Alternative Name: Floatation Device, Buoyancy Aid

Cream textile water wings, printed with images of 'Neptune' on front and back.

Used by Margaret Daws when she was about four years old, around 1930. She used to go to the beach between Mordialloc and Aspendale every summer with her family for a two-month holiday. Margaret remembers wearing beach shoes and getting sunburnt. The donor has supplied copies of photographs taken during these beach holidays.

The family lived in Coburg, and drove their Hupmobile to the beach. The car had a 'coffin' screwed onto the running board that contained everything for the family's stay at the beach. They rented the same house, belonging to Mr and Mrs Yeoman (the 1930 Sands & McDougall records a house occupied by Jno. Yeoman at Pt Nepean Road, Aspendale). Relatives used to visit during their stay.

Margaret was born in Coburg, and had one brother and two sisters. The family had a live-in maid who didn't like to come to the beach. She told them she'd choked on a penny in a Christmas cake to avoid going one year.

Physical Description

Cream textile water wings, printed with images of 'Neptune' on front and back. The wings comprise two panels of rounded fabric that narrow to a centre join. A metal (aluminium?) valve is inserted at the centre join, from the top of which extend two thin tapes, each approximately 470mm long. Wings are foxed and yellowed.


The water wings are rare survivors amongst the ephemeral material culture of the beach, particularly in Melbourne before World War II. Their significance is enhanced by their provenance to a particular user, Margaret Daws (nee Perrin), and the existence of photographs of her and her family at the beach during the time the water wings were worn.

Beach holidays were an important part of the annual calendar for many Melbourne families. The water wings come from a time when family holidays sometimes went no further than across town, by car to a beach house or on a train to a beach-side camp.

Weston Bate says that 'Long Beach' from Mordialloc to Carrum (including Aspendale) saw summer holiday-makers set up camp along the narrow strip of land between the rail / road and the beach. He suggested that Long Beach had 'much in common' with the working class beaches in the west such as Williamstown and Altona. Rail electrification in the 1920s made the eastern beaches even more accessible, as well as opening up the bayside suburbs to suburban development. The Daws' family tells another story, however: they enjoyed the privilege of a rented home by the beach in Aspendale, and drove to it in their family car, leaving their reluctant maid behind.

The water wings are also significant as a survivor of beach/water safety equipment. Although probably rudimentary in their effectiveness, they represent an acknowledgement of the dangers of water, and document commercial attempts to address water safety concerns.

More Information

  • Collecting Areas

    Leisure, Clothing & Textiles, Childhood

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Margaret Daws, 30/09/2008

  • Place Manufactured

    London, England, Great Britain

  • User

    Margaret Daws, Mordialloc, Greater Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, circa 1930
    Also used at Aspendale

  • Inscriptions

    Printed in black on front, together with line drawing of 'Neptune': 'FATHER / NEPTUNE'S / SAFE-FLOAT.' / Manufactured in London, England. / Protected in Great Britain and the principal Colonies. / …' 'Directions for Use. - Read Carefully. / Soak the "Safe Float thoroughly in water, taking care that the material throughout is / wet. Then blow up through the valve. If you find it is not holding the air, wet again. When blown up to the full extent and the air escapes at the seams, press just below valve to close in. / The "Safe-Float" is now ready for use. Place the narrow band under the stomach or the / back (not the arm pit), allowing the bladders to rise each side of the body / …' Similar inscription on back.

  • Classification

    Recreation & tourism, Beaches, Accessories

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • 2D flat

    650 mm (Width), 227 mm (Height)

  • References

    An image of Ayvad's Water Wings - a very similar product - appears in the (British) 1907 Army and Navy Stores Catalogue, p.323.

  • Keywords

    Beaches, Leisure, Safety Equipment, Swimming