The life of a man who is one of Albany’s most loved characters has been immortalised in a memoir to be launched tonight at Princess Royal Sailing Club.
A Man, His Boat, His Town — A Stan Austin Memoir, penned by Ian Brayshaw, tells the story of the late Mr Austin from birth to death through interviews with those who knew him, and the voice of Mr Austin himself.
It is a rare insight through the eyes of a man who saw Albany grow and change during the Great Depression and World War II from a small port town to the city it is today.
For Brayshaw, a former sportsman, journalist and author of a number of sporting books, the project was fascinating.
The idea was brought to his attention by Great Southern Development Committee chief executive Bruce Manning shortly after Mr Austin passed away in March 2011.
Brayshaw had worked with Mr Austin years before while compiling video stories on maritime personalities and knew immediately it was a challenge he wanted to pursue.
“I knew it would be an interesting story because Stan was such an interesting character and had led such an interesting life,” he said.
“That’s what drew me to it, and it only grew and grew the more I delved into his life.”
Mr Austin was about as local as they come.
He was born in Albany on March 19, 1915, in an old warehouse on the corner of Spencer and Fredrick streets.
He loved Albany and he lived his whole life as a community man.
In 1937 he began building a boat in his backyard he named the Kestrel, and in 1942, after WWII broke out, his boat was fit with weaponry and used to patrol and protect Albany’s waters against Japanese submarines.
Mr Austin, however, is best known for his role designing and building a replica version of the Brig Amity, the ship which brought the first settlers into Albany in 1826.
Brayshaw said it is this project that displayed Mr Austin’s community spirit more than any other.
“He was a great man for the community and there is no better indication of that than that he masterminded the Amity replica as a community service,” he said.
“He nearly sent his own business into bankruptcy because he put so much time and energy into that boat.”
The memoir was built largely around an oral history interview with Mr Austin kept by the Albany Public Library’s History Collection, which was undertaken by Yvonne Choules in 1990.
The author then turned to interview more than 30 people himself, including Mr Austin’s wife Marie, three daughters and those who worked with him, to gain deeper insight into his life.
“Listening to the interview, that was Stan’s voice alive for me,” Brayshaw said.
“As a biographer you don’t want to be talking to other people, but you want a thread of what that person said himself.
“I was able to draw heavily on (the interview) as the lifeline of the book, and build the rest around that.”
The memoir took about four months to complete, and Brayshaw is happy with the end result.
“(His family) seem to be very happy with it, and I’m happy with that because I think it was a job that needed to be done,” he said.