LARGS BAY – GETTING THE BASIC FACTS STRAIGHT

An extract from the December 1982 Portonian written by Brian Samuels.

It is unfortunately all too easy for historical facts to be distorted over the years, and Largs has suffered particularly badly.  The Advertiser’s “What’s your problem” column of 7/6/80 got almost everything about the Largs Pier Hotel wrong, while the recent 125th anniversary booklet of the Port Council had the Hotel opening in February instead of December 1882 and being called the Italiante Largs Pier Hotel, and repeated the Advertiser’s mistakes by saying it was built of stone imported from Germany for Primrose & Co.

Rodney Cockburn in his revised 1911 typescript version of “The Nomenclature of South Australia” got the date of the subdivision of Largs correct (1873) but incorrectly called the township Largs Bay and attributed the subdivision to the Largs Bay Land Company, which was not formed until 1881.  The Port Adelaide Sketchbook repeated these mistakes.

The basic facts are these.  The railway and jetty were officially opened on the 23rd December 1882, and the occasion was reported very fully in the contemporary papers, which all agree on the date.  The Hotel is not reported as being officially opened, but an advertisement in the Register of the preceding day read as follows Largs Pier Hotel.  This hotel will be open to visitors on and after Saturday 23rd inst.  T. Hixon, Proprietor.”

Unfortunately the story of the naming of Largs is not so straight forward.  According to Rodney Cockburn’s work mentioned above, the name Largs Bay “was suggested by A. L. Elder, brother of Sir Thomas Elder, after the Largs on the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.  Mr. Elder left South Australia in 1853, and died in London 1885”.  Unfortunately Cockburn does not cite his sources, so we can only take his word for the story.  What we do know is that the township was originally advertised as Margate on 18th June 1873 and that the name in the advertisement was changed to Largs without explanation on 2nd July. The name Largs Bay as opposed to Largs does not appear to have been used until later, presumably being popularised by the Largs Bay Land and Investment Company.