailers filled with radiata pine logs to unload at the mill, and going with sawn case and pallets to manufacturers in and around the city.

"Where once we employed up to six men, today it's a two-man team," Mr Wilson told him.

"Steve and long-time worker, Sam Whiteman," Mr Wilson continued.

"And we only work mornings, even though we still get plenty of orders for pallets.

"We mostly concentrate on the vineyard and the production of our wine, Linfield Road Wines. We also operate a cellar door, which is very successful."

'At the age of 96, I had to keep on my toes keeping up with him as he took me on a tour of the mill yard,' Mr Johnson shares.

'He is still living in the same home he was born in, less than a minutes' walk down the hill from the mill.'

Book launch

Mr Johnson's book launch will be made by The Barossa Council Mayor Bim' Lange on Sunday, October 20, in the beer garden of the Williamstown Hotel at 11am.

From 12pm the hotel will provide a barbecue lunch for visitors to enjoy and from 2pm the hotel opens to live music 'Bands in the Back Yard'.

Raffles will be hosted across the afternoon, as will a car show and free entertainment.

"This is an event to mark the social and historical significance of the town - one of the state's early villages," he added.