THE man whose dream of replicating the first European vessel to visit Australian waters resulted in the 1999 launch of the beautiful tall ship Duyfken in Fremantle, died last weekend.
Michael Young’s vision to harness the shipbuilding skills honed during the earlier HM Endeavour project in Fremantle were matched by a desire to find a project with a stronger historical connection to the port city.
Graeme Henderson was director of the WA Maritime Museum at the time and said it was an era when maritime heritage was literally reshaping Fremantle.
“It was a really exciting time for the Maritime Museum because we wanted to get a new building and the Dutch wrecks had the most fascinating objects coming up,” Mr Henderson said.
“It really was a bit of a reshaping of the city, which ended up with two major maritime museums.”
Mr Henderson said people were wondering “what next” as the Endeavour was launched in December 1993, when a letter in the Herald from Mr Young suggesting a Duyfken replica captured the moment.
Mr Young hoped the project would highlight the importance of the Dutch voyages of discovery that started giving shape to the virtually unknown southern Terra Australis, and counter the oft-quoted myth that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia.
“That really fitted with my aspirations for the Maritime Museum,” Mr Henderson said.
The initial plan was to build the Duyfken on the Fishing Boat Harbour shoreline; that proved impossible so Mr Henderson suggested the front lawn of the Shipwrecks Museum, which brought him further into Mr Young’s orbit.
“He had a real passion for this area and was constantly coming up with new documentation; he was born in Holland and even had a Dutch name – I think he changed it.
“He was a wonderful host at parties and had this talent for bringing all the different people needed to build a ship together.”
In an interesting coincidence one of Mr Young’s first collaborators was Mr Henderson’s father James, a journalist.
As the project became more concrete vintage car enthusiast and author Graeme Cocks was appointed project director, and later became chairman of the Duyfken Foundation.
“Without Michael’s passion and enthusiasm, Duyfken would never have been built,” Mr Cocks said.
Without Michael none of us would have been able to be a part of the Duyfken experience.
“In early 1994, a small group of us met at Michael and [his former wife] Janine’s and it was agreed to form a community group to build the ship.
“The group became the Friends of the Duyfken, and from that disparate group, the Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation was born.
“Michael’s passion was infectious.
“We were all spun into the Duyfken web.
“His close association with the project continued for many years.”
A memorial for Mr Young will be held at the WA Maritime Museum tomorrow (Sunday) just before a talk presented by the Dutch Australia Foundation on Wooden Boat Building and the Duyfken, which goes hand-in-hand with an exhibition on the same topic open until May.